Such a sweet, angelic face all swaddled up in her crib until suddenly…
How did that sound come from that baby?! And what’s that awful smell?!
To be so small, newborns sure do make a lot of strange noises. The bulk of these noises come from their rear end in the form of farting or are the result of loud belches and can be quite shocking to new parents and leave them panicked in wondering, “Why is my baby farting a lot?!”
If you’re one of those panicked parents, fear not.
Simply put: Babies fart a lot. And unlike adults who aim for secrecy, babies announce their farts to the world with grunts and cries. But how much gas is normal? Why does my baby’s fart smell? Don’t worry – I’m here to answer all of your smelly questions.
Why is My Baby Farting A LOT
There are many reasons why your baby is farting a lot but rest assured that in most situations… there is absolutely nothing wrong.
Babies’ digestive systems are immature and need time to develop as they begin digesting their food (which should be exclusively breastmilk or formula for the first 6 months). It’s perfectly normal for your newborn to fart a lot – and by “a lot” I mean around the clock!
Since newborns eat around the clock, their digestive systems are constantly working, so gas is always passing. Even once you pass the newborn phase, your baby will probably nurse or take a bottle every 4 hours and once you introduce solids, new and interesting smells await you.
You might be tempted to label your baby a “gassy baby” but remember: all babies are gassy babies. Some babies seem to pass gas painfully, grunting and crying. Gas can disrupt sleep and cause your newborn to take short naps and only sleep in small bursts at night. This is perfectly normal.
Some breastfeeding moms are told that it is something in their diet or they might be tempted to switch to formula. If you are breastfeeding there is no need to switch to formula due to your baby’s gas.
You may want to try modifying your diet (I’ll get to that in a moment) but remember that formula fed babies are just as gassy, if not more.
Breastmilk is the best nutrition for your baby so unless there is another serious problem, continue nursing your baby for as long as you would like.
So, Why Does Your Baby Fart SO Much?
Reason #1: Immature Digestive System
This means it will take time. Your baby just needs to develop more. Patience is a virtue, my friends.
Reason #2: They’re Swallowing Air
Your baby may be eating too fast or swallowing air while crying. Try to feed your baby before they become very hungry so that they will eat slower and try to avoid letting them cry for long periods of time.
Reason #3: They May Have Thrush
Thrush is a yeast infection that babies sometimes get in their mouths and can cause gassiness. Signs of thrush include white sores on the tongue, redness in the mouth, diaper rash, and fussiness. Call your doctor if you suspect a thrush infection.
Reason #4: Sensitivity to Something in Their Diet
Sensitivity to something in the breastmilk or formula.
Reason #5: Solid Food or Supplements
If you are giving your baby solid food, vitamins, juice, or anything other than breastmilk/formula it could be causing your baby’s gas. Remember, prior to 6 months your baby should not consume anything other than breastmilk or formula – not even water!
Is it Normal for a Baby to Have Smelly Gas?
We’ve already established that it’s normal for a baby to have gas, but what about smelly gas? How much stink is considered, well, normal? Yes, it is normal for your newborn to have smelly gas, but there may be times when you want to discuss it with your doctor. Let’s look at the sources of gas:
When babies cry, nurse or suck at the bottle, they often swallow bits of air that cause painful gas bubbles in their tummies. Since this gas originates in the air, it won’t smell.
Certain foods such as meat, beans and various vegetables have a high sulfur content. If a breastfeeding mom has been eating these foods, some of the sulfur might have passed through the milk for your little one to digest. Likewise, if your older infant is eating solids, the sulfur from vegetables could cause toots with a bit of a sulfur stink.
If your baby’s gas really reeks, it’s possible that she may have an infection or is dealing with poor absorption of nutrients. Dairy is a common culprit for smelly gas and some moms decide to go dairy free for this reason.
However, unless your baby is showing signs of an actual allergy (such as green mucus in the stool, hives, eczema, or wheezing) it is not necessary to eliminate dairy from your diet. If your baby does show signs of an allergy (whether breast or bottle fed) speak to your doctor immediately. If your baby shows respiratory distress this is an emergency and you should call 911.
How to Help and Comfort a Baby with Gas: Try These 8 Suggestions!
It’s heartbreaking to watch your baby and know that she is in pain, I know. Time is the biggest factor – young babies just need time to learn to digest. But what else can you do besides wait? There are several ways you can offer comfort to your baby and help her get the gas out.
Suggestion #1: Burp Frequently
One of the best ways you can prevent gas in your baby is to burp frequently. If your baby is bottle fed, then stop to burp after every ounce. If breastfed, burn at least between each breast, maybe more. You can also burp before feeding in order to get out any air that baby may have already swallowed, and always be sure to end every feeding with a good belch.
Suggestion #2: Feed Baby More Often
This may seem counter-intuitive since digestion is what causes gas, but by feeding your baby smaller volumes more frequently your baby will eat more slowly and carefully, swallowing less air while eating.
This is another preventative measure that is simple but will go a long way to prevent tummy troubles.
Suggestion #3: Tummy Massage
Use lotion or a massage oil to rub your baby’s tummy in circular motions. If they are dealing with gas, their tummy may be quite firm but after a few minutes you will begin to feel it soften up.
Suggestion #4: Gripe Water
Gripe water is a fennel-based herbal solution that helps soothe your baby’s tummy. I used this with my second son and saw a significant difference in his behavior. Again, this is anecdotal evidence but if thousands of parents swear it works, there may be something to it.
In some cultures, parents make their own concoction by steeping fennel and other herbs in hot water and then feeding a small amount to their babies. But again, most lactation consultants will steer you away from this one so talk to your doctor about whether or not you should try gripe water.
Suggestion #5: Windi the Gaspasser
I’m not gonna lie – this one is a bit strange, but it works. This little device was invented by a pediatrician to help babies release gas. It’s a simple hollow plastic tube that you insert like a rectal thermometer to stimulate the sphincter and help your baby pass stubborn gas.
It’s also recyclable, so be sure to protect our oceans and skip the trash can. Since it’s a good idea to avoid supplements, Windi might be the help you are looking for.
Suggestion #6: Simethicone Drops
Simethicone drops are safe for babies and work by combining smaller gas bubbles into large bubbles in order to pass them faster. Experts are divided as to whether or not they actually work, but some parents swear by them.
However, lactation consultants recommend avoiding anything other than breastmilk or formula for the first 6 months. Any time you add something to your baby’s diet you increase the risk of infection or other problems, so talk to your doctor before you try this one.
Suggestion #7: Probiotic Drops
Also referred to as “liquid gold”, these drops have healthy bacteria to help your baby digest their food. My daughter had very irregular stools and lots of painful gas. I was determined to wait it out in order to avoid introducing anything other than breastmilk to her, but once she neared 6 months I gave in and tried these.
Within 3 days of use she began passing gas without crying and has had regular stools ever since. Talk to your doctor before giving these to your baby, but if he/she determines that it is okay, be prepared for life to get a whole lot better.
Suggestion #8: Bicycle Legs
An old favorite, bicycle legs worked great for my babies. Lay your baby flat on her back and move her legs in circular motions, just like riding a bicycle. For added fun, I like to sing along to Queen’s Bicycle Race while I do this. Yes, I know I’m a dork. My husband reminds me every time I do this but now my 6-year-old sings along with me. #ParentingWin
What Foods Cause Gas in Breastfed Babies?
Well-meaning friends and family will always have something to say about why your baby is so gassy. “What have you been eating? Have you had beans lately? Do you eat a lot of dairy?” These questions are rarely helpful and mostly serve to heap guilt upon the breastfeeding mother.
Remember: formula fed babies are gassy, too. So most likely, it’s both nothing and everything you’re eating.
Nothing and everything? What do I mean by that? Because your baby’s digestive system is immature, everything causes gas for the first few months. It’s nothing specific – it’s everything!
Cultures around the world blame all kinds of food on their baby’s gas. In the United States, parents are quick to blame dairy or gluten on all sorts of tummy troubles. In other countries where dairy is not a considerable part of the diet, they blame beans or potatoes. The fact is, every baby is gassy.
Some babies truly are sensitive to cow’s milk proteins (which is not the same as lactose intolerance). Keep a food log and make some notes about how gassy your baby is.
If you truly suspect dairy is the culprit, you can try eliminating all dairy from your diet and observe if it makes a difference (keeping in mind that it can take 10 days to 3 weeks to clear it from your system, according to kellymom.com.
A few months later, re-introduce it and your baby might not even seem to notice! But before you throw out all the yogurt and quit quesadillas, talk to your doctor. And remember, a sensitivity is not the same as an allergy.
Allergies are serious reactions that involve other symptoms ranging from mild to severe. A sensitivity may result in a little extra gas or tummy pain, but an allergy involves an immune response and can be life-threatening. All allergies should be taken seriously.
Don’t Fall for the Myths
Some moms think that if they are gassy, their baby will be, too. I’ve even had people tell me that if I drink a soda, the carbonation will cause my baby to be gassy.
Remember, breastmilk isn’t made from your food. It’s made in the breast itself from nutrients in your bloodstream. So don’t go blaming your baby’s gassiness on that La Croix (my favorite!) or last night’s chili.
Remember, every baby is a gassy baby. Some babies may struggle more than others to pass the gas but gassiness does not mean that something is wrong with your baby. Rather, it means your baby is quite normal and her digestive system is getting to work!
Take steps to prevent gas by burping or feeding more frequently and use massage or bicycle legs to work it out. Talk to your doctor before using any drops or supplements and relax. This too shall pass (pun intended).