How to Relieve Baby Gas to Improve Sleep

Latest update: January 10, 2019

Author: Heidi Holvoet, PhD
Medical fact-check: Dr Leah Alexander, M.D., F.A.A.P.

Baby gas is a real sleep spoiler. Luckily a gassy infant is not ill and a few simple techniques will turn many sleepless nights into restful ones.

Avoiding wind will also make you and your little one feel happier and more relaxed.
NEW! Free download of "How to relieve gas", an excerpt from Heidi's best selling Overcome Frequent Waking.

What is baby gas?

In the first months, the digestive system is in full development. It's immature and undergoes a lot of changes until the age of 6 months old.

Milk that's not easily digested and the intake of extra air while feeding are the main causes of baby wind.

They can tickle the intestines, and the air bubbles stretch the bowel like air filling a balloon which results in discomfort. Trapped wind is one of the noted causes of colic in infants.

Apart from smelly winds, the symptoms of baby gas are:

  • Cries as if in pain
  • Moans, groans, squirms, typically within an hour after feeding
  • Cries, eyes closed, cramping up her tummy, stamping feet around, and wriggling uncomfortably

How to avoid & relieve baby gas

  • Burping Always burp after feeding, whether breastfeeding or formula feeding. But also burp at least half-way through a bottle or when switching breast sides. Or burp several times during a feed by introducing brief interruptions.[1]

    If your little one doesn't burp easily, try one of these 2 positions, whichever works best: 1. put her high on your shoulder (facing opposite to you) with a confident swift movement (but not too rough either). 2. place your baby belly down on your lap (you're sitting) and then gently pat her back. Both of these burping positions reduce the abdominal muscle pressure and allow for easier burping.[2]

    You may have seen a burping position where your baby is sitting up and you hold her chin but it is usually less successful in releasing the majority of the gas. The other two positions mentioned just above, work better.
  • Breastfeed if you can. Breastfed babies typically have less wind issues and less colic overall.

    Baby Breastfeeding



    Your milk is more easily digested than formula and is less intrusive on the immature bowels. An nursing infant typically swallows less air than when bottle feeding. That said, gas can still occur when breastfeeding, as it does when formula feeding.

    If your child becomes gassy when nursing:

    • Try to avoid restless nursing.

      If your baby is very eager, or you have a lot of milk coming out quickly, she may gasp in a lot of air while feeding. And this will easily cause wind.

      To reduce a too high milk supply start with offering one breast only. Have her empty it completely and offer the second breast only if you cannot avoid it. Ask me for further support if you suspect a too high milk supply.
    • Avoid crampy foods such as cabbage, sprouts, beans, etc.

      Some moms notice an improvement when they drink fennel tea themselves.
    • If it persists: take other symptoms and possible causes into account. If you baby has a milk protein allergy for example, she might seem gassy but also have blood in her stools or have poor weight gain. If this is the case, you need to consult your pediatrician right away.

      If you suspect gas due to a dairy intolerance, you might consider going dairy-free as a self-test. This includes yogurt, cheese, milk and bread or cookies that contain any dairy or related ingredients. I recommend you do this supervised by your doctor or nutritionist. If you see relief from a 2-week dairy-free test, you may need to keep it up for longer before gently re-introducing. Very important: ensure that your own diet remains complete and healthy, and it's always best to consult a professional nutritionist.
  • When formula feeding your main goal is to prevent air from going in along with the formula:

    • Use a correct size bottle nipple/teat with holes that are not too large.
    • Use a well-designed bottle that does not let in air. Dr. Brown's Natural Flow Bottles have been recommended by mom visitors to this site.
    • When preparing the formula: shake it in one bottle, then transfer into another one which you'll use for the feed. Shaking in the feeding bottle keeps more air bubbles trapped, which you want to avoid.
    • Talk to your doctor or pharmacist to find a formula brand that suits your child better - a lighter one can help relieve.
  • When your little one cries or feels uncomfortable:

    • Give a warm relaxing bath. Don't force this though, it's no use doing this if your baby doesn't really like bathing.
    • Lie her on her back in front of you - safely on the carpet or a mattress on the floor, a large bed, ... Gently hold her feet up in the air to help the wind escape.
    • Massage her belly: place her safely on her back in front of you. Make sure she's warm, and your hands are warm too.

      Slowly and gently rub the tummy with your full hand: make clockwise spirals starting around the belly button and moving out and downwards.

      Combine this with the above (bath and feet up) for best results.
    • Place a warm washcloth on the belly while moving the legs in a bicycle motion can help to pass the gas.
    • Tummy time helps relax the outer abdominal muscles and effectively helps relieve gas pain.
  • Gas drops or gripe water are an extra something you can try, although parent and pediatrician opinions vary greatly. I strongly recommend you discuss any brand or product option with your pediatrician to make sure it's safe to use. Some products contain absolute no-no's such as caffeine and belladonna so be sure to avoid those. Ask you doctor about Simethicone, which can be truly effective for gas.

    Little Tummy's Gripe Water is an all-natural product that out-rates its more expensive colleagues.
Or would it be ...?

Teething

A cold

A dirty diaper

Reflux

As much as your little one seems helpless and seems to be suffering, try not to worry too much about gas.

Try the homemade remedies for baby gas as above, as much as possible. Give every remedy at least a good week to see if things improve, they take some time.

Soothe and comfort your child in every way, without holding back, because it is simply the best way to make her feel better.

And then, try to relax. From around 3 or 4 months old, things will improve.

Ask me for support if it's all becoming too much.

Resources

[1] Burping, hiccups and spitting up healthychildren.org https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Burping-Hiccups-and-Spitting-Up.aspx

[2] Burping your baby kidshealth.org https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/burping.html