Abdominal Gas and Colic
What causes abdominal gas in babies?
Some people have problems digesting milk protein or milk sugar (lactose intolerance). But these problems are very rare in babies. Until your doctor can evaluate your baby, it is usually not advisable to switch formula or stop breastfeeding as a means to remedy suspected food digestion problems.
Causes of gas include:
- Swallowing air when sucking.
A baby may swallow excess air during bottle-feeding when drinking too rapidly or when lying down. A baby may also swallow excess air if the nipple has holes that are too big. If you bottle-feed your baby, use nipples with holes large enough to drip cold formula at 1 drop each second.
- Swallowing air when crying.
A baby who cries for an extended period of time, especially if the crying is intense, can swallow extra air.
Babies may trap intestinal gas while lying on their backs. Until the first birthday, babies should always sleep on their backs to reduce the risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). But when your baby is awake, you may help prevent or relieve some belly discomfort by holding your baby upright or allowing some "tummy time" while you closely supervise.
- Improper feeding.
Giving certain foods to your baby may cause your baby to have excess gas.
Preventing gas in your baby
You may be able to prevent abdominal gas by not feeding your baby certain foods until they are older. Try these tips.
- Wait to give your baby cow's milk until he or she is 12 months of age.
Cow's milk protein can be hard for a baby's body to break down. And cow's milk has less iron and vitamins than babies need.
- Wait to give your baby juice until he or she is at least 12 months old.
Juice may cause a baby to have excess gas. Give only a small amount to your child.
- Work with your baby's doctor.
If the doctor thinks your baby's food is a source of gas, he or she may recommend a change in what you are feeding your child. For example, many babies younger than 4 months of age can't digest the starch in cereals.
Relieving gas in your baby
Try the following tips to relieve abdominal gas in your baby during and after feeding.
- Use the proper position during feeding.
Feed your baby in a partially upright position, and put him or her in a baby seat for about 15 to 30 minutes after feeding. Be sure to burp your baby during and after feeding.
- Massage your baby.
Lay your baby on his or her abdomen across your lap and massage his or her back after feeding.
If your child's doctor suggests medicine to reduce gas, use it exactly as prescribed.
Current as of: March 1, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:John Pope MD - Pediatrics & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine