In cultures around the world, there are a lot of dos and don’ts when it comes to the postpartum period. And many of these recommendations stem from the belief that there are foods that cause gas and discomfort in your baby.
In the United States, where I’m from, breastfeeding people have been told for generations to avoid cruciferous vegetables like cabbage and broccoli, and excessive use of onions and garlic to keep your baby comfortable.
And where you’re from, you may have heard similar or different variations on these recommendations.
So, what foods should breastfeeding parents actually avoid to reduce gas in babies?
Brrrrummm dum dum dum rata ta ta!
There is no set list of foods that you should avoid while breastfeeding.
You are free!
Foods that may make YOU gassy does not translate to YOUR BABY being gassy. Yes, flavors from foods that you eat cause the flavor of your breastmilk to change (yum!), but your body breaks down the gas-causing food before it reaches your breastmilk. Gas in your body does NOT transfer to your breastmilk.
And yet, this belief that certain foods make your baby gassy is really persistent!
No food has been scientifically proven to make babies gassy. In fact, most gas usually stems from the development of your baby’s immature digestive system. As your little one grows and their systems develop, gas is a natural side effect of development. And once they learn to fart (yes, it’s a learned skill), they’ll likely be feeling much better.
This fussy period, often around 3-7 weeks of age, does not last forever, and has nothing to do with what you ate or drank. It’s challenging for you, the parent, to get through, but parenthood will not be like this forever. It’s a phase, and it will pass.
What else can cause gas, and what I do about it?
1. Drinking too much milk too fast. This could either be from a bottle or from the breast if you have overactive letdown or oversupply. Fast milk flow can cause your baby to swallow more air during a feed. Slow down a bottle-feeding session by using paced bottle feeding, or breastfeed in a lying back position so your baby can more easily manage the flow of breastmilk.
2. Not burping your baby during and after a feed may lead to more gas. All babies are going to swallow some air during a feed, and burping them frequently may help to release it and feel more comfortable.
3. Anything that your baby is eating/drinking (besides breastmilk) can make your baby more gassy. Starting solids or introducing other fluids before six months can disrupt your baby’s gut flora, leading to gas. Hold off on introducing solids, water, juice, herbs, teas, etc. until your baby is six months old.
4. Formula fed babies tend to be more gassy, as formula from cow milk and is not as easily digested as human breastmilk. Burp your baby often during and after a feed, slow down the feed using paced bottle feeding, and give it time. If you’re interested in moving away from formula and to exclusive breastfeeding, connect with Doulas of Shanghai to talk to a lactation counselor and see what’s possible in your individual case.
5. Crying can cause your baby to gulp more air, and lead to gas. Soothe your baby if she is crying, and follow your baby’s feeding cues. Letting your baby cry it out may lead to more discomfort and crying down the line.
6. If you notice that your baby is really gassy and fussy every time you eat a certain food or drink, it could be due to an insensitivity to that food. Insensitivities to food are usually accompanied by other symptoms, including excessive spitting up or forceful vomiting, colic, diarrhea, rash, congestion, or runny nose.
Do gas drops, herbal remedies, or tinctures help?
Some parents swear by gas drops and other remedies to help babies with their gassy phase. I can’t say whether it helped your baby or not, but in clinical trials, they are as effective as a placebo in relieving gas, crying, and colic-like symptoms.
So what CAN I do to help my baby through this gassy time?
The best cure for your baby’s gas is time. Your baby will grow out of this phase in a few weeks, and your sleep will return.
Gentle tummy massage can help your little one’s gas to move through, and bicycle kicks may help them pass it.
And finally, comfort your baby. Whether that’s through more breastfeeding, lots of skin to skin cuddles, or just holding him while he cries, your love and comfort is what your baby really wants and needs.
Everyone’s individual situation is different. Postpartum doulas and lactation consultants can help you figure out what’s causing your baby’s discomfort, and give you guidance and support to move through this fussy newborn phase that so many experience.
Whether it’s a lactation consult to help you with bottle feeding, overactive letdown and oversupply, increasing breastmilk supply so you can exclusively breastfeed, formula feeding, or postpartum doula support overnight to help you catch up on sleep.
Doulas of Shanghai is here to help. Contact Holly at Doulas of Shanghai to talk or set up a consultation. We have postpartum doulas and lactation counselors available to help you in Shanghai or online throughout China.