I remember being a brand new mom. Around dinner time every night, my son Jackson would be freshly fed, with a clean diaper, swaddled in a cozy swaddle, and I’d be rocking him. And he would be. Absolutely. Screaming. I would have spent half an hour trying to burp him, only for that long-awaited sound to never come. My second son Nash never struggled with gas. When I had my daughter Hadley, it was like da ja vu from my experience with Jackson, except her gassy episodes tended to happen around 2am.
If your baby has a lot of unexplained crying episodes, arches their back after feedings, pulls their legs up to their chest, or seems to be straining often, your baby may be suffering from gas pains.
Baby gas is an incredibly common complication in those first few months known as the “fourth trimester,” and sometimes beyond. But it’s easy to feel like a deer in the headlights when you’ve done all you know how to do and your baby is still inconsolable. In this post, I’m going to share some of my favorite ways to relieve gas in babies- quickly!
What Causes Gas in Babies?
Before we dive into how to relieve gas pain, it’s important to understand what causes gas in babies. Here are some of the most common reasons why babies struggle with gas.
Babies swallow air while feeding, sucking and crying. This can cause excess air to build up in their digestive system, leading to gas pains. Newborn babies cry often during the day for a variety of reasons and sometimes for seemingly no reason at all. This can cause a vicious cycle of crying, leading to gas buildup, leading to pain, leading to more crying. This is really hard, and sometimes as a parent you can do all you can do and your baby still may be hard to settle! However, I’ll elaborate on what I’ve found to be helpful settling techniques in a minute.
Immature Digestive System
Most experts agree that for the first twelve weeks or so of a baby’s life, their digestive system is just learning how to operate. The movement of the muscles that push food through the digestive tract, called peristalsis, have not developed fully. Good gut bacteria that help in digestion, what we know as probiotics, develop over time and are not present immediately. When gas gets trapped in a baby’s digestive tract, it slows digestion and the pressure builds up, causing bloating and distention which can be painful.
Formula or Food Sensitivities
Some babies may be sensitive to certain types of formula or exposure to food through their mother’s breastmilk. While the AAP estimates that just 2-3% of exclusively breastmilk babies have a true sensitivity, it does happen. And closer to 15% of babies have some sort of formula intolerance. If you suspect your baby has an intolerance to their breastmilk or formula, take note of their symptoms, and chat with your pediatrician.
If you’re reading this blog, I am betting you are looking for some quick, time-sensitive tips for helping your baby with gas, so we will start with those.
Getting Rid of Baby Gas- Fast!
I know this is obvious and you’ve probably tried burping your baby a hundred times. However, most of us know the old hold-them-across-your-shoulder-and-pat-back burping. In reality, there are a ton of techniques that may work better for your baby in particular.
- The “wiggle butt” technique. This one I found on TikTok, and the mom who shares it says it came from their family chiropractor. Here is the video that demonstrates the technique. Basically, you hold your baby to one shoulder with one hand. With the other hand, make a C shape, then use the C to hold the baby in their diaper area, with your thumb towards your own body, and your other four fingers behind baby’s booty. Gently twist your wrist right and left- your baby’s butt should be “wiggling.” Wiggle until you hear that burp!
- Around the World technique. My sister showed me this way of burping a baby that worked wonders for her second daughter! Here is a video tutorial on how to implement this technique. You sit your baby’s booty down on your thigh. Then, suport your baby’s chin in the front with one cupped hand, and skull in the back with another cupped hand. Then slowly gently, move your baby’s body in a slow circular motion. This engages the baby’s abdominal muscles to help squeeze air out.
- Back to tummy technique. This technique is more about body positioning than anything else. This video shares a tutorial of how to implement this technique. This can be done with your baby swaddled or unswaddled. To start, pick up baby being sure to control their hand. Turn their body sideways so that their head is laying on your forearm, and their back is to your belly. Then tilt them slightly forward and pat their back. Remember to give a nice firm pat. You are trying to move gas on the inside of their digestive tract from the outside, so a firm pat is needed to accomplish that.
Similar to burping, using bicycle ways is a physical way to manipulate baby’s body position to push out the gas. With baby laying on their back in front of you, take both legs and “bicycle” them, pushing them up and down. You can also bring baby’s legs to the center of their chest and back down over and over, placing light pressure on their tummy as you bring their legs up.
Try the I LOVE YOU tummy massage on your baby. It’s called I LOVE YOU because the movements look like an I, an upside down L, and an upside down U. This follows the shape of the digestive system and can help push gas bubbles through the digestive system and out. Infant massage is also a great way to bond and enjoy some time with your baby. Here is a video that explains how to use the I L U tummy massage for gas.
A warm bath can help relax your baby’s muscles and relieve gas pains. One of my favorite things was to actually get in the bath with my baby. Water is so calming and soothing, and you can even try some of the massage or burping techniques in the bath.
Using baby gas products.
Gas drops are a staple of most family’s newborn baby medicine cabinets. As always, before giving any product to your baby, please check with your pediatrician! Gas drops are made of simethicone, which is very safe and well tolerated in infants. Simethicone is believed to work by breaking up the bubbles of gas inside baby’s digestive system. Studies are conflicted and have shown that sometimes simethicone is no better than a placebo. However, many parents and pediatricians swear by it, especially as a preventative measure. If you want to try gas drops, before a feeding is a great time as it can take about 30 minutes to be effective. You want to make sure that you find a gas drop that is free of sodium benzoate, benzoic acid, artificial flavors and dyes. My personal favorite brand that fits the bill is Mommy’s Bliss.
Yes, the Windi from Fridababy is essentially a flexible plastic “butt straw,” as we called it in our house. Is it intimidating? A little. Will you feel like using this is a questionable decision? Probably. However, the Windi is pediatrician-approved and safe device used to offer your baby’s gas a place to go- out. It’s natural and does not employ the use of a drug or supplement. And let me tell you. It is magic. Often after trying many different alternative tricks, my husband and I would look at each other and say, “it’s time for the Windi.” We’ve even made a late-night Target run to restock. From my own experience, the best way to use the Windi is to spend a few minutes doing bicycle legs or massage before to get things moving. If possible, having two parents to assist is helpful. One to hold baby still, and one to hold the Windi. Making sure baby’s bottom is nice and clean first, insert the Windi slowly, and continue to gently bicycle legs. If gas is coming out, you should hear a soft whistling sound. Warning: the Windi can stimulate more than gas, so be sure to have a towel under baby’s bottom to catch anything else coming out.
In a pinch, you can get the Windi at your closest Target, or order it online at Amazon.
Heated belly pads
Dr. Brown makes a “Gripebelt” which is a gently compressive swaddling belt with a heating pad inside. Much like a warm bath, warmth of any kind can help muscles relax and bring relief to an aching tummy. The gently compressive nature, like a swaddle for your belly, can help encourage gas to come out.
As mentioned before, a brand new baby’s tummy is not populated from the beginning with the helpful good gut bacteria that aids digestion. A meta-analysis of 5 different studies showed that the probiotic L. reuteri DSM 17938 resulted in a mean difference of crying time per day of 56 minutes in breastfed babies. Speaking from experience, when each of those minutes feels like 10, that’s a huge difference in your quality of life each day! I gave these BioGaia drops to my babies and was really happy with them, and the Gerber Soothe drops also receive rave reviews! Both of these are safe from day 1 and contained the clinically studied staring of L. reuteri, but be sure to ask your pediatrician before starting these.
Gripe water is a supplement often made of a mix of herbal remedies that are known to aid in digestion. For example, this gripe water I gave my kids from Little Remedies includes ginger, chamomile, and fennel. While there is much anecdotal support for the effectiveness of gripe water, just like gas drops, there is not a lot of research evidence to say if it works or not. However, most agree it is perfectly safe for babies, if you’d like to try. I felt that gripe water helped my babies so much with hiccups, and I kept a bottle at home and in my diaper bag for whenever they got them.
Try a pacifier.
Sucking is a very soothing natural reflex in babies. Beyond the sucking that happens when eating, babies also have a desire for something called non-nutritive sucking. This is simply the reflex to suck for comfort, even when not hungry. Sucking a pacifier may help an upset baby to calm down which helps with gas and tight muscles. Sucking also stimulates the digestive system which may help relieve gas.
Preventing Gas Pains in Babies
Evaluate your baby’s latch and suck.
As mentioned before, gas often gets trapped from swallowing excess air. For many reasons, including a lip or tongue tie, overactive letdown, or a poor latch, babies can swallow this excess air during breast feeding or bottle feeding. If your baby makes a clicking sound with each suck, comes off the nipple often, seems fussy and unsatisfied at the breast or bottle, or any other signs of feeding troubles, a lactation consultant can help evaluate your baby’s latch, observe what happens upon letdown, and look for signs of tongue or lip ties.
Try a new feeding position.
Some babies may be more prone to get trapped gas when eating in certain positions. If you always use a cradle hold, try a football hold, or lean back if you tend to have an overactive letdown. See if baby seems more content or seems to get a better latch in any of these positions, or if burping seems easier after using a new position. This could be a simple way to prevent the excess gas in the first place.
Use the Eat, Play, Sleep routine.
I often find that babies have tummy troubles when they are eating right before sleep, then laid down without a burp or without a chance to begin digesting. Then sometimes, to perpetuate the cycle, when they wake soon after they are immediately offered a feeding again and put back down. I can tell you firsthand that I’ve had trouble because of this myself!
Using the Eat, Play, Sleep routine simply means that you offer a feeding to baby upon waking from sleep instead of right before. So when baby wakes from a nap, unswaddle and offer them a good feeding. Give a burp, hold them upright 10 minutes or more (this can be in your arms or in a baby carrier or wrap), and then do some tummy time! Tummy time is also a fantastic way to help move gas through the digestive system because of the gentle pressure of the floor on their tummies. When it is nearing the end of your baby’s wake window, swaddle, then rock, walk, or hold them in the carrier, or lay them down drowsy in their bassinet or crib if you are working on gentle independent sleep. For some babies, removing feeding from right before sleep will greatly improve their excess gas or reflux!
Hang in there!
There you have it- all of my tips and tricks for helping to get rid of baby gas fast, and also to prevent baby gas!
If you are in the trenches of the newborn days with a gassy, colicky baby, I promise that brighter days are ahead! So much of what they are experiencing is because of their adjustment to this stimulating, startling, big bright new world, and their bodies just learning to function outside the womb. Hang in there, do your best, and know that your baby does not need you to stop their crying. Sometimes for a baby with gas and colic, despire all of your best intentions, that is simply an impossible quest. Your baby only needs the reassuring presence of someone who loves them.
If you’d like to set up a consult for your newborn baby (ages 0-16 weeks) to talk about soothing and settling strategies, setting the foundation for better sleep, and more, see our options for working together here!