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Infant Gas

All babies have gas or wind to some degree. Gas can cause bloating, cramping, burping, flatulence and of course, crying. Trapped gas or excessive gas production in your baby can cause significant discomfort and can lead to great distress in your baby, and can present in a similar way to Colic one of the causes of Colic.

 

Causes of excessive gas:

  • An over active milk let down while breast feeding, can cause your baby to gulp and swallow, which increases the amount of air they swallow.
  • An imbalance between the fore and hind milk in a breast feeding mother can cause significant discomfort and gas in a baby. This is often caused by a baby that snacks often, but never feeds for long enough to get the hind milk.
  • The bottle you are using could be causing your baby to swallow too much air while feeding.
  • If your baby feeds with a curved spine or is slumped down, it could cause gas to become trapped.
  • Excessive crying can also cause your baby to swallow air. The problem that occurs with Colic is that the baby cries a lot already, and as they cry they can swallow more air, which worsens the situation.
  • A lactose intolerance or allergy to the protein found in cow's milk, in a formula fed baby, can cause excess gas in your baby's tummy. as she struggles to digest the milk.
  • In the same way, a breast fed baby, can react to substances in the mother's breast milk,most often caused by the consumption of dairy products, but it can be caused by other food allergies. Refer to the section on Food Allergies and Intolerances for more information.
  • Gas is also caused by the normal breakdown of undigested food.
  • Gas can also be caused by gastric problems such as Reflux. Please see the section on Reflux for additional Information.

How to reduce Infant Gas

  • When feeding your baby, ensure that they are lying with a straight spine and that their whole body is in the same direction. In other words, if breast feeding, the baby should not be lying on his back with his head turned towards your breast. This can make swallowing very difficult, and can cause additional gas build up in their system. Use a feeding cushion to help you position your baby correctly.
  • Burp your baby frequently during feeding. The Chiropractic profession recommends gentle but firm upward stroking to help your baby pass wind. They suggest that patting can cause the diaphragm to stiffen which prevents the gas from escaping.
  • A Chiropractor can help your baby to pass winds more easily.
  • Try an elimination diet, to rule out the option that your baby is reacting to something in your breast milk.
  • See the section on Food allergies and Intolerances for more information.
  • Consult your doctor about a change in formula, if a lactose intolerance, or milk allergy, is suspected.
  • Get advice from your doctor, or a lactation consultant, on how to manage an over active milk let down when feeding.
  • Get advice from a lactation consultant on how to ensure you do not have a fore and hind milk imbalance, which could be causing your baby to experience digestive discomfort.
  • Try a new type of Anti-Colic bottle which reduces the amount of air your baby swallows while feeding.
  • Give your baby a warm bath, which will relax him and hopefully release the trapped air.
  • Tummy time, not directly after a meal, not only helps with your baby's development, but can also help your baby to pass gas.
  • Perform a bicycling action with your baby's legs. Lie her on her back and gentle cycle your baby's legs in the air, as if riding a bicycle. This can help your baby to pass wind. Never force your baby, and stop if your baby looks to be in any form of discomfort.

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The information in this article was reviewed for medical accuracy by, Paediatrician and Allergy Specialist, Dr Claudia Gray (MBChB (UCT), MRCPCH (London), MScClin Pharm(Surrey), DipPaedNutrition (UK), PostgradDipAllergy (Southampton), Certified Paediatric Allergologist (SA))

Dr Gray works at the allergy clinic at the Red Cross Children's Hospital in Cape Town, and has a private practice at Vincent Pallotti Hospital in Cape Town, contact 021 531 8013.