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What Causes Babies to Experience Gas Pain?

  • Incorrect Feeding Technique

    A poor latch onto the breast or bottle results in too much air being swallowed at meal times.

  • Immature Digestion

    The human digestive system is so complex that it has its own nervous system, the enteric nervous system, which controls the transportation of gut contents in a wave-like motion called peristalsis. A newborn’s gut is continuing to develop after he or she is born. The gut may still be learning to process food, gas and stool effectively. Gas may also be present due to immaturity in the gut’s microflora, carbohydrate metabolism and hormonal regulation. Gas may also be a symptom of constipation.

  • Too Much Lactose

    Breastmilk is often thought of as containing foremilk and hindmilk. The foremilk, which comes first, contains more of the sugars, lactose, while the following hindmilk is richer in fat. Some experts believe that too much foremilk may result in a relative lactose overload. This may contribute to gas or fussiness in babies. Many lactation experts recommend attempting to empty each breast before moving on to the next.

    Some mothers may have an over-supply of breastmilk, a condition known as hyperlactation syndrome. In this situation, milk letdown is often fast or forceful, causing babies to gag or be fussy with feedings. Please contact your doctor or lactation consultant if you are interested in learning more about milk over-supply or breastmilk composition.

  • Introduction of New Foods

    New foods can make a baby gassy as his gut learns to process them. An excess of high sugar foods, like juices, can also cause a baby to have looser stools or gas.

  • Microbial Imbalance

    Our digestions are aided by literally trillions of beneficial bacteria (probiotics) that collaborate with our bodies digestive enzymes to efficiently break down food and nutrients. Emerging evidence suggests that some healthy bacteria, like L. reuteri or P.pentosaceus, may play a role in reducing gas and perhaps even crying and fussiness. L. reuteri is the most common probiotic strain but research has shown that different strains treat different symptoms. CalmCo Probiotic has five key-strains that are specific to helping with intestinal issues.  Yogurts are also a great source of probiotics. Several studies have shown that the introduction of oral probiotics or probiotic foods can help gassy babies if administered over a period of several weeks. Interestingly, breastfed babies do have a slightly lower incidence of colic, gas and reflux and this could be due to the existence of probiotics in breast milk.

  • Crying

    Crying can cause your baby to swallow air, especially if he cries in hunger for a long period before a meal. Since crying is both a symptom and a cause of gas it can create a self-reinforcing cycle that worsens the problem.

  • Food Sensitivities and Allergies

    Breastmilk contains traces of foods from the mother’s diet. Some babies may be sensitive to these traces of foods according to La Leche League. One study by researchers at the University of Minnesota found a link between maternal diet and colic symptoms. Maternal intake of cow’s milk, onions, cruciferous vegetables (e.g. cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower), and chocolate intake were associated with more colicky symptoms in babies. However, in most cases, there is no reason for a mother to restrict her diet, especially from healthy foods. If you suspect a food sensitivity or intolerance, try keeping a food journal to track symptoms like gas, spit-up or fussiness. If you feel that your baby would benefit from dietary restriction, talk with your doctor. In a formula-fed infant, a trial of a hypo-allergenic formula may help if a baby is reacting to the cow’s milk protein.

  • Overfeeding

    Overfeeding can cause problems if a baby’s tummy can’t cope with too much food at once. “Feeding too fast may produce lactose overload and increased intestinal gas from the breakdown of excessive lactose” says Bill Sears M.D., a renowned pediatrician, professor of pediatrics at the University of Irvine, and author of The Baby Book.

  • Transient Lactase Deficiency (TLD)

    A temporary inability to produce sufficient quantity of the enzyme “lactase”, essential for digestion of “lactose” is a proposed explanation for some cases of colic or infant gassiness but the link is unproven. In general, babies are not lactose intolerant and lactose intolerance does not develop until around age 2, if it is going to develop at all. In fact, the lactose in breastmilk is credited for enhanced absorption of minerals and production of healthy gut flora.