The Gas Crisis

Babies are bubbly -- and it's perfectly normal. But when that buildup starts causing discomfort, it's time to figure out why.

Introduction

How cute -- your baby's cooing! Gurgling! Hiccuping! And now he's . . . he's . . . Oh my, that's not very polite!

You probably suspected that you'd encounter lots of less-than-glamorous stuff as a new parent, from messy diapers to puddles of drool. But did you ever imagine how gassy your infant would be? Babies, like the rest of us, get intestinal bubbles. Yet unlike adults and older kids, they have no inhibitions about making it known -- often loudly.

Gassiness isn't pretty, but it is normal. Sometimes, however, it can be a problem, causing discomfort or even pain. Knowing what creates gas -- and how to relieve it -- will help both you and your little one rest easier.

A Lot of Hot Air

Even when she's feeling fine, an infant burps and passes gas throughout the day, says Robert Shulman, M.D., a professor of pediatrics at Texas Children's Hospital, in Houston. Some of the gas is air that she's swallowed while eating, crying, and hiccuping, but some is also produced during digestion.

Whenever we eat sugar, including the kind found naturally in many foods, our small intestine processes it only partially, send-ing the rest to our large intestine (aka the colon), Dr. Shulman explains. Millions of bacteria exist down there to help our digestive tract function, and they depend in part on this sugar to stay alive. As the bacteria break down the sugar, some gas is created. This is a normal experience for people of any age; babies may seem more gassy than the rest of us simply because they feel no social pressure to hold it in.

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