How to Soothe a Fussy, Gassy Baby

We feel so helpless when our little ones experience discomfort. Thankfully, there are ways to help your baby with gas and other tummy troubles. And many of these strategies are good for soothing general or unexplained fussiness, too. We asked our Facebook community for their fussy-baby questions, and then turned to experienced moms and a pediatrician (and mom of four!) for their tried-and-tested advice for making babies feel better.

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Q: [My baby] cries a lot when he is gassy. What is a good way to help ease his tummy troubles?

Nina says:
My babies cried and fussed a lot when they were gassy, too. One trick I did to help expel the gas was the “elbow to the knee” trick. Lay your baby down on his back, then gently cross his right elbow to his left knee as if they were about to touch. Repeat on the other side with his left elbow and right knee. It’s sort of like “bicycle kicks” but more effective as it crosses over their tummies.

You can also try changing the bottles your baby drinks from and use those designed to reduce air intake.

Dr. Meg
says: One of the best techniques for soothing a gassy baby is to carry him in what I call the football hold. Place the baby face down across your forearm with his head hear your elbow and his buttocks near your wrist. It looks peculiar, but the pressure on baby’s tummy coupled with frequent pats on the back can help ease his gas. In addition to carrying baby this way, I recommend swaddling baby snuggly. This, too, can put pressure on baby’s tummy, soothing his discomfort.

I have not personally found bottle types to make much difference. What can really help is changing formula if baby is taking formula- even if it is alternated with breastmilk. Babies’ digestive systems are still developing. In some cases a switch to formula can help. I recommend Gentlease.

Q:
My baby keeps crying after every feeding. Any tips on how to make him more comfortable?

Nina says:
Crying after feedings can mean so many things, but here are a few ideas you can try: First, feed the baby at an incline instead of flat on his back. For instance, hold him in your arms or sit him in an infant seat so he’s drinking at an angle. Then, burp him after every feeding (and even every few minutes during feedings) to expel gas he may have. I liked holding my babies over my shoulder or across my lap. And finally, see if the baby wants more milk. He may be crying because he still wants more than what was in the bottle. Consider adding more ounces of milk to each feeding to see if that will help.

Dr. Meg says: Crying after eating regularly may point to an underlying problem. If a baby doesn’t get enough to eat, he will guzzle his milk and cry for more when he is done. This is easily corrected by giving him more food either through bottle feeding or nursing. Crying during or after feeds can also signal formula dislike, or intolerance, if the baby is drinking formula. The best way to help this is to try an alternative formula such as one that has easy to digest proteins that have been partially hydrolyzed.

If the baby cries during feeding and pulls away from the bottle because he is tiring from eating, then he could have heart or respiratory issues. In this case, his parents should take him to the pediatrician.

Q: How do I know if he is just gassy?

Sarah says:
If baby is going for shorter times between feedings, he may need more formula or breastmilk at each feeding. Babies go through growth spurts and can surprise us with sudden changes in eating patterns. If he is following his normal eating pattern and still fussy after each feeding then he may be experiencing discomfort from gas. Keeping baby elevated after feedings, burping frequently during feedings and using a bottle that helps eliminate baby swallowing air, will all help. If you are breastfeeding you may want to cut down on gas-inducing foods like broccoli, beans, and even spicy foods. You also may want to try cutting down on dairy to see if that helps the gas issues with your baby.

Dr. Meg says: Babies who experience discomfort from gas will cry, turn red in the face, arch their backs and refuse to eat for the moment. Also - you should hear your baby pass a lot of gas either before these episodes or shortly afterward. This discomfort should only last a few moments and then subside. Baby may be fine for a few minutes and then cry again. If his discomfort is truly from gas, it should occur throughout the day - not just at certain times of the day.

Many parents worry that their baby has too much gas but remember, passing gas is a sign of a healthy digestive tract in your baby and most of the time, the gas they have does not cause discomfort.

Babies who cry a lot at night might not just be hungry or have gas – they could be uncomfortable from a wet or dirty diaper (even if you just changed it!), too hot in a swaddle, or might just need some extra attention to be soothed back to sleep.

*These answers are not intended to be used in place of speaking with your personal physician. Please consult your physician for any medical issues and/or emergencies.

ABOUT OUR EXPERTS

Pediatrician, mother of four, and best-selling author of six books, Dr. Meg Meeker is the country's leading authority on parenting, teens and children's health. Dr. Meg writes with the know-how of a pediatrician and the big heart of a mother because she has spent the last 30 years practicing pediatric and adolescent medicine. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, certified by The American Board of Pediatrics and serves on the Advisory Board of The Medical Institute.

Sarah is a Registered Nurse and mom to four children. She blogs at Must Have Mom, where she shares must have recipes, DIY projects, parenting tips and more in an effort to simplify everyday life for busy families.

Nina Garcia is a mom of three boys and the parenting blogger behind sleepingshouldbeeasy.com. She has been helping parents for over seven years with parenting, family life, early education, being a working mom, and life with twins. She has also written several books and continues to inspire readers to engage in mindful and positive parenting.

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