Gas Problem in Infants – Signs, Causes, and Treatment
We all have experienced gas pain – it’s uncomfortable AND unwanted. Gas pain can be extremely uncomfortable, and more so for babies. All babies have gas pain and they expel gas often during the day – it is a common occurrence in babies.
If your little one has gas pain, he can’t voice it of course, but you can look for other signs that might help you understand whether he is gassy. If he becomes restless, cries incessantly, or has trouble falling asleep, chances are he might be experiencing gas pain. If your baby has gas pain and he is fussy and squirms a lot, it may be because of gas. Learn here how you can prevent and treat gas in babies.
Video: Gas Problems in Babies – Causes, Signs & Remedies
How Does Gas Form in Babies?
Infants swallow a lot of air while breastfeeding due to incorrect latching or because of an incorrect posture while bottle-feeding. And sometimes, they digest proteins and fats present in the breast milk or the formula. Gas makes its way out of the baby’s system by building up a small amount of pressure and moving along the digestive tract. However, sometimes, when there is excess gas trapped in the intestines, it can build pressure and result in pain. It is normal for a baby to experience gas pain. Some of the reasons for gas build-up in the baby’s digestive system are mentioned below:
Swallowing air: Swallowing air while being breastfed or bottle-fed is one of the main causes of gas build-up in babies. If a baby latches onto the breast incorrectly or if they suck on the formula bottle incorrectly, they might swallow air. This could lead to gas in him.
Crying: If a baby cries incessantly while being fed or before being fed, he may swallow air. If the baby cries excessively, it can be a sign of gas build-up. If your baby cries all the time, it may get difficult for you to identify the reason for his cries, but you will soon be able to decode his different types of cries. For now, you can tend to his needs and soothe him. However, if he doesn’t stop crying, you should take him to a doctor.
Immature digestive system: A newborn’s intestine is still developing. As a result of the underdeveloped digestive system, the baby would still be learning how to process food and pass stools, leading to excess gas being formed.
Underdeveloped bacterial flora: A baby may also have gas as a result of the underdeveloped bacterial flora in the intestine.
Eating certain foods while nursing: Breast milk contains traces of foods that the mother consumes. If you eat certain foods like nuts, coffee, beans, milk products such as cheese, butter, and ghee in your nursing phase, it may get passed on to your baby and make him gassy.
Baby being overfed: If the baby is overfed, it can cause problems by overwhelming the baby’s gut leading to gas production. It is also thought that foremilk and hindmilk during breastfeeding has an impact on the production of gas. The foremilk is rich in sugars such as lactose and the hindmilk is richer in fat. Lactose overload may contribute to gas and irritability in babies.
Other factors: Several factors such as hormone regulation, constipation and carbohydrate intake can also contribute to gas.
Signs and Symptoms of Gas in Babies
The only way a baby can communicate his needs and discomfort is by crying. Decoding your baby’s cries will require observation skills. He could cry because of hunger, pain, some discomfort, or gas – and there are tell-tale signs for each. When he cries due to gain pain, his cries will be sharp, frantic, and intense. Some other signs of gassiness in babies are mentioned below.
1. Arching the back
2. Squirming and grunting
3. Clenching the fists and straining
4. Lifting the legs or pulling up the knees towards the chest
5. Getting red in the face while crying
6. Not eating or sleeping well
Home Remedial Measures to Treat Gas Problem in Babies
Watching your baby struggle with gas pain can break your heart. But there are several ways in which you can help your baby and put him out of misery. Here are some home remedial measures that you can try to help relieve your baby from a gas problem.
1. Maintain Proper Position While Feeding Your Baby – While breastfeeding, keep the baby’s head and neck at an angle so that they are higher than the tummy. This makes sure that the milk goes down to the stomach and the air comes up. The same applies while bottle feeding. Also, tip the bottle such that the air rises to the top and doesn’t accumulate near the nipple.
2. Try the Feed and Burp Rule – Mostly, babies experience gas pain because of swallowing air while feeding. To prevent excess air ingestion by the baby, take a break every 5 minutes or so while feeding your baby and gently tap his back to help him burp. This will allow the milk to settle in his stomach and the gas to bubble up.
3. Try the Distraction Technique – As mentioned earlier, a baby may swallow air while crying. The more he cries, the more he will swallow air. And this could lead to a gas build-up. So if your baby is crying, take him in your arms and distract him so that he stops crying. Make funny faces or sounds, dance, sing, or give him a new toy – try any distraction technique to stop him from crying and you will see less of the gas problem in him.
4. Massage his Tummy – Tummy massages are a great way to reduce gas build-up in babies. Lay the baby on its back and gently rub the belly in a clockwise motion and then run the hand down the curve of his tummy. This procedure helps the gas move easily through the intestines.
5. Give Simethicone – Simethicone is a medicine that is administered for gas problems. It works by combining the smaller gas bubbles in the stomach into a larger one that can be passed out easily. This drug also comes with artificial flavours and colours but a paediatrician should be consulted before using it.
6. Try Swaddling – Your baby may not like it, but try it because it helps. Wrap your baby tightly in a soft blanket or cloth so that his movement of limbs is restricted. It can help ease the problem of gas too.
7. Consider Probiotics – Probiotics such as yoghurt contain plenty of helpful bacteria that are good for the intestinal flora. Paediatric probiotics, when given for a period of several weeks, can ease gas and stomach problems.
8. Massage With Mustard Oil – Giving your baby a massage with warm mustard oil then a warm water bath to relieve the gas problem. Massaging with mustard oil will also help the expulsion of gas from the intestine and the warm water will trigger drowsiness, thus calming him down.
9. Try Asafoetida – Add about two mustard grain-sized bits of asafoetida to warm water and feed it to the baby if he has gas. When asafoetida is given in small amounts, it is known to provide relief from the gas problem.
What You Can Do to Prevent Gas Problem in Your Baby
Prevention is better than cure so if you don’t want to see your baby suffering from gas pain, be careful when you breastfeed or bottle-feed him. In your nursing phase, avoid eating certain foods that cause gas such as dry fish and prawns, spicy meat dishes, nuts, pulses, milk products, and vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, etc. If your little one has started on solids, make sure that the foods you give to him do not cause gas.
Make sure that your baby gets some tummy time daily. Make your baby lie down on his stomach for a few minutes. The gentle pressure on the tummy will help him pass the gas comfortably and also strengthen his back and neck muscles. Pat the baby on his back often during the day while you hold and play with him. This will help in consolidating gas in their system and passing it out easily.
When Should You Call a Doctor?
If your baby cries for long periods of time and shows unusual behaviour coupled with fever, vomiting, prolonged crying and poor feeding, it’s best that you consult the doctor.
As your baby won’t be able to communicate that he has gas pain, it is important that you take note of the signs. The gas build-up, while common, can be troublesome if not taken care of and could cause severe discomfort and pain for the baby. So be prepared for everything and take good care of your little one.