Some people have problems digesting milk protein or milk sugar (lactose intolerance). But these problems are very rare in babies. Until your doctor can evaluate your baby, it is usually not advisable to stop breastfeeding or switch formula as a means to remedy suspected food digestion problems.
A vast majority of babies diagnosed with colic do not have health problems that affect digestion. But many things can cause some degree of abdominal gas, which can make crying worse.
Causes of gas
- Swallowing air when sucking. A baby may swallow excess air during bottle-feeding if he or she drinks too rapidly or is lying down or 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. For more information, see the topics Breastfeeding and Bottle-Feeding.
- Swallowing air when crying. A baby who cries for an extended period of time, especially if the crying is intense, can swallow extra air.
- Position. Babies may trap intestinal gas while lying on their backs. Babies should always sleep on their backs to reduce the risk for 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 allowing some "tummy time" while you closely supervise.
Improper feeding. Giving certain foods to your baby may lead him or her to have excess gas. If the doctor thinks your baby's food is a source of gas, he or she may recommend a change in what you are feeding your child.
- Wait to give your baby cow's milk until he or she is 9 to 12 months of age and eating a variety of iron-rich foods. 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.
- Wait until your baby is at least 6 months of age before offering cereals. Many babies younger than 4 months of age can't digest the starch in cereals.
- Juice may cause a baby to have excess gas. If you choose to give your child juice, it's best to wait until he or she is at least 12 months old and to give only a small amount.
- Use the proper position during feeding. Feed your baby in a partially upright position, and put him or her in a baby seat for about 15 to 30 minutes after feeding. Be sure to burp your baby during and after feeding.
- Massage your baby. Lay your baby on his or her abdomen across your lap and massage his or her back after feeding.
If your child's doctor suggests medicine to reduce gas, use it exactly as prescribed.
Other Works Consulted
- Health Canada, et al. (2014). Nutrition for healthy term infants: Recommendations from six to 24 months. Health Canada. http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/infant-nourisson/recom/recom-6-24-months-6-24-mois-eng.php. Accessed April 28, 2014.
Current as of: August 22, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
John Pope MD - Pediatrics
Thomas M. Bailey MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Susan C. Kim MD - Pediatrics