How to burp a baby + gas & colic relief remedies!

As a IBCLC candidate / lactation consultant, who has now done well over 500+ hours of clinical lactation practice, preparing to sit for my board certification exams, I have been on a LOT of consults. Additionally, I’m a doula, birth educator and perinatal health navigator for a home visiting program. I have literally been on hundreds (if not more) visits over the last few years!

I often hear (or see) parents tell me “my 2 week old baby scarfed that 5oz bottle down so fast, they must have been starving, but then they were crying afterwards so that must mean they are still hungry so I gave them another 3oz!”

Your baby was likely taking the bottle fast due to incorrect eating posture and they were likely crying because that was too much for their little belly to hold and now they don’t know what to do about the gas build up and the overfilled belly so they cry to tell you they need to burp or get it out, or they just spit it up, hello projectile vomit madness. Babies will chug a bottle on their back to protect their airway from being obstructed. Chugging doesn’t mean hungry, it means they were trying to keep up so they do not choke!

This is why I encourage parents to practice paced or baby led bottle feeding. This method allows a baby to control their intake just like they would be able to do at the breast.

For babies who switch back and forth between breast and bottle, paced feeding is a great way to avoid baby developing flow preference. Paced bottle feeding can also prevent childhood obesity by teaching good eating habits from the beginning of life. Babies who are not pace bottle fed are often more likely to:

  • Be more susceptible to ear infections

  • Cause an increase or induce gas & reflux

  • Have a strong flow preference

(I don’t like to call it nipple confusion, because I firmly believe babies are smart little scientists, they are not confused!)

Here’s how to do what I call Breast-ish bottle feeding:

  1. Hold baby in upright position or side lying like breastfeeding but they can be outward facing

  2. Tickle lips to get that open wide reflex

  3. Nipple in mouth when ready, no forcing

  4. Bottle horizontal to keep flow slow and steady

  5. Tip bottle down to stop the flow and give a break throughout the feed

  6. Feeding should take 15 mins not 5 mins

  7. Switch sides for brain stimulation during feed

  8. Practice skin to skin during feeds to bond

Ways to burp a baby:

1. Over the shoulder

2. Over the forearm

3. Belly to belly

4. Standing Bouncy Sway

5. Over the lap

How to manage baby gas & colic:

1. Probiotics

2. Chamomile tea

3. Paced bottle feeding

4. Infant massage

5. Elimination diet

6. Check for latch or breastfeeding problems

While swallowing air and passing gas is common in babies. However, excessive gas can make a newborn pretty miserable. Your baby may even have gas from spells of crying due to swallowing a lot of air (especially with inconsolable heavy crying) which commonly results in uncomfortable gas bubbles in the body trapped with no way to escape.

Additional ways to help with baby gas discomfort are:

  • Consult a Lactation Consultant to see if you should try block feeding or feeding on only one breast per feeding or other techniques to balance the "foremilk" (watery competent) and "hind milk" (fatty component) you can also try shaking your breasts a bit before the feed to get the milk to more evenly distribute this ratio if it’s been sitting in the breasts for a while between feeds.

  • Babywearing can minimize crying spells (for you too, hello baby blues and postpartum depression, you are not alone & prevent excess air from getting into the body while crying if held close.

  • Good burping techniques can help swallowed air get out to help for gas relief. After and even during feedings are best times.

  • Infant Massage - try this video by Get Kahlmi @getkahlmi - great infant massage techniques and videos also on Tik Tok.

  • Bubble Gut - Massage your baby’s abdomen while sitting them in their own upright bathtub like this one, Blooming Bath or in your own tub with you holding them with their belly submerged in the water. If you start to see bubbles, you know the baby is passing gas and relief is on the way!

  • Baby Peloton - Bend knees and legs toward abdomen applying gentle pressure on tummy. You can lay the baby on your lap, on their back facing you, and push their legs up and down in a cycling motion.

  • I Love You Massage - while doing it you can sing this little song: One foot, two foot, three foot, four, I love you, forever and more. Criss crossing their legs in and out to their tummy. Repeat 2-3x or until baby is no longer interested.

  • If you think your baby is constipated, ASK your pediatrician for suggestions on remedies like prune juice or glycerin suppositories which may help to relieve constipation and decompress the gut filled with excess gas.

  • Be sure your baby has a good seal on your breast during latching to minimize air entering the mouth. If breastfeeding, be sure baby’s lips form a good seal far back on the areola. If bottle feeding, be sure baby’s lips are positioned on the wide base of the nipple, not just on the tip.

  • Paced bottle feeding tip, tilt the bottle at a thirty-to-forty-degree angle while feeding so that air rises to the bottom of the bottle

  • Try to feed baby smaller volumes more frequently

  • Keep baby upright (at about a forty-five-degree angle) during and for maybe you to half-hour after a feeding for digestion.

  • Avoid prolonged sucking on pacifiers or empty bottle nipples

Gas and baby noises are normal and common. But let’s talk a little bit about the infamous C word, colic. Duh duh duh…

Colic is not so common. Colic affects about 10% - 20% of infants. There are many reasons babies cry. Check them all before assuming your baby has Colic.

According to famed and well respected pediatrician Dr. William Sears…

"Three things parents should remember about the term colic. Colic is a description, not a diagnosis. Colic often has a cause. Replace the term colic with hurting baby."

What is Colic?

Colic is frequent, prolonged and intense crying or fussiness in an otherwise healthy baby. Colic can be frustrating for parents because the baby seems to be distressed for no apparent reason and no amount of consoling seems to bring any relief. These episodes often occur in the evening, which coincides with parents who are often exhausted by end of day.

Colic is baby being inconsolable at least 3 hours a day, 3 times a week, for at least 3 weeks. Colic can start in the first two to three weeks after birth and peaks between four to twelve weeks of age.

It usually happens at the same time everyday, usually in the late afternoon or during the evening but it can happen at any time of the day. Seldom lasts longer than three months.

What causes colic?

Medical professionals and researchers don’t know what causes colic. Colic comes from the Greek word Kolikos which means, suffering from the colon. Basically, colic is pain in the gut. A baby’s digestive system goes from being inactive to suddenly being responsible for sustenance and development. It's a lot and happening around the clock and some babies systems just don’t respond as well to this big change leading to colic like behavior or symptoms.

Colic is also suspected to be due to digestion problems associated with a sensitivity to formula because some babies settle a bit after a bowel movement or passing the gas. Maybe the baby is just overstimulated while trying to get used to the sights and sounds of being in the world from a cozy muffled dark womb. Hello babies with autism on the horizon who may be exhibiting early signs of overstimulation, we feel you baby.

Here are the physical signs to look for:

  • Clenching fists

  • Drawing legs up to abdomen

  • Have a distended belly

  • Flailing arms

  • Arched back

  • Stiffening as if in pain

  • Passing gas

  • Grimacing

Managing gas & colic symptoms:

Some babies are happy overall but then cry inconsolably from gas. If this sounds like your baby, keep reading!

Try to avoid rushing to get things like using gripe water or other over the counter gas remedies are usually very temporary and can even cause more problems—or mask the problem if used improperly or excessively. Gripe water is basically just a cocktail of an “herbal tea” for babies to soothe the gut temporarily. Always ask your pediatrician before use even if it’s a store bought product labeled “for babies or infants”

If you are exclusively breastfeeding (EBF) some folks like to try limiting their diet. Dietary restrictions are necessary during pregnancy but not much of anything is off limits during breastfeeding. Unless you know there is a known food allergy or sensitivity in your immediate family. If you wish to try an elimination diet, try this hidden dairy cheat sheet to truly reduce dairy where you may not know it exists.

The most common food sensitive culprits are:

  • Dairy products

  • Soy products

  • Peanuts

  • Wheat

  • Eggs (especially egg whites)

  • Corn

  • Cabbage family veggies (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower)

  • Caffeine and Chocolate (which can also keep baby awake fussy alert)

  • Spices and foods with strong flavor for example garlic

It takes 4-6 hours for most foods to reach baby but baby's can still react to something you ate 24 hours before).

Food sensitivities usually show up as:

  • Baby seems fussy or gassy after feeding

  • Baby's painful episodes happen within a few minutes after they have eaten

  • Baby's bowel movements are mucousy, watery, or sometimes explosive

  • A circular red rash is visible around baby's anus. (burn-like rash)

  • Baby's behavior significantly improves after elimination diet

Usually formula fed babies who are suffering from food sensitivities are sensitive to one of the following:

  • Cows milk protein in the formula

  • Lactose sugar in the formula

If this seems like your case, talk with your baby's pediatrician about switching to a pre-digested formula like Alimentum or Nutramigen. These formulas have broken down the cow's protein so it's easier to digest and less allergenic. Non pre-digested formulas that are labeled "sensitive" or "gentle" can also be of some help. If lactose intolerance is suspected (bloating, gas, and diarrhea) you may want to ask your pediatrician about lactose free formula.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend soy formula for colicky babies. 1/3 of all babies who are allergic to dairy protein are also allergic to soy (plus most soy are GMO's). You will unfortunately have to experiment a bit—which can be pricey—with formula to see what works best for your baby.

Probiotics for gas prevention & irregularities:

My favorite science-based approach to gas, bloat & irregularities is to be sure your baby has a healthy microbiome, this means the good healthy bacteria in your baby’s tummy or international lining is in balance. When it’s off balance and their isn’t enough good bacteria to eat the bad bacteria that naturally enters the body, you may need to help restore the balance in their gut flora.

To further understand the role of a healthy microbiome in minimizing gas, download a free copy of Dr. Poo from this awesome website I love Ask Dr. Sears. In Chapter 2, it discusses the importance of breast milk in creating a healthy microbiome. Once you understand how breastmilk helps your baby have a healthy and more comfortable gut/microbiome, ask your doctor to recommend a probiotic for your baby to help calm things down in your baby’s gut.

You can try: Evivo, Klaire labs for refrigerated (higher potency) and infant bio Gaia, Culturelle, gerber, mommy’s bliss probiotic only & garden of life infant probiotic are also easy big box or pharmacy finds. These products range in price from $19 - $60+ for a one month supply.

You can take probiotics yourself or ask your pediatrician about giving your baby probiotics. A dose of 5 billion to 10 billion cfu is often used in young children. Studies show that the probiotic Lactobacillus Reuteri improved colicky symptoms in babies. Make sure the probiotic you get contains this strain of probiotic as well as bifidobacterium infantum.

Here's how to give probiotics to your infant:

Breastfeeding - You would take a dropper full of breastmilk like an ounce or less, mix it with probiotic dose and then feed it to the baby using an eye dropper. If you are feeding at the breast you can just put the eye dropper right next to the nipple and drizzle it in while baby is sucking.

Bottle feeding - You can just add the probiotic into the bottle and feed it to your baby.

Calming Colic with Chamomile?

In a 1993 study, 68 infants with colic where given herbal tea (including chamomile), 150 milliliters up to three times a day. The study found that after 7 days, colic improved in 57 percent of the infants

  • If you drink chamomile tea to aid digestion or for relaxation, the herbal tea might help your baby, too.

  • Just make sure your infant is at least 6 months old before offering herbal tea, and always check with your doctor first.

  • Chamomile tea is generally safe, though some babies may be allergic to it. Plus, chamomile may interact with some medications. Please talk to your pediatrician before trying any herbal remedy.

  • If your pediatrician gives you the go-ahead, start simple and in small quantities, as you would with any new food.

Risks of using chamomile tea for babies:

Although chamomile tea is generally safe for infants, there’s always the risk of your baby developing a reaction — more so if it’s your first time giving them tea.

Signs of a reaction to chamomile tea include:

  • itchiness around the lips and tongue

  • swelling of the face

  • diarrhea

  • nausea

  • lethargy

A severe reaction can lead to anaphylactic shock and cause difficulty breathing and un