One of the most consistent issues parents face with their new babies is the discomfort that gas can cause. That is why I am revisiting this topic. For a new baby, gas is inevitable. For the first couple months the digestive system is still adapting to both processing nutrients and expelling waste. The issues that cause gas pain are related to both slow movement of waste through the bowels, and difficulty digesting. Even when your baby is only eating breast milk or formula the simple process of breaking down the nutrients can be hard on your little sugar-pop. So here are five more things you can try.
1. Warm peppermint and fennel compress.
To make a compress wrap a some fresh peppermint and fennel with a soft piece of cotton cloth and soak in warm with water for about two minutes. After soaking, squeeze out the excess water and place the warm damp compress on your little darling's lower abdomen. To finish, wrap a cloth around your baby and the compress to make sure it won't move. Leave the compress on for about 20 minutes, re-moistening it with a bit of the same warm water that you soaked it in to begin with about every five minutes or so. The scent is calming and the herbal properties of fennel and peppermint have been used to assist in digestion for hundreds of years. Using a compress is a very good natural way to help your sweet little bubble blower absorb a bit of the herbal benefits gently, and in a way that doesn't give her tummy more new substances to digest.
2. Give a supplemental bottle of water.
One thing that your baby can ingest that does not cause gas is water. Water is not digested in the same way as other foods, and so causes no gas by itself. Also water can dilute other fluids making it harder for gas bubbles to form. Although he may not drink much, just a little bit goes a long way. Water can also stimulate the bowels to move, which is very helpful. It is important to note that you should not replace a feeding with a bottle of water, since there is no nutritional value, but a little extra water after a feeding can do wonders for a little tooter who is prone to gas trouble.
3. Swaddle with your infants legs folded.
When your infant has trouble with gas, one sign is when she pushes her legs straight out. This is an instinctual reaction to abdominal pain and is meant to help push off anything that might be pushing on her belly. However, pushing the legs out straight actually tightens your little giggler's behind muscles, which doesn't help matters move along.When your infants legs are wrapped up in a folded "criss-cross-applesauce" style in front of her, the instinctual tightening of the abdomen in response to gas pain is much more helpful. To do this type of swaddle, wrap the arms as you normally would, normally, then fold the legs up and crossed. While holding the legs with one hand bring the bottom section of the blanket up and tuck it into the front of the swaddle. It is also important to remember that all swaddling should either leave your baby's legs free to kick about or have them wrapped up near the body with the knees apart to prevent hip dysplaisia which can sometimes result from straight-leg swaddling.
Sometimes the gentle pressure of regular tummy time is not enough to relax your infant's abdomen. Or your little pipsqueek may just dislike regular tummy time, and the combination of the pain and the position may make the situation worse. In these cases, laying your baby across your thighs, with their head on one thigh, and their tummy on the other is a great thing to try. Not only is contact with you soothing, but as your baby lays on your lap, you can gently bounce the leg that his tummy is resting on very lightly. Let his legs hang down as you do this and softly stroke and pat his back. The combination of your warmth, the gentle pressure, and the position of the legs is often a near magical combination for producing the relief your baby needs.
5. A foot massage.
For babies that have a continuing problem of gas I like to suggest trying a reflexology massage. Reflexology is the art of stimulating areas on the feet and/or ears to affect other areas of the body. It is similar to acupressure, but the way it is applied has more room for error. The area of your baby's feet that is associated with the bowels is in the center of the bottom of the foot between the arch and the ball of the heel. As your baby lays on her back hold her feet up and gently rub this area in a soft circular motion for a few minutes. This gas relieving reflexology method can be done a few times during the day. I like to do it just before the morning feeding, just before the later afternoon nap, and just before the bedtime feeding. The reason I do it before feedings and before sleep is because the way that reflexology works is not immediate. Reflexology is designed to treat the underlying issues (in this case movement of waste through the bowels, and efficient digestion), not to relieve the immediate symptoms.
Though there is no cure-all perfect remedy that will work for every baby, these tips have come in very handy for me over the years. Some babies are more prone to gas and gas-related pain than others, but the nice thing about babies is that they outgrow these kinds of things eventually. It is very important for you as a parent to remember to try and stay calm and gentle in these frustrating times. Keep trying new things until you find something that works, and then enjoy the silence as long as you can. The only thing as intense as a the feeling of frustration when a baby cries is the feeling of relief when they finally stop. If you have found these tips helpful, please forward them to any new or expecting parents you know. Questions and comments are always welcome. Happy parenting!