Much like myself, I tend to believe that it is very common for first-time parents to be unaware of the term infant gas (which is often perceived to be infant colic). We all know and regularly hear about infant colic and reflux, whereas infant gas is something less commonly experienced (or rather diagnosed).
So what exactly is infant gas? And how does it differ from infant colic?
Infant colic refers to when a baby (normally older than 2 weeks) has episodes of crying that lasts for more than 3 hours a day (often consecutive), and occurs more than 3 times a week. It is often described as excessive crying that most commonly happens at the same time each day – usually in the late afternoons or evenings. (thank you Wikipedia)
Infant gas is the build up of gas or trapped air bubbles. Now this is quite normal, and let’s be honest, how often do you hear babies farting and burping like it is some sort of fashion statement?! But even though it may be normal, it becomes problematic when your baby struggles to pass this built up gas which causes her to be feel an enormous amount pain. We all know that uncomfortable (and sometimes painful) feeling when a gas bubble is struggling to pass through your digestive system, and if it is so painful for us adults, I cannot begin to imagine how painful it must be for an infant.
Unlike infant colic, this can occur from as early as birth and your baby could find herself being in distress all throughout the day! I may not be an expert on the topic, but I know this is fact because this happened to Ammaarah whom unfortunately suffered from infant gas almost immediately after birth. I will never forget those first few nights at home after we came home from the hospital, it was the most horrifying experience. I knew nothing about babies, I was fragile from my birth complications (read more about my birth story), I was an emotional wreck and Ammaarah would not stop crying!
(I was and am still honestly convinced that the nurses at the hospital gave her some magical potion that made her sleep, because she sure did not sleep when we got home!)
As we were unaware of infant gas, and because we knew it was not colic (because she cried all day, every day, as opposed to only during a certain time of the day), I made the assumption that I was not producing enough milk for her. I unfortunately fell into a vicious cycle of wanting to breast feed, freaking out at the fact that I was possibly not producing enough for her, passing my anxiety onto Ammaarah which further enhanced her agony, causing me to stress some more, which in turn factually hampered my production (I really was my own worst enemy!).
We struggled for 6 to 8 weeks until finally one day the penny dropped. After hours of googling what could be wrong with my daughter, I finally came across the term infant gas and Ammaarah fit the profile perfectly.
These are some of the signs Ammaarah showed, which was a clear indication that she was suffering with infant gas:
- Crying – a lot of crying. Ammaarah had episodes of painful screaming that would last for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, multiple times a day;
- Showing discomfort in her sleep looking as though she is trying to fart – Ammaarah use to frown and squeal in her sleep. Her facial expressions would clearly state that she was in pain;
- Clenching her fists while crying;
- Drawing her legs towards her body while crying;
- Regular farting – especially during her sleep;
- Has a hard tummy; and
- Is generally fussy.
Once I established what was happening with Ammaarah, I was finally able to find appropriate ways of helping her through her pain. These are some of the things that helped us through (which are my tips for dealing with infant gas):
- Keep warm – Ammaarah was born in summer, but even though we experienced high temperatures her feet were always cold. Keeping her (and her feet) warm and snug helped to ease her pain. I suppose it makes sense, because if we had to relate this to our menstrual pain, it normally helps to put on a pair of socks;
- Avoid foods that result in a build of gas – this of course would only help if you are breastfeeding, as it is a proven fact that a mothers consumption passes to her baby via her breast milk. Try to avoid things like caffeine, fruit juice, cabbage, legumes and even garlic. Avoid things that are generally harder to digest through your system and those that generally result in a build up of gas;
- Burp, burp and burp some more – try to burp your baby as long as possible after feeding. It is so much easier for the trapped air bubble to to pass out the top as opposed to working through your system and passing out the bottom;
- Work those trapped air bubbles out – using fingertip tummy massage techniques and pumping her legs. When Ammaarah had a crying episode, I would massage her tummy with my fingertips. Walking along her tummy in a circle, starting from the bottom left and working my way around – almost as though you are pushing the wind out with your fingertips. I would follow this with leg pumps, causing her to fart (and I kid you not) no less than 5 times! I would then try to console her, and if she continued to cry, I repeated the tummy massage and leg pumps, (causing her to fart some more) until she was able to relax;
- Check your feeding position or bottles – your feeding position or bottle may not be the most ideal, as your baby may be swallowing air bubbles;
- Tummy Calm (my saving grace!) – a homeopathic medicine for the relief of gas and upset tummies. I must admit, I was afraid to use this because everything else I tried did not work. We tried Gripe Water, Telement drops, Colix drops and even a mixture of all three, but nothing worked. So adding onto all these things I was already giving my new-born baby was not ideal. But once I tried it, I absolutely regretted not trying it sooner! It was effective immediately and Ammaarah loved it.
Going through this stage of my motherhood taught me a very valuable lesson – it is almost impossible to find a solution to a problem if you have not yet established what the problem is. Being able to (finally!) help Ammaarah through her pain helped me to remain calm, which evidently transposed to Ammaarah being more calm. After all, there must be wisdom behind that famous phrase, ‘happy mommy equals happy baby’!
I realised that all Ammaarah needed was time for her digestive system to develop and mature, and all she needed was for me to help her through that painful stage. Looking back, this was a challenging time for me, but I cannot help but laugh now. Her problem with gas continues, she is just able to manage it better. And the way she manages it is by letting loose at any time. I sometimes find myself wondering how it is possible for those sounds to come out of her from just bending down to pick up something or putting the key in the cupboard – the cutest thing ever!
I hope this post was able to assist you with you with your little one. Please remember that I am not an expert on the topic. I can only but hope that my experiences may help you through some of your challenges with motherhood.