Infant Tummy Troubles: Helping Reflux And Gas

by | April 27, 2018

The excitement of bringing your new baby home is so surreal, you feel incredibly proud, exhaust, but so proud, then the fussiness, gas, cramping and spitting up begins. It is so difficult to see our little ones uncomfortable. Are infant tummy troubles, such as reflux and gas, normal? I’m here to tell you that you are not alone and there are ways you can help!

For first time parents, it can be a mystery at first as to why your child appears so uncomfortable. We’ve been there! My husband and I tried every trick out there and did so much research, i’m happy to tell you what we found beneficial. These are some infant tummy troubles signs to lookout for; fussy, bloated/hard distended tummy, choking, gagging, hiccups, bringing knees up to chest, spitting up large amounts/projectile vomiting.


Why Does My Baby Spit Up Such Large Amounts & Why Are They So Gassy?


Spit happens! It’s totally normal for babies to spit up. The reason that most infants spit up is that their lower esophageal sphincter muscle is relaxed, this is the muscle that separates the stomach from the esophagus. By the time your baby reaches 6 months – 1 year they have outgrown their major spit up days, as their sphincter has strengthened. Large amounts of spitting up is known as gastroesophageal reflux (GER) and it effects up to 65% of children. However, this is not to be mistaken with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which is a more extreme version of GER and effects up to 8% of children. Although typically the reason behind GERD is due to consuming cow’s milk, either via formula or through mothers breast milk.


Gas can be due to any number of things, or many things in combination. Just like in adults, certain foods can cause reflux and gas in children. However for babies, they are much less developed than we are, and their brand new digestive system is just starting to get the hang of things. Swallowing air is another major reason for gas, whether it be from sucking on a pacifier, an improper latch or from crying, air finds its way down.


What Can I Do To Help Alleviate The Gas & Limit The Spit?


  • Feeding your baby in a more upright position, with their chin pointing away from their chest (slightly upward- think about how drink out of a cup) will help the give the milk a smooth path down the throat and into their stomach. Keep their head elevated above their tummy and their shoulders and hips aligned during feeding sessions.


  • Burping more frequently throughout feedings will help to minimize the air bubbles in your child’s tummy. Feeding smaller amounts at a time, yet more frequently, gives their body a chance to begin digesting the milk before more comes in. Look up various burping positions if you feel you’re not getting much gas out with your current burping method.


  • Keep your baby upright for 20-30 minutes after a meal will help ensure that the milk fully goes down and is able to be digested properly, instead of working its way back up the esophagus. Although, try not to have your baby hunched over, as this can make it difficult for the milk to make its way down as well. Having baby upright and yet their body still straight, its optimal for digestion.


  • Assuming animal products (especially dairy) are not in the diet anyway, eliminate gassy foods such as cabbage, onions, garlic, Brussels sprouts, beans, coffee, broccoli, gluten, soy and cauliflower if you are breastfeeding. If you are formula feeding, be sure you have a dairy-free formula and consider switching brands.  


  • Be sure baby has a proper latch in order to ensure they are swallowing just milk, and not a bunch of air along with it. Also important to note; if you have heavy letdown, wait until the milk has slowed before latching on your newborn, too much milk too fast can be overwhelming for their esophagus and tummy.


  • This may sound a bit silly, but make sure that your baby’s diapers and the waistband of their pants are not too tight. If you think about it, we all like to wear comfy stretchy pants during a big meal, it helps give us room to expand and limits cramping and discomfort.


  • A warm bath makes everyone feel better, doesn’t it?! Not too warm and not too cool, but warm enough to relax your baby’s muscles. Be sure that their tummy is submerged, you can even do some gentle belly rubs during this time.


  • Do tummy massage and gentle stretches: 1) gentle rub belly in a clockwise motion, while the baby is on their back. 2) while the baby is on their on back, move their legs in a bicycle motion, stopping every now and then to bring baby’s knees to chest (we got lots of farts this way!). 3) place the baby on their tummy, gently lifting under their belly and massaging lightly. You may also consider a visit to the chiropractor, as I know they work miracles and can help realign your baby and give you tips to gently ease their gas. 


It can be helpful to keep your child’s pediatrician informed and up to date on how your child is doing. They will most likely just keep an eye on your baby’s weight and possibly recommend gas drops, gripe water, and possibly medication- in severe cases. Keep pushing through, these reflux and gas filled days will pass, I promise!


I grew up on the West Coast of Canada and currently live in Northern California with my amazing husband and our beautiful vegan daughter. I love researching all of the amazing benefits that go hand in hand with being plant based, so I was thrilled to find Raise Vegan and become an active writer for this inspiring team. When I’m not writing for Raise Vegan, you can find me on Instagram!


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