For the first few weeks of your newborn’s life, he or she has a lot of adjustments to make. Drinking milk, peeing, pooping, breathing air…there’s so much going on that it’s no wonder your newborn is exhausted. But while some things (like breathing) are quickly grasped, others (like relieving newborn gas pains) take a little more time and effort.

Judging by an infant’s face, baby gas pains are quite possibly the most painful things in the world. While it’s hard to hear your little one howl, don’t panic! It’s likely that the screaming and tears are just your newborn’s way of bearing down to create pressure in the abdomen, allowing the gas (or anything else) to release. Think about it – it doesn’t hurt when you or I pass gas, so why should it hurt for babies?

That’s not to say that releasing any pent-up gas is a fun experience. It can certainly be uncomfortable, and one can only imagine that it’s a bit bewildering for an infant, who is already adjusting to so many new sensations. But unless your newborn is screaming for hours or has a hard, distended stomach, it’s unlikely that this is a symptom of a larger problem. Check with your pediatrician if you’re concerned, but in the meantime, try some of these positional changes to help your baby.

  • Bicycle Kicks. Lay your baby down on his or her back, and move the legs as though he or she is riding a bicycle. For my son, four bicycle kicks followed by a lift of both legs is like a magic trick for getting that baby gas out.
  • Bum Sinks. Sit with your baby seated in your lap, and lift his feet so that they’re higher than his rear. This can help the pelvic floor to relax and will create pressure in the abdomen.
  • Stand and Deliver. It’s easier to bear down if your baby can press his or her feet against something, and the floor is a logical choice. Hold your infant as though he or she is standing up – gravity and this newfound leverage can help propel the gas or bowel movement.
  • Squat it Out. As new moms might recall from labor and delivery, squatting is a natural position for pushing. This is true for babies, too! The easiest way to get your infant into this position is for you to sit on a chair or couch. Lift your legs up so your baby is resting with his or her back against your thighs and feet against your chest.
  • Stomach Massage. Massaging your baby’s abdomen can help get things moving. Rub your thumbs on your infant’s belly (just under the ribcage) using small circular motions. This can help the newborn gas bubbles work their way through the intestines and stimulate the muscles to produce a bowel movement.

Other Remedies

Worried mothers will find a wide array of suggestions for relieving newborn gas pains and helping Baby to poop. For the most part, these so-called remedies are at best ineffective and at worst, potentially damaging.

The Windi, created by the makers of the popular NoseFrida, is essentially a plastic tube you insert into your baby’s rectum to allow the gas to pass freely. Inserting a rectal thermometer is another surefire way to get out the gas. The problem with this method is that, while it is often effective, it doesn’t help your child learn to coordinate his or her muscles and create the pressure needed to pass a bowel movement. In general, it’s not a good idea to put anything in your baby’s bottom unless you are taking his or her temperature because you’re concerned about fever.

Simethicone and/or gripe water drops for colic or gas can be found lining the aisles of almost any baby store. Studies have shown that this is no more effective than a placebo at improving gas-related symptoms. These so-called remedies don’t cause any harm, but they can be expensive and probably don’t help in relieving newborn gas that much, either.

Changing the mother’s diet can be beneficial if a child has an allergy or food sensitivity, but there are usually other symptoms beyond difficulty passing gas. If your child has eczema, wheezing, a stuffy nose, or hives, you should talk to your pediatrician about your concerns. Food intolerance is rare in infants who are only drinking breastmilk, though, so changes in your diet shouldn’t be the first line of defense against newborn gas pains.

Every infant will eventually learn to pass gas and stool without crying, screaming, and fussing. The best cure for newborn gas pains is simply time. It’s tempting to turn to other methods to ‘help’ your baby when it seems like he or she is in pain, but know that like so many other behaviors, this is just a phase and it – like the baby gas – will pass.