Gassy Baby: Why Gas is Normal and How to Relieve it

Is your young baby gassier than the average baby? Most newborns are gassy and dramatic about it, with lots of grunting, straining, arching, thrashing, and tooting, and so it’s not surprising that most moms believe their new gassy baby must be “gassier than normal.”

What’s with the baby gas? Well, if you have a gassy baby, it’s probably not from something in your diet or a sign he wasn’t burped enough after a feeding. Intestinal gas is a normal byproduct of food or milk digestion, rather than from air swallowed while eating or crying. Most swallowed air will eventually come up as a burp (sometimes with milk attached), either with or without your help.

Most newborn gastrointestinal distress is caused by the sensations of motility, called the gastrocolic reflex, rather than gas. These peristaltic wave-like muscle contractions of the stomach and intestines propel stomach contents and stool through the small and large intestines. The gastrocolic reflex is triggered when your baby begins swallowing during a feeding and the stomach receives the milk. Inch by inch, the entire GI tract begins to wake up and contract, all the way from the stomach to the rectum. This is why babies may get squirmy or fussy 5 or 10 minutes into a feeding, and why feeding often prompts a bowel movement in a young baby.

Young babies are still getting used to the strange sensations (and products) of digestion, and aren’t shy about letting you know it. Once you see the “contents under pressure” explosion of poop some babies produce, it’s not surprising that they may react to the feeling of contents moving through their intestines at such high velocity with some distress.

Gentle tummy pressure can help get rid of your baby’s gas:

  1. Try laying your baby tummy down across your lap, with her face turned to the side, so that her tummy is gently resting against your thigh. Pat or rub her back.
  2. Do you have a yoga/gym/physioball? Stabilize the ball and place a small receiving blanket over it, then carefully lay your baby tummy down over the ball on the blanket. Keep both hands on your baby, and rock your baby gently forward and backward until you get the baby gas out.
  3. The “colic hold” – drape your baby over your arm so that her face is supported by the inside of your bent elbow, and your hand is supporting her side and thigh between the legs. Her belly should be resting against your forearm. Gently press your arm, and baby, in towards your body, applying gentle tummy pressure, and either walk or sit on a physio ball and bounce.

Tummy massage for the gassy baby:

  1. Gently stroke your baby’s tummy from top to bottom, first using one hand, then the other, like a waterwheel. Add your ‘whooshing” sounds.
  2. Stroke from YOUR left to YOUR right – straight across, using gentle but moderate pressure, just at or below the belly button.
  3. Add the downward stroke, now moving across and down.
  4. Flex baby at the hips and knees toward the tummy, gently press and hold in place, counting slowly to twenty. Repeat the entire sequence two or three times until the baby gas is released.

Infant Massage Part 2: How to Massage Your Baby

Many babies will pass gas during the exercise or have a BM a few minutes later – success and relief for everyone!

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