Constipation and gas are common ailments that affect many adults. Uncomfortable and achy, bloated and groggy, those of us who experience excess gas often feel tired and frustrated.
When the ailment affects newborns, though, the problem is particularly heartbreaking. Parents are at a loss about how to handle the problem, because they feel helpless. Several factors contribute to gas in newborns, and the symptoms are sometimes difficult to detect. Here are five signs that your newborn has gas:
If your newborn is vomiting excessively, it may be a sign that your baby has gas. Your infant might also be lactose intolerant, though, so call your pediatrician to ask about changing your formula.
Another possible reason for excess vomiting might be that your newborn is swallowing too much air. Make sure your infant’s mouth grabs the nipple securely. Air getting between baby’s mouth and the nipple will cause gas. And too much gas can cause vomiting.
Watch your newborn for sudden back arches while feeding or shortly after feeding. If your newborn pulls away from the nipple and arches his or her back, gas may be the culprit, and it may indicate that your infant is in pain. Frequent burping throughout each feeding may prevent vomiting.
If your newborn is vomiting excessively and the problem is not related to gas, consult your doctor. Excessive vomiting can lead to dehydration. Feeding your infant electrolytes can prevent your baby from becoming dehydrated, but call your pediatrician to be safe.
Colic is as difficult for the parents as it is for the infant. According to my mother, who had to deal with a newborn who was afflicted with colic (me), the problem is extremely frustrating for parents who are up all night trying to calm a screaming infant.
Causing acute abdominal pain, colic will induce newborns who have an oversensitivity to gas to cry for prolonged periods of time.
Swaddling sometimes helps babies with colic. But if the problem goes on for hours on end, day after day, consult your pediatrician.
Reflux happens when stomach contents back up into the esophagus and irritate the stomach lining and the esophagus. Reflux by itself can be dangerous, but if gas is causing the baby with reflux to regurgitate, and baby breathes the stomach contents into the lungs, reflux can be life threatening.
If your newborn suffers from reflux, try holding your infant in a more upright position when nursing or bottle-feeding. Swaddling your newborn might also relieve your baby from experiencing reflux.
Bowel Problems and Constipation
According to Gastro.Org, “Constipation is the infrequent and difficult passage of stool.”
Most newborns expel gas easily. But the inability to release gas can cause bowel problems. Sometimes bowels do not move smoothly, and baby pushes too hard to have a bowel movement. The bowels may be hard and painful to release. If the bowels are not emptying at all, and baby’s stomach feels hard, the problem might be excess gas.
Even breast-fed infants can become constipated, particularly if Mom ingests acid-producing foods. Feeding the newborn two to four ounces of water a couple of times a day may help newborns who are gassy and become constipated.
If your infant consistently has difficulty releasing pent-up gas or if your newborn experiences pain with each bowel movement, consult your doctor.
Consistent and Excessive Crying
Though consistent and excessive crying may be signs of colic, your newborn could be suffering from painful gas. Try feeding, bathing, rocking, holding and changing your baby. If your newborn is not suffering from colic or reflux, any one of those treatments should help.
If these methods don’t relieve your newborn’s gas, try a gentle baby massage. Today’s Parent provides an illustrated guide for how to massage your newborn. Baby massage can be very effective in releasing gas.
Gentle exercising also helps. When one of my granddaughters experienced gas problems, the pediatrician suggested an exercise that helped. My daughter placed my granddaughter on her back and gently lifted up first one leg to her chest and then alternated with the other.
Slowly and tenderly, she pulled alternate legs up to the chest, and then brought them back down. After a couple of rounds of alternating legs, she brought them both up together, lifting up her newborn’s bottom as she brought the knees to her chest. She then rotated each of the legs upward and outward in a circular motion, and continued the exercise for several minutes. My daughter practiced this exercise consistently, and it helped relieve my granddaughter’s gas problem.
A consistently crying newborn is stressful on parents. If the crying goes on for hours at a time with no relief, and these suggestions do not relieve the symptoms of gas, seek the advice of your doctor. You may need to ask for medication that will alleviate your newborn’s symptoms.
Other Gastrointestinal Problems
Infants who don’t pass meconium within 48 hours of delivery may be suffering from Hirschsprung’s Disease, a congenital disease that affects the anus and the colon. If your newborn does not pass meconium (a sticky, tarry, dark greenish substance-a newborn’s first stools) within those first hours after birth, consult your pediatrician.
To learn about other gastrointestinal problems, watch Gastrointestinal Problems With Infants.
For advice on swaddling, click Theresa Wiza’s CONTRIBUTOR PAGE for the article, “Why Swaddle a Newborn Baby?”