5 Things To Do When Gas Keeps Your Baby Awake

Got-Gas2If 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
2. Elevate the Head of Baby’s Bed
3. Switch to Gentle Infant Formula
4. Try Gas Relief Drops
5. Give Your Baby Gripe Water

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

gentle baby formula for gasThe major formula brands have a gentle digestion canister 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.

Once your baby is a bit older, you might wish to switch back to regular formula which tends to keep them content for a little bit longer (because it doesn’t digest as quickly).

4. Try Gas Relief Drops

baby gas relief dropsYou 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.

What To Read Next

If you like this article, you might want to subscribe by e-mail or RSS so that you’re notified when new content is posted. Also, check out our comprehensive e-book, Baby Sleep Training 101.

Baby sleep problems Periodic Table of Baby SLeep Train baby to sleep through the night Essential Baby Sleep Gear
Baby sleep problems takes you through the most common sleep issues and how to address them. The periodic table of baby sleep has all the essential elements for healthy baby sleep habits. Visit our sleep training section for strategies and tips for teaching your baby to sleep through the night. Check out our reviews of Essential baby gear for helping babies sleep at night.

Establishing A Routine for Putting Baby to Bed

bedtime routines for babyOne of the most important things you can do to help your baby get to sleep is establish a daily routine. You should start this the day your baby comes home from the hospital! A bedtime routine has two parts: a schedule specifying the times of day that you put your baby to bed, and a series of events that you go through every time before doing so. Since our main goal is to get a baby to sleep through the night, we’ll focus on the nighttime routine.

Why Establish a Bedtime Routine?

Establishing a bedtime routine for your baby early on has many, many advantages. It helps you plan your day and evening. It saves time. It helps you to remember to do everything, like put on a night-time diaper. A good routine also teaches your baby that certain events will be followed by him or her going to bed. It’s a subtle reminder that this isn’t just a nap, this is the big sleep overnight. In time, you’ll find that a sleep routine relaxes your baby and prepares him, physically and mentally, to fall asleep. Do it right, and he’ll usually be asleep the moment you put him in bed.

When to Start the Routine

It might surprise you to learn that putting your baby to bed early can help him or her sleep longer. This seems counter-intuitive, I know, but it worked for my boys. It turned out that we were keeping them up until 8:30 or so, and they were ready for bed by 7:30. So start your baby bedtime routine early enough to have your baby ready for bed when the first signs of sleepiness show. See Benefits of an Early Bedtime for details.

Elements of A Baby’s Bedtime Routine

Here are the seven basic steps that you’ll probably follow when putting your baby to bed at night.

  1. Bath
  2. Bottle and Feeding
  3. Burping
  4. Clean Diaper
  5. Sleeping Clothes
  6. Rocking and/or Soothing
  7. Pacifier
  8. Room and Bed


This is optional, but a bath is a wonderful way to get your baby clean and relaxed. Make sure the water is the right temperature. If you use a little cloth-covered baby holder in the bathtub, splash it with warm water right before you put the baby in. If these things get wet, they become chilly and your baby won’t like it.

See our article on 7 steps to the perfect baby bath.

Baby bath routine

Baby Bathtub


Your goal is to get the baby to eat as much as is comfortably possible. For most babies, the amount of food ingested is directly related to how long they’ll sleep afterward. For newborns, this is milk. If you’re not nursing, make sure the milk is nice and warm. Not lukewarm, but body-temperature warm.

As soon as you can give your baby cereal, make that a part of the nightly routine. If your baby is old enough to start solid food, give that around dinnertime. Let it sit a bit, and then follow with a bottle.  See my post on nighttime feeding for more.

Baby feeding routine

Baby Cereal


You will need to burp your baby thoroughly, to help prevent gas discomfort and nighttime spit-ups. Do this after solid food, too, since even spoon-fed babies can get bubbles in the tummy.

If you’re having trouble getting a burp, or your infant seems to have some discomfort, see my post on helping babies with gas.


The importance of diapers for sleep is something you might not fully appreciate. Usually, changing a baby right before feeding and burping is just fine, as long as it’s not noticeably wet or dirty.

If you find that your baby often wakes up with a very wet diaper, look into Huggies Overnites. These have extra padding to wick away more moisture during the longer sleeping hours. We used them from size 3 to size 5.

Overnight Diapers


You should always change your baby into fresh clothes before bed, ideally nice soft pajamas with covered feet and long sleeves. Don’t put the baby to bed in day clothes. I highly recommend that you swaddle a newborn. If you aren’t going to swaddle, use a baby sleep sack or sleeping bag keeping him warm and snug. Avoid overheating your baby! At most, infants should have one more layer on than an adult might to feel comfortable. See my guide to what a newborn should sleep in.

Sleep Sack

Rocking and/or Soothing

This is the winding-down time just before you put the baby to bed. Rocking the baby in your arms or a rocking chair is a great soothing technique. You might also try reading to your baby, a great habit to get into.

See our list of favorite baby bedtime books for some suggestions of short but soothing night-night reads.

Favorite Baby bedtime books

Bedtime book


A good, clean pacifier should be part of the routine. Keep a couple of extras in the bed in case you need to find one in the dark. I was surprised to learn that pacifiers are recommended by pediatricians to protect against SIDS.

Once your baby is asleep, you don’t have to stick the pacifier back in if it falls out. See also our recommendations of the best baby pacifiers.


 Room and Bed

The room should be dark, with the possible exception of a night light. The bed should be empty of extraneous blankets, stuffed animals, clothes, etc. Turn on a soother or sound machine to help your baby relax.

Put him in, make sure his blanket is secure, and leave the room. Note, it’s advisable that you put your baby to bed while he or she is still awake. This teaches your baby to soothe himself to sleep, so that he can fall asleep on his own.

Portable Nightlight

It is critical that you set a pattern and stick to it as much as possible. The bath-bottle-bed routine is a classic, and it works because it trains your baby that when those things are done, it’s time to go to sleep. Once the baby is settled and asleep, it’s probably a good time to hit the sack yourself. You hear this bit of advice over and over: when they sleep, you sleep.

What To Read Next

If you like this article, you might want to subscribe by e-mail or RSS so that you’re notified when new content is posted. Also, check out our comprehensive e-book, Baby Sleep Training 101.

Nighttime Feeding and Sleep

nighttime feeding and baby sleepOne of the most important things to get right to help your baby to sleep through the night is the nighttime feeding. In most cases, this is the last time you feed the baby before you go to bed, and how you do it will affect how much sleep you’ll get. For newborns this doesn’t really apply; they eat every two to four hours, so you’re going to be up in the middle of the night regardless.

As time passes, however, the baby’s tummy gets big enough to take more food. More food takes longer to digest, and that means more time until the baby wakes up. In my experience, when it comes to reasons why babies won’t sleep when you want them to, hunger is number one. What you feed your baby at night, and your baby’s age, are two of the principal factors in when babies start sleeping through the night.
What to Feed Baby at Night
Nighttime Feeding for Newborns (0-3 months)
Nighttime Feeding for Infants (3-6 months)
Nighttime Feeding for Older Babies (6-18 months)

What to Feed Baby At Night

As you’ve probably noticed with your baby, food and sleep are correlated. The more an infant eats, the longer he generally sleeps. What you feed your baby matters as well. At the newborn stage you don’t have much choice other than breast milk or formula, but once your baby is old enough to start solid food, a baby buffet of options becomes available. Let’s break down your basic baby foods, with their advantages and disadvantages relative to sleeping through the night.

Breast Milk

There are innumerable benefits of breast feeding your newborn. It’s an intimate bonding experience. It saves money. It confers health benefits (such as natural immunity) to your infant. Breast milk digests extremely well, too. This is a plus for diaper changes, but a minus when it comes to sleeping for long hours. On breast milk alone, I think it’s hard for a baby to go longer than 4-5 hours. Also, nursing tends to be more physically demanding than drinking from a bottle, so your baby may tire before drinking his fill.

I am NOT about to suggest that you give formula instead of nursing your baby. I am clarifying here because I get the occasional angry comment or e-mail from someone who gets that wrong impression.

However, If you are one of the many mothers who supplements her newborn’s diet with formula, try to save that for nighttime. You might also consider offering a small bottle after nursing if your baby exhausted the milk supply and still seems hungry.

Infant Formula

Gerber Baby Formula

Baby Formula

No matter what the makers of Similac and Enfamil would have you believe, most baby formulas are quite similar. Mainstream products come in a few different forms:

  • Newborn formula is lower-calorie and designed to be gentle on the stomach. Good for your baby’s tummy, but hard to sleep through the night on.
  • Infant formula is pretty standard. The three main ingredients are nonfat milk, lactose, and vegetable oil. I won’t push you toward one particular brand, and generics are fine too. Just try to stick with one that your baby likes.
  • Gentle formula in various forms is marketed for babies that have reflux or other problems. This stuff is fine, but you should be aware that the number one ingredient is not milk. It’s corn syrup.

See our review of infant formula for some recommendations of pre-mixed and organic formula options.

One thing all baby formulas have in common is that they’re expensive. Like liquid gold. The advantage for sleep, however, is that formula is essentially in unlimited supply, so you can always offer more if your baby seems hungry before bed. It tends to be a bit thicker, too, which may help extend sleep.

Single-grain Cereal

Baby Cereal

Baby Cereal

When your baby is 4-6 months old, you may be told to start offering solid food, usually single-grain cereal. Our pediatrician’s baby guide further specifies that the first solid foods (in order) should be rice cereal, oatmeal cereal, and then barley cereal. See our guide on When to Give Baby Cereal. You generally mix this in a bowl with milk or water, and spoon-feed it to your infant. Start trying it right away, because it will take a few times for your baby to get the hang of eating solid food. Once he or she can eat it, baby cereal is a game changer. Give it before a nap or at dinner, and I can almost guarantee you’ll notice a difference in how long your baby can sleep.

Solid Baby Foods

It’s usually around 6 months that your baby will start eating Gerber-type baby food. You’ll begin with the classics – peas, carrots, sweet potatoes, and apples in unrecognizable smoothie form. I’ve heard from many that you should start with the veggies first, because once your baby tastes fruit, he won’t want anything else. This wasn’t true for my kids; a hungry baby will generally eat what is offered. However, the sweeter foods — fruits, carrots, squash, and sweet potatoes — tend to be of thinner consistency; I highly recommend thickening them with single-grain cereal. This helps the food “hug” the spoon for feeding, and it also offers more calories. See our guide, 6 Tips for Starting Solid Food.

No matter what food or foods you choose to offer, make sure that your baby likes it well enough, and that you’ve plenty in stock for those nighttime feedings.

Nighttime Feeding for Newborns (0-3 months)

Newborn babies have essentially two jobs: eat most of the time, and sleep the rest (16-18 hours a day). You will feed a newborn every two to four hours, but it’s important to stick to that schedule. Feed him as much as he’ll take (pausing to burp every ounce or so), do a last round of burping, and then put him down. One of the worst mistakes you can make is to try and feed your baby every time he cries. Not only does it set a bad precedent, but it shouldn’t be necessary because his tummy should be full. I’m not suggesting that you ignore a baby that’s crying and clearly hungry. But if it’s too soon for a baby to be eating, try soothing with a pacifier or a rocking chair first. When it is time to eat, there are two things you should always strive to do:

  1. Feed the baby until his tummy is full. If he starts to doze off in the middle of nursing or a bottle, wake him gently. Unbutton the onesie for a little cool air if you must. It won’t do you any good if he’s asleep now but awake again (and hungry) in half an hour.
  2. Get the gas out. The digestive system of a newborn is a delicate thing. Every parent knows how unhappy babies get when they have bubbles in their tummies. Address this by burping regularly during the feeding, not just after (see How To Burp A Baby). Many parents swear by the Dr. Brown’s Bottles which are engineered to reduce the air ingested by the baby. We have about a dozen of them. They work.

Nighttime Feeding for Infants (3-6 months)

At the age of three months, most babies can eat enough to last three to six hours before the next feeding. Don’t forget to burp him, because your baby is drinking more milk and doing it faster. Try to burp two or three times during the feeding, and once afterward. Listen for the warning signs of an imminent spit-up: deep gurgling noises, little burps, or grumbles from the stomach.

Establishing a routine is especially important here, because many babies are capable of sleeping for that critical six hours overnight that lets parents get to REM sleep. Try and time the last feeding to coincide with your own bedtime. At the last feeding, offer as much milk as the baby will take. Put in an extra round of burping. Swaddle, put in crib, and hurry to bed yourself.

Nighttime Feeding for Older Babies (6-18 months)

At six months you’ll probably notice an important turning point. For me, the biggest factor was the green-light from the pediatrician on giving the babies rice cereal. Once they start eating solid food, babies sleep longer without waking up to eat. The crucial step is to feed your baby a good and nourishing meal at dinner time. Don’t settle for finishing one container and assuming your baby is full; keep offering food until he’s obviously satisfied. Offering baby cereal in 2 tablespoon increments is good for this.

On Putting Cereal in the Bottle

Pediatricians and nutritionists generally advise against putting cereal in the baby’s bottle. The concerns are that it’s a choking hazard and that it might delay your baby’s learning to eat from a spoon. Even so, I know many parents who do mix a little bit of cereal in the last bottle before bed. We did this for the boys and it made a big difference for sleep, but hasn’t handicapped their ability to eat at all! But that’s my personal experience, and I won’t tell you what to do lest I get more angry e-mails about it (probably from people who don’t remember or know what it was like to have a baby waking up every 2 hours to eat).

If you do choose to try it, only use a teaspoon or two of cereal in a 4-6 ounce bottle. It should still be quite liquid and nowhere near applesauce consistency. Also, make sure to have a level 2 or level 3 nipple because cereal tends to clog.

With a full bottle of warm milk plus cereal, babies at this age sleep eight to 12 hours overnight. If you’re on solid food and still having trouble, see my article on getting a baby to sleep through the night.

What To Read Next

If you like this article, you might want to subscribe by e-mail or RSS so that you’re notified when new content is posted.

Best Baby Mobiles Periodic Table of Baby SLeep Best baby pacifiers Early bedtime for baby
Best Crib Mobiles reviews musical, black/white, and organic crib mobiles. The periodic table of baby sleep has all the essential elements for healthy baby sleep habits. Best Baby Pacifiers has our recommendations for newborns, older babies, and teething infants. Early Bedtime strategies that work surprisingly well for helping babies sleep through the night.