You've decided to brave the nearby coffee shop for the first time with your new baby in tow when your little one starts grunting and grimacing, and you realize it's baby gas. Welcome to new parenthood! A gassy baby is completely common and normal, given infants' tiny and immature digestive systems. 

Here's how to know if your baby has gas, how to relieve gas in infants, what foods make breastfed babies gassy and when it's time to check in with your pediatrician.

Why is my baby so gassy?

If your baby is gassy, you'll notice that he passes a lot of gas and seems to feel better afterward. Gas troubles often start right away or when babies are just a couple of weeks old.

Fortunately, most infants outgrow them by the time they're 4 to 6 months old, though for some, baby gas can last longer.

Infants are usually gassy because they have immature digestive systems and swallow air during feedings. Some babies may have sensitivities that could relate to a breastfeeding mom's diet or a certain type of formula.

Gassy baby signs and symptoms

All babies, of course, pass a little gas. But look for these signs and symptoms of baby gas that's more than just the usual:

  • Your baby cries and is fussy for an hour or more a day. This can be a sign of normal newborn gassiness that comes with having a tiny, underdeveloped digestive system. But you should still check in with your pediatrician if it happens every day and doesn't seem to get better. 
  • Your baby seems unhappy most of the time. This can indicate that you have an especially gassy baby who needs a bit more help. Gas that causes significant upset often indicates a problem beyond typical gassiness.
  • Your baby isn't eating or sleeping well. Trouble with sleeping or eating can have a whole range of causes, but infant gas may be one of them, especially if there are other signs. Talk to your doctor for a proper diagnosis.
  • Your baby cries often and seems like he might be in pain. 
  • Your baby squirms as though he's uncomfortable and pulls his legs up to his chest, especially during bouts of fussiness. 

Gassy baby causes

Infant gas has several possible causes:

  • Swallowing air when feeding or crying, which is very common and normal among new babies
  • An underdeveloped digestive system, which allows food to pass through too quickly so it doesn't break down completely
  • Hypersensitivities to certain types of formula or foods in a breastfeeding mother's diet, or possibly food allergies (though those are much rarer)

What are the best remedies for baby gas relief?

If your baby's tummy troubles seem to be a problem, here's what to do for a gassy baby:

Burp your baby twice

A lot of newborn discomfort is caused by swallowing air during feedings. In addition to burping after feedings, try giving your baby a gentle back pat mid-feed to get rid of swallowed air before it travels to his bowels. One sign your baby needs a mid-meal burp: He turns away from the breast or bottle fussily after just a few minutes of feeding, which is more likely linked to gas than feeling full.

If you're bottle-feeding, you can try burping every 2 to 3 ounces and if you're breastfeeding every five to 10 minutes (though that might be tricky).

Control the air

Whether his meals come from breast or bottle, try feeding your baby in a more upright position to cut back on the air he swallows. If you're breastfeeding, be sure your baby is properly latched.

For bottle-fed babies, test anti-gas nipples and bottles, which can change the flow of milk and reduce the amount of air your baby swallows. Be sure that the nipple is always completely full with milk, so your baby doesn't chase formula with air. And try to avoid shaking the bottle too much, which can add extra bubbles to the milk. You can also try a concentrated liquid or ready-to-feed formula instead of powder.

Feed your baby before meltdowns

Crying, of course, is unpredictable — especially in really little babies. But the more your baby cries, the more air he swallows (and the more gas he has). So as much as possible, learn the early hunger cues in infants to nip hunger in the bud.

Try the colic carry

Lay your baby tummy-down across your knees, or hold him under his belly with your forearm, and gently massage his back. The pressure on his tummy can help relieve the pressure from gas. Plus, touch can be a powerful tool in calming fussiness.

Offer infant gas drops

Though they don't work for every baby, infant gas drops are generally considered safe for babies. Check the label and opt for formulations with as few preservatives as possible. And be sure to talk to your baby's doctor before proceeding.

Do baby bicycles

Lay your baby on his back and gently cycle his legs in a bicycling motion toward his tummy to manually help push out trapped air. Or gently push your baby's knees up to his tummy and hold for 10 seconds, then release and straighten his legs. Repeat several times. 

Encourage tummy time 

Tummy time is good for strengthening the muscles your baby needs to lift his head and, eventually, to crawl and walk. But the gentle pressure on your baby's tummy can also help relieve gas.

Because some babies spit up if they're put on their tummies soon after eating, wait at least 20 to 30 minutes (or when gas starts) before doing tummy time. Always supervise your baby during tummy time. And never put your baby to bed on his stomach, since tummy-sleeping puts babies at increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Give your baby a rub-down

Massage can sometimes help your baby pass gas. Start with your baby's tummy, then give a gentle rub all over — shoulders, back, legs. It might help him relax enough to pass gas.

Check your diet if you're breastfeeding

If you're breastfeeding, talk to your pediatrician about whether you should try cutting out foods that could potentially cause gas in your baby. Some that may cause baby gas include dairy products, caffeine, onions, garlic, spicy foods and cabbage, but some babies aren't bothered by any of these.[1]

Test new formulas

Some formulas are marketed to reduce gassiness in babies. Check with your doctor about whether it's worth giving a new formula a go.

Talk to your doctor about chamomile tea

Ask your pediatrician first, but doctors sometimes suggest giving your baby cool or warm (not hot) chamomile tea through a dropper, as it may be somewhat relieve gas pain and colic symptoms (though how well it works is still up for debate). 

Try baby gripe water

Usually a blend of sodium bicarbonate and herbs (often fennel and ginger, among others), baby gripe water may help relieve gas and soothe fussy babies — although the verdict is out on whether it works. Never offer your little one gripe water without talking to your pediatrician first (and asking for recommended brands).

Consider probiotics

Probiotics are bacteria that support your GI system and are naturally found in fermented foods like kimchi and yogurt as well as in supplements and formulas marketed for tummy troubles in babies.

Research in people with bowel conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) has found that probiotics may help reduce gassiness, likely by supporting gut health — although more studies need to be done on their efficacy for gassy babies. In the meantime, while probiotics are generally considered safe, be sure to talk to the pediatrician before giving your infant any probiotic product.[2]

What infant gas drops are safe and effective?

Infant gas drops contain simethicone, which breaks up gas bubbles. Simethicone is also the main ingredient in common anti-gas medications for adults. Research as to how effective infant gas drops are is mixed. Still, simethicone gas drops for babies are very safe, and some parents find they're very effective.

Want to try infant gas drops to help your gassy baby? First, talk to the pediatrician about what kind to look for and how often to give them. And follow the dosing instructions on the bottle. Most will say you can give your baby drops up to 12 times per day, or at each feeding. Some parents find that it's helpful to give babies gas drops right before each feed to pre-empt gas problems, but check with your doctor to be sure.

Read the label, and if a friend or relative brings a gas treatment from another country or one that isn't approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), don't give it to your baby unless you get the okay from your pediatrician. It could contain alcohol, sugar or other potentially harmful ingredients that aren't clearly listed on the packaging.

Can breastfeeding make a baby gassy?

Some research has found that the foods in a mom's diet might make breastfed babies gassy, but the evidence is far from conclusive. Before you completely revamp what you're eating, see if there are other subtle ways you can help your baby swallow less air at mealtimes, including working on your latch, burping baby twice at each feeding and trying different nipples or bottles if you pump.

If your breastfed baby is still gassy, and you notice that every time you eat a certain food he seems gassier or fussier than usual, there's no harm in cutting that food from your diet to see if it helps. Work with your doctor to nail down foods that might make breastfed babies gassy, including:

  • Cruciferous veggies like cabbage, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower
  • Dairy and eggs
  • Meals that are very spicy, oniony or garlicky

What's the best formula for a gassy baby?

Some formulas promise to reduce gas in babies, such as protein hydrolysate-based formulas, formulas with lower lactose, or formulas containing whey or soy instead of cow's milk. There isn't a lot of research showing that any one formula is better than others for reducing gas or colic.

One review of the research that does exist found that none of these formulas significantly reduced crying, but most studies have been limited, with very few babies involved.

That said, some parents do find their babies may have a sensitivity and do better when they switch. Hydrolysate formulas, or those containing partially or completely broken down milk protein, seem to be more easily digested by some infants. Other anti-gas formulas contain probiotics, but check with your doctor before making the switch.

One blend you can most likely skip: lactose-free formulas. Lactose is the main sugar in breast milk, so it's really uncommon for babies to have lactose intolerance.[3] If you think your baby might be lactose intolerant, talk to your pediatrician.

How can I tell the difference between regular infant gas and colic?

Because gas can make babies fussy, it might seem like a gassy baby is colicky — but colic and gassiness are two distinct conditions. Colic in babies has many causes beyond an underdeveloped digestive system, including overstimulation and an immature nervous system.

Not sure if fussiness is caused by gas or colic? A baby is often colicky because he has a hard time self-soothing. Your baby is more likely suffering from colic than gas if he typically starts crying around the same time of day (often in the early evening) — especially if those crying bouts last for at least three hours, three times a week, for at least three weeks.

Colicky babies are often inconsolable and have episodes of frequent, intense crying that can turn into screaming for long stretches of time, even though they're otherwise healthy.

When to call the doctor for a gassy baby

You'll want to visit your doctor about gas to rule out more serious medical conditions if:

  • Your baby isn't gaining weight
  • Your infant frequently doesn't want to eat or is hard to feed (a possible sign of acid reflux in your baby or another digestive problem, both of which require treatment)
  • Your baby seems constipated or has a hard time with bowel movements (a doctor can help you to find and address the root problem)
  • Your baby has an allergic reaction (hives, vomiting, rash, swollen face, trouble breathing) after you've tried a new gas treatment or formula (though allergic reactions, fortunately, are extremely rare)

If your baby is gassy but gaining weight and peeing and pooping normally for his age, everything is probably going exactly as expected, and you'll likely just need to wait it out. Baby gas does pass — pun intended!

Frequently Asked Questions

What causes a gassy baby?

Babies are typically gassy because they have immature digestive systems, swallow air during feedings and may be sensitive to certain foods in a breastfeeding mother's diet or ingredients in a specific formula.

How can I tell if my baby is gassy?

You can tell if your baby's gassy if he's particularly fussy, crying a lot or very unhappy, especially if you've ruled out other causes like hunger and tiredness. Your baby may sound like he's in pain and squirm in discomfort. This can be normal, but talk to your pediatrician if you have concerns.

How can I relieve my baby's gas?

If your baby has gas, try rotating his legs like he's on a bicycle, try infant gas drops, massage his tummy and offer your baby extra tummy time. If you've just fed your baby and he seems uncomfortable, try burping him again to relieve gas pain.

How can I prevent gas in my baby?

You can help prevent gas by adding a burping session in the middle of your baby's feeding. Also, try to ensure your baby has a good latch on the breast or bottle during feedings. If you think your baby may have a sensitivity to something in your breast milk or formula, talk to their doctor. They may suggest you try eliminating foods from your diet or using a new formula.

Can gas drops or other remedies for gas be harmful to my baby?

Simethicone infant gas drops are considered very safe for babies. Talk to your baby's doctor about choosing an infant gas drops brand and how often to give drops. Don't use infant gas drops that aren't FDA-approved or are from another country without talking to your baby's doctor first.