Breastfed Baby Gas: what Causes it and what Doesn't, Plus How to Deal

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Growing up it may have seemed funny. As an adult, it’s something to hide. For a baby it’s sometimes a source of discomfort and pain. What is the answer to this riddle? Gas!

Many parents have daily struggles trying to get the gas out of their little one’s digestive system as their baby howls in discomfort. While the success of getting a good burp (or fart) can be satisfying, failure to help your little one feel better can be devastating.

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As a parent, you want to do anything in your power to make your baby comfortable and keep them healthy. So, what can you do about breastfed baby gas? Luckily, you’ve come to the right place, and the answers you seek are below…

What causes breastfed baby gas?

Before we go any further, it’s important to note that all babies (whether they are formula fed or breastfed) have immature digestive systems and will need help at some point with getting gas out of their system. So, you’re not doing anything wrong if your baby gets gassy.

However, if gas is causing discomfort it’s worth trying to identify and solve the problem. In order to minimize the problem of breastfed baby gas, you’re going to need to know more about the potential causes of it though.

One of the most common ways that babies get gas in their digestive system is by taking in excess air. This can happen when there is:

  • Poor latch. If your baby doesn’t have a tight seal around the areola, air can get in along with the milk
  • Issues with bottle feeding. Air in the nipple can be gulped with the milk.
  • Crying. All that gasping can mean extra air is getting swallowed.
  • Oversupply/strong letdown. The necessary quick gulping frequently includes some air!
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Some gassiness in the form of farts may be more common when your little one begins to space out their bowel movements. There are a few things that may help if your baby is not pooping but passing gas.

You’ll probably hear a lot from people who believe that babies can get some of the gaseous effect from foods (think beans and broccoli!) that were consumed by their mother through breast milk.

Other people believe acidic foods and dairy products in the mother’s diet can increase gas for babies.

After all, these foods can have that effect on adults who have eaten them, right? However the elements of those foods that make them considered “gassy” for the person consuming them don’t pass through breast milk.

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Some research from 2019 addressed this issue, noting that there is an ongoing belief that maternal diet leads to colic, although that conclusion is not well supported by the science.

No studies have reliably proven that cutting foods out from the mother’s diet can reduce gas or fussiness. In fact, research from 2017 found that many mothers restrict their diets unnecessarily and that there are no foods those breastfeeding should absolutely avoid.

If you intend to eliminate foods from your diet, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor first about your plan. They may ask you to keep a detailed food journal, documenting what you’ve eaten and when your baby shows symptoms like gas, diarrhea, or fussiness.

What are the treatments for breastfed baby gas?

If you find yourself with a breastfed baby that has a lot of gas, there are many different things you can try to help them feel better:

Burp frequently
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Adding a few extra burps to feeding times is typically an easy adjustment to make. You may also want to keep your little one upright after feeds for a bit to make it easier for them to burp.

Turn to tummy time

Lying stomach down can help your little one to work the gas out. If your baby is not a huge fan of tummy time, you can also hold them in a “football hold.” This means laying them face down along your arm, and cradling the side of their head in your hand while their legs straddle your elbow.

Perform baby massage

You can massage your baby with and without oils and in any number of ways, but there are some specific massage patterns that may be particularly useful in helping gas pass through the digestive tract. Interested in learning more? Read more here!

Bicycle their legs

All you need to do is lay your baby on their back and move their legs in the air like they are on a bicycle. Not only does this help to move gas along, but if your baby is constipated, this can help them poop.

Feed while baby’s upright
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This can help your child to slow down a little while they drink. Check out the paced bottle feeding method if you haven’t already.

Check your latch

You’ve probably heard it a million times already, but for something so natural, breastfeeding takes a lot of work! Many moms spend a lot of time working with their baby to get a good latch, but the benefits of it really are worth it.

Try to reduce baby’s crying

When your baby cries, they may gulp in air. Unfortunately, if the crying leads to gas in their system, they’re probably going to want to cry more.

This can be a vicious cycle, so we encourage you to do work on soothing the tears. Some soothing options include using a pacifier, swaddling, rocking, and swinging.

Consider over-the-counter remedies
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Although the clinical evidence is lacking, many parents swear by gas drops or gripe water (or at least turn to one or both of these items as a last resort!)

Gripe water can involve any number of ingredients the manufacturer believes will soothe a baby’s tummy, such as fennel, ginger, and cinnamon. On the other hand, gas drops are medication designed to clump together gas bubbles in the stomach and make them easier to expel.

Before using any medications or supplements, you’ll want to discuss with your child’s doctor. It’s also important for parents to be on the lookout for allergic and other reactions after offering a baby either of these.

Watch for allergies and reactions to something you ate

In certain cases, if your little one is allergic or reacting to something you ate, removing that item from your diet may be the only way to solve this problem if you want to continue breastfeeding.

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Indicators of allergies in babies can vary in intensity and are personal, but they’ll go beyond just gassiness. Typically food allergies will appear within a few hours of consuming the allergen. The most common symptoms are:

  • hives
  • rashes
  • itching
  • nausea/vomiting
  • changes in bowel movements
  • rarely, swelling of the tongue and throat (this is uncommon in babies, and is almost always due to a cow’s milk allergy)

One way to figure out whether something is related to an allergy is to look at the timing of the symptoms. Are they frequently occurring after eating? Are symptoms lasting longer than a week or two and coming and going?

If you have food allergy concerns, speak with your pediatrician.

Takeaway

As a parent, you want to help your child avoid unnecessary pain. Remember not to blame yourself if your baby gets gas every once in awhile though!

No matter how you try to avoid it, a little bit of gas goes with being a baby. Often a few simple adjustments can improve and alleviate your breastfed baby’s gas.

If gas is really getting your baby down, don’t be scared to bring it up with their doctor. They can help you to understand if what your baby is experiencing is normal or if they might benefit from other resources and medications.

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