Belly (Abdominal) Gas in Babies
What causes gas in babies?
Causes of gas in babies may include:
- Swallowing air when crying.
A baby who cries for a long time can swallow extra air, especially if the crying is intense (colic).
- Swallowing air when sucking.
A baby may swallow excess air during bottle-feeding when drinking too fast or when lying down. A baby may also swallow excess air if the nipple has holes that are too big. If you bottle-feed your baby, use nipples with holes large enough to drip cold formula at 1 drop each second.
Gas may get trapped in a baby's belly when they are lying on their backs. Until their first birthday, babies should always sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). But when your baby is awake, you may help prevent or relieve some belly discomfort by holding your baby upright. Or you can give your baby some "tummy time" while you watch closely.
- Certain foods.
Giving certain foods, such as cow's milk or juice, to your baby may cause your baby to have excess gas. Some people have problems digesting milk protein or milk sugar (lactose intolerance). But these problems are very rare in babies.
If you think your baby may have this problem, it's not usually recommended that you switch formula or stop breastfeeding until your baby has been checked by a doctor.
Preventing gas in your baby
You may be able to prevent gas by not feeding your baby certain foods until they are older. Try these tips.
- Do not give your baby cow's milk before they are at least 12 months of age.
Cow's milk protein can be hard for a baby's body to break down. And cow's milk has less iron and vitamins than babies need.
- Do not give your baby juice before they are at least 12 months old.
Juice may cause a baby to have excess gas. Give only a small amount to your child.
- Work with your baby's doctor.
If the doctor thinks food is a source of gas, they may recommend a change in what you are feeding your baby. For example, many babies younger than 4 months of age can't digest the starch in cereals.
Relieving gas in your baby
Try the following tips to relieve gas in your baby during and after feeding.
- Use the proper position during feeding.
Feed your baby in a partially upright position. After feeding, put them in a baby seat for about 15 to 30 minutes. Be sure to burp your baby during and after feeding.
- Massage your baby.
Lay your baby on their belly across your lap and massage their back after feeding.
- Give medicine as prescribed.
If your child's doctor suggests medicine to reduce gas, use it exactly as prescribed.
Current as of: March 21, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board: All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.