If your recently-fed baby is fussing, odds are that it’s due to gas. This is a major source of discomfort for babies, and for newborns in particular. There are two main reasons for it: (1) they eat only liquids, which often involves gulping down a lot of air, and (2) their digestive systems aren’t yet fully developed, which often seems to make digestion an uncomfortable process. If your baby has problems with gas, you’re not alone. It’s quite common and almost a guarantee with preemies. When gas prevents your baby from sleeping, here are five things you should try.
1. Burp Your Baby Early and Often
This is the single best piece of advice that I can offer. The gas has to come out from one end or the other, and a burp is a lot easier to get. I used to think that you simply fed a baby his entire bottle and then put him on your shoulder for some back-patting. This is not enough! You should pause every 1/4 bottle, at a minimum, to give your baby a chance to burp.
And once he’s done, you must absolutely get one. I know, it’s hard. Sometimes they don’t seem to have a burp in them. Try a change of position: sitting your baby up on a hard surface instead of putting on your shoulder, or vice versa. Try rubbing his back in an upward motion. If all else fails, hold your baby upright and walk up and down some stairs. Gently. You’d be surprised how often this seems to get a burp loose. For more, see How to Burp A Baby.
2. Elevate the Head of Baby’s Bed
You will want to check with your pediatrician first, but I find that this helps when babies get gas after you put them down. Most baby cribs have multiple height settings for the mattress; you’re probably using the highest one for a newborn, so lower one end a notch.
Or, you can put a couple of books under one side of the mattress. Don’t put anything in the bed to achieve this. Put the baby down with his head on the high end. Now gravity works in your favor, and bubbles can more easily come up and out.
3. Switch to a Gentler Formula
The major formula brands have a “gentle” version of the powder that’s partially broken down to aid your baby’s digestion. Even generic brands tend to carry these. Be cautious, though, in switching your baby’s formula – he or she may not like it. It’s important to stick with one kind at a time, so don’t mix and match.
4. Try Gas Relief Drops
You might have heard of Mylicon – that’s the brand name – but Little Tummys has gas relief drops for cheaper. The active ingredient is called simethicone, and it’s actually a mild, ingestible soap that breaks up bubbles in an infant’s belly.
The smell is noticeable, but my babies didn’t seem to mind it. You can get the generic kinds as well. Don’t give it to them straight; mix the required dose in a full bottle. If your baby doesn’t always finish a bottle, mix a half-bottle with the full dose first so that he takes it all.
5. Give Your Baby Gripe Water
I hesitate to recommend a specific product (much less a homeopathic one), but many parents of fussy babies swear by something called gripe water. With our twins, we were desperate enough to try it.
It worked very well for a month or two, seeming to help them rest more contentedly after eating. The downside is that this stuff is pretty expensive ($12-14 per small bottle in the store). You might try it, though, if none of the above steps work.
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