The Gas Crisis

Battling the Bubbles

Still, some babies do occasionally have a painful buildup of gas. You'll see your child's belly become distended, and he may pull up his legs and cry or scream.

Fortunately, there are remedies. For starters, burp your child more often during feedings, and massage his tummy gently from right to left if he becomes bloated. You can also try the "gas hold." Holding your child horizontally so that he faces away from you and slightly downward, place one of your arms between his legs and across his body, your hand resting lightly beneath his chin for support. This puts gentle pressure on his intestines, encouraging pent-up air to get moving. Or lay your baby faceup on a padded surface, then gently hold his ankles and "pedal" his legs as though he were riding a bike.

If these approaches don't work, speak to your doctor. He may recommend giving your baby some commercial gas drops. Their active ingredient, simethicone, makes gas bubbles come together more readily, which allows for the easier passage of gas.

You Air What You Eat

If your baby's gassiness is chronic, you may need to reevaluate how, or even what, you are feeding her (or yourself, as well, if you're breast-feeding). Though you shouldn't do anything without your doctor's blessing, here are some tactics you might discuss and explore.

  • Improve the seal that your breast-fed baby makes with your nipple. Ask for pointers from a lactation consultant or an experienced mom. Misha Tyshkov, M.D., director of pediatric gastroenterology, hepatology, and nutrition at Staten Island University Hospital, in Staten Island, New York, sometimes advises putting a very thin ring of petroleum jelly or olive oil around the areola to aid suction.
  • If you're nursing, alter your diet. Certain foods, like peas and broccoli, contain difficult-to-digest sugars that are passed on to your baby.
  • If you are bottle-feeding, switch to a low-flow nipple so that your child swallows less air while she's drinking.
  • Change your child's formula. "Sometimes babies have trouble breaking down a formula's proteins," Dr. Shulman explains. "They become constipated, and gas can't escape." Your doctor may advise switching your child from a milk- to a soy-based formula, or to a milk- based formula in which the proteins have been broken down into easily digestible parts.
  • Feed your child yogurt, or another product that contains live cultures, if he's recently had a gastrointestinal infection or taken antibiotics. (Both can temporarily upset the balance of bacteria in the intestines, which in turn may cause more gas to be produced.) Yogurt cultures can help replenish the good bacteria he has lost.When your child starts solid foods, they may make him gassy too -- some fruit purees can be high in sugar. Make his first foods ones that most babies digest well, such as squash, sweet potatoes, and bananas.

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