Why might my baby be gassy?
Gas—air bubbles in the stomach and intestines—is common in babies. Gas is released through burps and flatulence, often with no distressing issues, and babies are especially prone to it for several reasons:
- Still-developing digestive system and gut microbiome. Gas in newborns is natural and expected since your baby’s digestive system is still learning how to digest and absorb nutrients completely. Your baby’s gut microbiome, which is home to trillions of beneficial bacteria that play an important role in digestion, is also still developing. This gassy development stage typically subsides on its own by four to six months of age.1
- Swallowing too much air. Feeding, crying, sucking on a pacifier, and even those sweet babbles and giggles may cause your baby to swallow air. Sometimes all that air turns into uncomfortable gas and bloating.
- Food sensitivities or allergies. Less common baby gas culprits are food sensitivities or allergies, such as an allergy to the protein in cow’s milk. The sensitivity or allergy could be triggered by a milk-based infant formula or something in mom’s diet if the baby is breastfeeding.
- Other health concerns. Gas could indicate constipation, acid reflux, a virus, or other health issues.
Some babies are not bothered by gas; perhaps you’ve even noticed your baby smiling while they passed wind! But sometimes those air bubbles remain trapped in the belly, making your little one uncomfortable and fussy. If your child seems to experience gas-related discomfort, pain, or fussiness, there are things you can do to help alleviate those tummy troubles.
How to help ease baby gas: 6 steps
1. Check your diet
Some babies may be more sensitive to certain foods in mom’s diet.2 If you’re breastfeeding, look for patterns to see if you can identify a potential connection between a particular food and your baby’s gassiness. Many parents find that the following foods contribute to baby gas more than others:3
- Fibrous foods such as beans and lentils
- High-fiber vegetables like leafy greens, cauliflower, broccoli, or brussels sprouts
- Dairy, including yogurt, milk, cheese, or ice cream
- Spicy foods, such as chilies, hot sauces, or curries
- Aromatic vegetables, like shallots, onions, or garlic
Gas could also be related to cow’s milk protein allergy or lactose sensitivity. In the case of cow’s milk protein allergy, the gas will usually be accompanied by indicators such as reflux, diarrhea, and respiratory issues. Gas in conjunction with diarrhea could also indicate a virus or other health concern. Reach out to your doctor if your baby is experiencing these issues in addition to gas.
One way to see if a food you’re eating may be giving your baby gas is to try an elimination diet. Remove a suspected food from your diet for up to two weeks and see if your baby’s gas problems ease. If there appears to be a connection between your baby’s gas and a particular food, try eating the food only in moderation. It’s always best to check with your doctor prior to eliminating and testing foods to ensure you’re getting a balanced diet.
2. Let the formula settle
If you’re using powdered infant formula, make sure you let your freshly mixed bottle settle for a minute or two before feeding your baby. Shaking and blending naturally introduces air bubbles into the mix, which your baby can swallow, resulting in gas. Try using warm (but not hot) water, rather than cold or room temperature water, to help the formula dissolve more effectively and produce fewer bubbles.
- Tip: Gently tapping the bottom of the bottle on a counter or table can help bubbles rise to the top.
3. Swap bottles for gassy babies
Some bottles are specifically designed to reduce the amount of air swallowed during feedings. If your baby is having problems with gas, try a vented, angled, or collapsible style. Make sure you keep your baby’s head elevated at a 45-degree angle. Tip the bottle downward into their mouth with the nipple full of milk, not air.
4. Choose the right bottle nipple
How well a bottle nipple matches a baby’s size and needs can impact how much air they swallow while feeding.
Bottle nipples come in different age-based sizes and control the flow of formula into your little one’s mouth during bottle-feeding. For example, a nipple for a newborn has a slow flow, while a nipple for an older baby flows more quickly.
If your baby has outgrown their nipple size, they might be sucking in a lot of air with their formula. And extra air means a higher chance of having painful gas. On the other hand, if the nipple flow is too fast, your baby could be gulping too much formula at once, again creating gas-producing air bubbles. Choosing an age-appropriate nipple could help your baby swallow less air.
- Tip: Test out different bottles and nipple sizes until you find what works for your little one.
5. Burp baby after feeding
Burping is an important part of your baby’s feeding routine. It helps move built-up belly air bubbles up and out to alleviate painful pressure, helping your little one feel better.
There are a few burping position variations, and it may take some trial and error to find the method that works best for you and your baby.
- Hold your baby against your chest (with their body facing yours). Ensure their head is on your shoulder. Then pat and rub their back. Start at the lower back and work your way up.
- Have your baby sit on your lap. Support their chest and head with one hand while patting their back with the other. Make sure you’re holding your baby’s chin and not their throat.
- Lay your baby flat against your lap with the belly face down. Support your little one’s head and make sure it’s higher than their chest. Gently rub or pat their back.
6. Try a formula designed for gas
If you think your baby’s formula may be causing gas, you may want to ask your pediatrician about trying formulas that are tailored to ease gas issues. These formulas can help with fussiness and crying and are gentle on a baby’s sensitive tummy. They have easy-to-digest proteins and provide complete nutrition—including brain-nourishing nutrients like DHA—for your baby’s growth and development.
When to call your pediatrician
While some gas is par for the course for many infants, if your baby has excessive gas, is not gaining weight, or has additional health concerns, see your pediatrician. The following issues, in conjunction with gas, may warrant further medical evaluation because they could potentially be related to cow’s milk protein allergy or other conditions.
- Excessive crying and fussiness
- Coughing or wheezing
- White, red, or black-colored stool
What questions to ask your pediatrician about newborn gas
When you’re at the doctor’s office, it’s sometimes hard to remember all the questions you’d planned to ask. Preparing questions in advance can help you make the most of your appointment. Consider these questions as starting points:
- What could be causing my baby’s gas?
- If I’m breastfeeding, is it something in my diet?
- Should I switch formulas to reduce gas?
- My baby is only gassy after they eat—could it be an allergy?
- What’s the best way to burp my baby?
- How often should my baby be burped?
- I can’t get my baby to burp; is it all right if I don’t burp them?
- Should I try baby exercises to reduce gas?
- How do I know if my baby is in pain due to the gas?
- When will my baby outgrow this gas?
- Could infant gas be associated with a more serious problem?
Gassy baby facts
Seeing your gassy baby grunt, grimace, squirm, and fuss can be concerning. Here are a few quick facts about this common issue and some ideas for managing the discomfort.
Burping can be a good way to alleviate gas in your little one.
It’s not uncommon for babies to swallow too much air when they feed, whether at the breast or the bottle. If your baby starts to get fussy, pause feeding and give them a burp. Sometimes babies will fuss because they swallow air pockets as they feed. A nice burp solves that problem!
Burping your baby can take practice.
Encouraging those pint-size belches can take some practice, but you’ll get the hang of what works for you and your baby soon enough. With that in mind, there are some burping dos and don’ts. For instance, you should gently pat your baby, starting at the lower back and working your way up. Don’t pound too hard. If you can’t produce a burp in your baby with one position, then try another. Check above for three potential burping positions.
A warm towel on your baby’s belly may help.
Sometimes a soothing warm towel on your baby’s belly might do the trick in relieving gas.4 The warmth may help relax the stomach muscles, reducing pressure and releasing air bubbles.5 Just be sure to test the temperature and make sure it’s not too hot.
Your baby’s mood while feeding could be connected to gas.
If your baby is worked up when you’re feeding, they’re more likely to gulp air as they cry or rush through mealtime. And crying and fussing can mean more gas bubbles. It’s not always easy, but do your best to calm your little one down before feeding. Babies are highly intuitive, so try creating a calm environment for you both to enjoy. Limiting interruptions and distractions during feeding also helps keep this special time relaxed and focused.
Gas in babies could be caused by a sensitivity to milk-based formula.
Sometimes your baby’s still-developing digestive tract can keep some nutrients from being digested, causing gas. However, other times gas in a baby could hint at an underlying issue, such as food allergies or sensitivities. Keep an eye out for other indications such as diarrhea, a rash, or respiratory issues. Talk with your doctor about any health concerns and bring your baby in for an appointment to get to the bottom of it.
Switching formulas, baby bottles, or bottle nipples could help ease gas.
Changing to a different bottle or bottle nipple may reduce the amount of air your baby inhales during the feeding, which can help ease gas. Slow-flow nipples are a good choice for newborns since they’re designed to slow down the flow of milk or formula, so your baby won’t drink too quickly and gulp too much air. As your baby grows, they may need to transition to a larger bottle nipple. A smaller nipple may frustrate them and lead to swallowing air as they try to suck the contents out.
The type of bottle can also help reduce air intake while feeding. Some bottles, such as vented, angled, and collapsible style bottles, are specifically designed for babies who have gas.
And then there’s the infant formula itself. If you’ve been using everyday formula, talk with your doctor about trying one designed for babies with gas. For example, Enfamil NeuroPro Gentlease provides a gentle start for sensitive tummies. It’s designed to have easy-to-digest proteins and has been clinically shown to reduce fussiness, gas, and crying in 24 hours.*
Enfamil Enspire Gentlease also has easy-to-digest gentle proteins, as well as MFGM components and Lactoferrin,† two key components found in breast milk. If your baby’s gas is related to a lactose sensitivity, ask your pediatrician about Enfamil Sensitive Infant Formula, which is specially designed for lactose sensitivity** and has brain-building omega-3 DHA at an amount global experts recommend.
While having a gassy baby may be worrisome, remember that in many cases, baby gas is natural and expected. Trying some of the strategies above may help alleviate tummy troubles. By switching up feeding habits and arming yourself with the right tools, you and your doctor will be better able to get to the bottom of your baby’s gas. Learn more about other feeding difficulties to ensure you’ll be well prepared for managing mealtime and have the happiest baby possible.
*Compared to the same infants who had been fed routine Infant Formula at the beginning of the study.
†Added as ingredients.
**Not for infants with galactosemia