“Dr. Linda, I have a very gassy newborn. She is 8 days old and passes a lot of gas, sometimes it seems to hurt her. Am I doing anything wrong?”
All newborn babies have gas. Some newborns have more problems with gassiness than others depending on how much air they swallow while they eat, how well they burp, how much gas they produce and how sensitive they are.
The gas in your gassy newborn comes from:
- Air swallowed during nursing.
- Air left over in the intestinal tract because of difficulties burping and getting rid of swallowed air.
- Excess gas produced in your baby’s intestine. This may be caused by an intolerance to something in your breastmilk or your baby’s formula, or, as a result of your baby having gut bacteria that produce a lot of gas.
This blog will be about the first 2 issues. The next 2 weeks blogs will address excess gas production in your baby’s intestine and burping your gassy baby.
All babies swallow some air while they are nursing.
These gas bubbles may cause spitting up, feelings of early fullness, or gas pains later on as the swallowed air passes through the intestines.
Proper feeding techniques can cut down a lot on how much air your baby swallows while she’s eating.The less air your baby swallows while eating, the less chance you will have a gassy newborn.
In general, breastfed babies swallow less air than bottle fed babies. However, if your baby does not latch on properly, or, if you have a rapid let-down your baby may swallow a lot of air.
How to prevent your baby from swallowing too much air:
If you are breastfeeding and have a gassy newborn:
- Make sure your baby is as alert as possible during feeds especially during the day.
Make sure your baby is latched on correctly.
- If you have a rapid letdown follow the steps outlined below to help you slow down the milk flow at the beginning of feeds.
How to make sure your baby has a proper latch-on:
When your baby is latched on well:
- She’ll have most of your areola in her mouth,
- Her lower lip will be folded outwards against your breast.
- Her whole jaw will move up and down while she nurses.
- Nursing doesn’t hurt.
- You’ll feel good suction as your baby nurses.
- Your baby will empty out your breast at each feed.
If your baby is not latched on well consult your Health Care Provider(HCP) or lactation consultant for help. An improper latch on may lead to pain and injury to your nipples and to you not producing enough milk in addition to leading to a gassy newborn.
Tips to correct your baby’s latch on:
- Before starting to nurse take three deep breaths and become fully present in the moment.
- Use your index finger to pull down on your baby’s chin and open her mouth up very wide.
- Put your other hand against your chest wall with your index finger cupping your breast and your thumb above your breast in what is called a C hold ( your thumb and index finger make a C shape)
- Push as much of the areola (brown part) of your breast into your baby’s mouth as you can. Once your nipple touches the roof of your baby’s mouth she will start to have reflex sucking movements.
- Once she starts to suck, she may continue nursing or may pull off and start to cry, she has to work harder when she is latched on right. If she pulls off, gently calm her down and repeat the above steps.
- It will probably take a few tries to get this right. Don’t give up, it will be well worth it in the end!
- If your gassy newborn is more than a few days old she may be quite resistant to learning this new way of nursing. If this is the case get someone to help you. Your HCP, your lactation consultant, your partner or a relative or friend who has breastfed would be ideal. They can help you open up her mouth, place her properly on your breast and then hold her head in place. Plus they can give you moral support and the reassurance that you are doing the right thing.
Once you have corrected the latch-on, within 36 hours, you should notice that breastfeeding feels much more comfortable, your milk supply increases and your baby will be more content.
Rapid letdown and your gassy newborn:
If you notice your gassy newborn choking and gagging at the beginning of feeds, you may be having a rapid letdown. With a rapid letdown, your milk spurts out quickly which overwhelms your young baby who is trying to protect her airway and not inhale the milk into her lungs. As she is trying to coordinate her sucking and swallowing to protect herself from inhaling milk she may swallow a lot of air.
Tips to slow down a rapid letdown:
- Before nursing take three deep breaths to become fully present.
- Lean back at a 45-degree angle as you place your baby on your breast.This should slow down the milk flow.
- If leaning back isn’t enough, make a circle with your thumb and index fingers and press down with them around the areola as you put your baby to the breast. This closes off the milk ducts and slows milk flow. As baby nurses slowly release the pressure till you are able to remove your fingers completely.
If you are bottle feeding and have a gassy newborn
- Check the flow of the nipple you are using.
- A nipple with the proper flow for a gassy newborn will let out one drop per second when you hold it at a 45-degree angle.
- A nipple that flows too fast may drown your baby in milk and cause her to choke and swallow a lot of extra air.
- A nipple that flows too slowly forces your baby to suck too hard and swallow a lot of extra air in the process.
- Make sure the nipple is completely full of milk (not air) during the feed by adjusting the angle of the bottle.
- Hold your baby during feeds, don’t prop the bottle
- If your baby seems to be extra gassy, there are special bottles to help with this issue. My patients and I had good results with the Dr. Brown bottles. This website gives a nice review of your different options https://www.followmum.com/10-best-baby-bottles-for-colic-gas/
As always I would love to hear your comments, questions, and personal experiences. Do you have any tricks that you would like to share with other moms? Please post them below and if you know anyone who would benefit from this information please share it with them.
To your holistic health,