Babies’ only form of communication is crying, so it takes the process of elimination to determine what your baby is trying to say. You change their diaper, feed them, and try to put them to sleep just to find that they are still crying.
If your baby’s crying seems to be a mystery, it may be that they are dealing with pain and discomfort from gas or colic. These are silent issues with next to no symptoms visible to parents.
You may be feeling helpless as your baby cries out in discomfort, but there are things you can do to relieve their symptoms as well as prevent future issues – a necessity if your baby is prone to gas and colic.
1. Opt for Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is no guarantee against gas and colic, but you do reduce the likelihood due to the nature of breastfeeding and the makeup of breast milk.
First of all, you greatly reduce the risk by eliminating the need for bottles. Due to the way bottles work, it is more likely that your baby may swallow air while they feed from a bottle that will cause air and gas to build up in their digestive system.
Breast milk is also much easier to digest than formula. As such, the chances of gas building up is drastically reduced. Plus, the physical contact with mom works wonder for easing the fussiness that comes with colic.
2. Make Sure Your Baby Gets Hindmilk
You need to make sure you are allowing enough time at each breastfeeding session – if you are breastfeeding – to allow your baby to get to the hindmilk. This is the fatty, nutrient-rich part of the milk that collects further back in the milk ducts.
The foremilk is very watery and not entirely satisfying. Your baby will still be hungry and fussy if they are not allowed to get to the hindmilk. Don’t rush your baby to finish eating, allowing abut 20 minutes per breast and offering both breasts at each feeding .
3. Check Your Diet
There are likely certain foods that cause excess gas in your body, but did you know that these can also affect your baby if you are breastfeeding? The food you eat directly affects your breastmilk, slightly changing its makeup and even altering its flavor.
Some foods notorious for bothering babies through breast milk include:
- Cauliflower and broccoli
- Spicy foods
If you notice that your baby is particularly fussy during or shortly after breastfeeding sessions, start paying closer attention to what you are eating. It is advisable that you keep a food journal or at least creating a note in your phone to help you track your diet as well as your baby’s moods to see if there is a connection.
4. Choose a Different Bottle
If you are bottle feeding, you may want to take a look at the bottle system or nipple you are using.
There are some great bottles on the market that can help reduce the amount of air ingested by babies, which can reduce the buildup of gas in the digestive system. Look for a system that allows you to feed straight from the bag. Also, look for bottles that have a bend in the body rather than just being straight.
Bottle nipples come in various flow options that are supposedly measured by speed and a baby’s age. These labels are usually pretty accurate, but you may need to try a few different types to find the right shape and flow for your baby. They may not be getting enough milk, swallowing more air, or they may have too much milk coming to them at once, frustrating and upsetting them.
5. Look at Formula Ingredients
Even though baby formula has come a long way over the years, it is still man-made (with natural ingredients) and is overall harder than breast milk for babies to digest. You may want to take a look at the ingredients and find a formula that specifically made for babies prone to gas and colic.
It may be that your baby is allergic to certain ingredients, which can also cause gas and vomiting. Something made with soy rather than dairy may be better for your baby. Something all-natural is also a good choice to try and avoid any possible ingredients that are difficult to digest.
6. Change Feeding Position
Gravity may also be working against your baby, preventing them from being able to digest their food efficiently. It’s most common to feed babies lying down, but for those that are prone to gas and colic, this can further irritate symptoms.
It may be worth it to try a new feeding position, opting for something a bit more upright to allow better milk flow to the stomach. With bottle feeding, it’s fairly easy to support your baby in a sitting position to feed. With breastfeeding, you can use an extra pillow under your baby to prop them up a bit more.
7. Burp Often
In addition to feeding upright, you will want to try to burp your baby often during and after they eat. This can help dislodge any gas bubbles that may start to cause pain and discomfort. If you notice that your baby is slowing down on their sucking, take a break from feeding and burp your baby before going back to the breast or bottle.
8. Time Diaper Changes Accordingly
For the same reasons you want to try feeding upright, you want to try and avoid diaper changes right after eating. Laying your baby down with a full belly can disrupt digestion and cause problems with gas.
Instead, try changing your baby’s diaper before you feed them so you don’t have to lay them down right after they eat. There may be some cases where this is not possible – you can7t control when your baby poops – but try to do this as much as possible.
9. Start Solids Slowly
It’s hard to predict how your baby will react to new foods. After several months of surviving on breast milk or formula only, solid foods can be quite a shock to a baby’s digestive system.
It’s better to start slow, trying one new food at a time so you can watch for any adverse reactions. If you try too many new things at once, it can be hard to pinpoint what is causing your baby problems.
Mixing a bit of breastmilk with purees can also be a great way to ease your baby into solid foods and provide them with the nutrients their body has been used to for so long.
10. Be Selective with Solid Foods
In addition to starting solid foods slowly, you should also be selective with the foods you introduce to them, especially if they are prone to issues with gas and colic.
Fruits that are high in fructose vegetables and high in starch require a lot of good bacteria to be properly digested. A baby’s body may not be capable of producing the right bacteria or enzymes in order to fully digest these components. As a result, your little one may wind up with digestive issues or simply have an upset tummy.
Some examples of ingredients to avoid include:
- Apples, carrots, pears, and even yams.
- Instead of choosing these, opt for low-fructose fruit ingredients or low-starch vegetable ingredients for best results.
- Some good options are spinach, banana, baby corn, peaches, apricots, and squash.
11. Hold Your Baby
Understandably, babies can get very fussy when they just want to be held. Feeling supported in your arms and hearing your heartbeat can work wonders for calming your baby and easing their colic. Skin-to-skin contact also helps to aid in your baby’s digestion to relieve discomfort due to gas.
You can also try the colic carry with your baby. Lay your baby face down on your forearm, laying their cheek against your palm or in the crook of your elbow. This works best with small babies as you have to support your baby’s weight on your forearm. Your baby may find this type of hold very soothing.
12. Try Baby Massage
Another way to relieve gas pain is to give their digestive system a little bit of help through baby massage. There are a few options you can try to help you find something that works for your baby.
- Lay your baby down on their back across your lap or on a soft surface.
- Gently rub their tummies in a clockwise manner. Why clockwise? Because the intestines work in this direction and you can help stimulate their activity this way and provide relief.
- There’s no harm that will come from massaging counter-clockwise, but it may be less effective on the whole, especially if it’s baby gas specifically and not colic that is causing the problem.
- Carefully place your baby across your knees with their stomach down.
- Gently and slowly moving your legs upwards and downwards each time to give them a little abdominal massage.
- Make sure you’re holding them or that they are secure so that they don’t fall or roll off, and be very tender in your movements.
- You’re not kicking them so much as providing a less aggressive version of what a massage chair might do for an adult.
- Rest your baby with their tummy facing down across your forearm.
- Allow their head to rest in the palm of your hand so you can properly support their neck.
- Sway them from side to side to simulate a rocking movement.
- As you do this, gently and soothingly rub their back.
13. Go for a Warm Bath
A warm bath can also be useful for calming a colicky baby. You can do this in your own kitchen sink or even in a little baby tub made of plastic that fits your baby nicely. Make sure that the water isn’t too hot. You can test the temperature with the inside of your elbow where your skin is most sensitive.
Once you place your baby in the water, occasionally pour some water gently over them so that their upper body does not get too cold. If your child really likes the bath, allow them to stay in the tub for a while until they seem happy, but never leave them unattended.
After the bath, make sure they are wrapped up well in a towel and dried right away. You don’t want them to get too cold.
For very young babies, you can opt for a sponge bath. This is typically best for newborns.
- Use a damp, warm washcloth or sponge to gently run over their body.
- While not as effective as a proper soaking bath, a sponge bath can provide some relief until a full bath is possible.
14. Find Ways to Soothe
Colic and gas are often associated with each other since one usually affects or causes the other. A colicky baby cries excessively, and all of this crying may cause your baby to swallow a lot of air which – as we have already established – can cause a buildup of gas.
Before you are able to address any discomforts your baby may be experiencing, you will need to find ways to calm them down first. This is the same for everyday things like feeding and sleeping; it’s hard for your baby to focus on anything else when they are screaming and crying.
One thing that works sometimes – aside from holding, rocking, bathing, etc. – is white noise. A soft, whooshing sound like crashing waves or even a running vacuum can help to calm your baby enough to start addressing their needs.
15. Consider Supplemental Help
Sometimes you may need a little extra help from some sort of supplement or “medication.” Now, there isn’t a particular medication that cures colic and/or gas, but there are things you can try to ease your baby’s discomfort.
A good option is to try a probiotic:
- A probiotic supplement can help to produce good bacteria species in the gut, promoting better health, digestion, and growth of the intestinal tract.
- A daily dose of this is said to be able to relieve all traces of baby gas within 10 days or in some cases, even as soon as 3 days.
- They come in all sorts of forms, from powder to liquid options, so there is essentially something for every baby.
Gripe water is also a popular option for parents with colicky babies. This is a liquid supplement made with sodium bicarbonate and herbs that are known to calm babies and even relieve some symptoms of gas. You can even find some formulas with chamomile or lavender, which also have calming properties.
16. Look at Your Physical and Mental State
Contrary to popular belief, babies can’t actually naturally sense when you’re feeling bad. However, they can recognize your physical reactions that result from stress and exhaustion from dealing with your fussy, colicky baby.
Perhaps the way you hold them changes, your tone might be different, or the way you move through the room creates sounds that are different to the ones that you would usually make. This can make it harder for a baby to relax – and when you notice your baby is fussier than normal, your stress levels might rise even more.
It’s a never-ending, vicious cycle, and for the sake of both yourself and your little one, it has to be put to an end.
17. Know When to Take a Break
Sometimes you just need to take a break yourself before you are able to really be helpful to your baby. If you get stressed or frustrated when you are unable to calm your baby, it may just be best to step away for a moment or two.
- Put your baby down into their crib, walk away somewhere within earshot, and take a few minutes to breathe. Don't just focus on leaving the scene, focus on actually calming your entire body.
- There is no shame in clearing your head, and chances are that this break will help you stay calmer and find solutions more quickly – and of course, it will also make your baby less anxious.
- You should not feel any guilt for requesting assistance from someone else, whether it is from your partner or spouse, family members, friends, or anyone else you can trust with your baby.
- If possible, try to make an arrangement that allows you to have 30-90 minutes per day to yourself. Everyone needs a little me-time, and parenthood shouldn’t stop you from getting the rest you need.
Taking time to breathe can be good for both you and your baby. You may find yourself becoming less stressed with your baby’s situation in the future.