Gassiness in a newborn

My two-week-old is very gassy. How can we help make him more comfortable?

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Robert Steele

Robert W. Steele, MD, is a board certified pediatrician at St. John's Regional Health Center in Springfield, MO. He graduated from medical... Read more

Gas in newborn infants can be a terrific concern to the parent. Gas can seem a significant cause of discomfort to the infant.

Gas may be caused by:

  • introduction of air into the stomach as the infant swallows during a feed
  • it may be from the natural breakdown of nutrients as the child digests the food
  • or it may be from cow's or soy milk intolerance in those being formula fed

Except for the latter case, there is no cause for concern if the infant does not seem to be bothered by the gas. As for milk intolerance, this is usually associated with diarrhea, vomiting or poor feeding, so gassiness is usually the least of worries in that case.

The introduction of air into the intestines must by definition be preceded by the introduction of air into the stomach. Therefore, by proper positioning -- keeping the lips well flanged around the nipple for breastfeeders, or by keeping the bottle from accumulating air in the nipple for bottle feeders, air entry may be reduced. In either case, frequent burping say once between each ounce for bottle feeders, or twice per breast for breastfeeders will help eliminate much of the air that made it to the stomach.

Finally, there is a medication that is supposed to help eliminate gas from the intestines. It is called simethicone (trade name Mylicon). However, when scientifically studied, it has not been found to be effective in decreasing colicky symptoms.

If your baby seems to be passing a lot of gas or burping a lot, that's normal if he otherwise seems to be healthy and doing well. If, however, you feel this is problematic, I suggest trying the above suggestions and discussing your concern with your baby's pediatrician.

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