Newborn gas pains are common, especially in the first few weeks. It's always best to have your midwife or doctor assess the baby to ensure there are no health concerns. You want to make sure the baby is healthy, gaining weight, sleeping and eliminating normally. A professional can also assess whether there are other symptoms and if the gas pain episodes are short and if your baby's discomfort is relived by passing gas. Once you are sure the gas pains are normal, you'll want to look at your baby's diet.
A breastfed baby may be gassy while learning to cope with milk flow. If the baby is more than a few weeks old, there may be a fore- and hindmilk imbalance. The milk at the beginning of a feed is lower in fat and higher in sugar than the milk at the end. If baby is drinking mostly foremilk from one breast, then being switched to the other, she may experience: gas, greenish poops, less sleeping time, and less weight gain. If your baby drinks fully from one breast (switching to the other only if still hungry), she will get a balance of fore- and hindmilk. Baby will be less gassy, have normal yellow poops with little white seedy bits, often sleep better, and experience optimal weight gain.
If baby is not breastfed, do a thorough review of formula: brand, how it is prepared, and how much she is taking. Simple adjustments may reveal a cause for excessive gassiness.
Burping techniques should be reviewed for both breastfed and formula fed babies. Not all babies need to be burped, but if your baby is gassy, effective burping can help. Also, try using comfort holds and distraction, as well as massage, warm baths and leg bicycling to relieve gas.
Lisa Weston, is the Vice President of the Association of Ontario Midwives, one of the founding members of the Sages-Femmes Rouge Valley Midwives practice, and served as the first Division Head of Midwifery.