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What's causing gas in my breastfed baby?

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We’ve all heard the sayings, “breast milk is the best milk,” “it’s the ultimate baby food,” and “breast milk is liquid gold.” Experts agree; breast milk is the gold standard for infant nutrition. It provides your baby with the calories, fats and nutrients needed for growth, and also secures important immunities to protect from illness. No other infant feeding substitute can measure up to breast milk.

If breast milk is the “foundation of life” and so great for my baby, why is he so fussy and gassy? Is he allergic to my milk? Could he be allergic to my milk? What am I doing wrong?

These are common questions and fears amongst breastfeeding mothers. Some might even give up on breastfeeding out of fear that their milk is the cause of their baby’s tummy problems.

Let’s consider some reasoning behind your baby’s fussiness and gas. Gas is a normal part of the gastrointestinal (GI) system, and we all have gases in us from time to time. For breastfed babies, gas might be caused by eating too fast, swallowing too much air or digesting certain foods. Babies have immature GI systems and can frequently experience gas because of this. Pains from gas can make your baby fussy, but intestinal gas is not harmful.

Many mothers become concerned about how their diet contributes to their baby’s gas and fussiness. There is limited scientific research proving that certain foods in a breastfeeding mother’s diet cause intestinal issues in their babies. Some babies might react to particular foods in mom’s diet, but this doesn’t mean there’s a special list of foods out there for moms to avoid while breastfeeding.

Most babies tolerate the food consumed by their mothers, but it’s important to keep a close eye on patterns. If you notice that each time you eat something your baby becomes fussy, try avoiding the food for a while and see what happens. Many mothers have reported foods such as kale, spinach, beans, onions, garlic, peppers or spicy foods cause infant gas, while many babies tolerate these foods just fine. 

While most foods won’t cause GI issues in breastfed babies, we do know that any foods containing cow milk protein are the most commonly reported food substance to cause gas and fussiness in infants. Some babies might experience a temporary intolerance to dairy from mom’s diet, but most will begin to tolerate cow milk proteins once they get older and move out of infancy.

If your baby has a true allergy to milk proteins, you might notice symptoms including dry/irritated skin, rashes, colic, persistent gas, fussiness and green stool with mucus or blood. If your breastfed baby is diagnosed with a true milk protein allergy, your healthcare provider might recommend a restricted diet while breastfeeding.

What can I do to help my baby with gas?

  • Make sure your baby has a good latch so he doesn’t swallow too much air.
  • Burp him throughout the feedings to help get rid of the gas.
  • Try not to let your baby overfeed or feed too quickly.
  • Keep track of when your baby is gassy and look back at your diet. Try to learn which foods work and don’t work for you and your baby, and remember, each baby is uniquely different.
  • If you have further concerns regarding your baby’s feeding, infant gas or increased fussiness, be sure to discuss these with your baby’s pediatrician and/or a lactation consultant.

Each year during the first week of August, over 120 countries across the globe come together to celebrate World Breastfeeding Week. During this week, public health organizations work to publicly encourage breastfeeding in an effort to improve the health of babies around the world. This year’s theme is “BREASTFEEDING: Foundation of Life.”

To learn more about Texas Children’s Lactation Support Services, Milk Bank (Lab) Services or breastfeeding services offered at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, please follow the respective links.

Post by:

Shelly Nalbone, MS, RN, CPNP, IBCLC