As a sleep consultant I get a lot of questions about baby colic, gas, and tummy troubles. Parents fear that the reason their baby is up all night is because they have horrible gas pains. Most of the time this is not the case. When a baby has bad sleep habits and does not know how to fall asleep on her own, the crying can sound just as alarming (more on that here). They wake frequently, want to be held all night, and refuse to be laid down in their crib. I was going to write an article dedicated to gas and tummy troubles but my friend Dana Obleman, creator of the Sleep Sense Program explains this so well. Here’s what Dana says:
“1. Is Gas Keeping Your Baby Up At Night?
When I’m working with parents who are trying to get their restless babies to sleep through the night, many of them tell me they think gas is the culprit. If I had a nickel for every parent who thought gas was the reason their baby couldn’t sleep I would be rich! When my first son wasn’t sleeping well, my own mother told me over and over that it was probably because of gas.
In my experience, parents can get downright panicked about gas, but the truth is it’s not always what’s causing their baby’s night-waking. In fact, gas is actually rarely the huge concern we parents think it is.
What causes gas?
It’s important to note that gas is perfectly normal. It’s usually caused by swallowed air and undigested foods breaking down in our stomachs. Babies cry a lot more than adults or even older children, so they swallow more air than we do. Because their digestive systems are new and don’t function quite as well, it can be harder for them to get the gas out of their tummies.
As long as your baby isn’t exhibiting signs of colic or reflux (more on that later), he’s probably not as uncomfortable and miserable as you think. Fussing for a few seconds while passing gas is perfectly normal for babies and doesn’t mean they are in extreme pain. In fact, being worried about it and over-doing the burping could actually be causing some problems.
I find that lots of new parents “over burp” their babies because they’re worrying that gas is keeping their baby up. When my first son was born, I was known to pat away at his back for 20 minutes or more trying to get all the imagined gas out so he would sleep better.
The problem with spending too much time burping your baby is that this can be a soothing motion that will eventually put the baby to sleep if you do it long enough. This creates a very strong sleep prop, which could be the real reason he isn’t sleeping well. Soon enough he’ll start depending on being patted back to sleep every time he wakes in the night.
How long should you burp your baby?
For newborns, no more than 5 minutes of burping is necessary.If you put your baby down and 20 minutes later she’s squirmy and fussy, pick her up and give her a few more pats to see if a burp will come out. Gas will eventually come out one end or the other.
For older babies, a minute or two should be all it takes to bring on a burp. Resist the urge to keep patting, as all you’re doing is lulling your baby back to sleep.
Colic and Reflux: A whole different story
It’s important not to confuse gas with infant colic and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Babies with these conditions often cry for hours at a time and are inconsolable and visibly in distress. Gas does not cause colic, although colicky babies may swallow a lot of air while crying, which can bring on gas. Gas causes temporary discomfort that usually goes away quickly. If you suspect that your baby might have colic or reflux, see your pediatrician.”
However, if you suspect that bad habits (rather than bad digestion) might be the cause of your baby’s sleepless nights, visit sleepsense.net and learn more about how the Sleep Sense Program can help your baby sleep through the night.
Personal help is also available, please view the consultation packages