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Abdominal Gas and Colic - Topic Overview

Some people have problems digesting milk protein or milk sugar (lactose intolerance). But these problems are very rare in babies. Until your doctor can evaluate your baby, it is usually not advisable to switch formula or stop breast-feeding as a means to remedy suspected food digestion problems.

A vast majority of babies diagnosed with colic do not have health problems that affect digestion. But many things can cause some degree of abdominal gas, which can make crying worse.

Causes of gas

  • Swallowing air when sucking. A baby may swallow excess air during bottle-feeding if he or she drinks too rapidly or is lying down or if the nipple has holes that are too big. If you bottle-feed your baby, use nipples with holes large enough to drip cold formula at 1 drop each second. For more information, see the topics Breast-Feeding and Bottle-Feeding.
  • Swallowing air when crying. A baby who cries for an extended period of time, especially if the crying is intense, can swallow extra air.
  • Position. Babies may trap intestinal gas while lying on their backs. Babies should always sleep on their backs to reduce the risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). But when your baby is awake, you may help prevent or relieve some belly discomfort by holding your baby upright or allowing some "tummy time" while you closely supervise.
  • Improper feeding. Giving certain foods to your baby may lead him or her to have excess gas. If the doctor thinks your baby's food is a source of gas, he or she may recommend a change in what you are feeding your child.
    • Wait to give your baby cow's milk until he or she is 12 months of age. Cow's milk protein can be hard for a baby's body to break down. And cow's milk has less iron and vitamins than babies need.
    • Many babies younger than 4 months of age can't digest the starch in cereals.
    • Juice may cause a baby to have excess gas. If you choose to give your child juice, it's best to wait until he or she is at least 6 months old and to give only a small amount.

Relieving gas

  • Use the proper position during feeding. Feed your baby in a partially upright position, and put him or her in a baby seat for about 15 to 30 minutes after feeding. Be sure to burp your baby during and after feeding.
  • Massage your baby. Lay your baby on his or her abdomen across your lap and massage his or her back after feeding.

If your child's doctor suggests medicine to reduce gas, use it exactly as prescribed.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: February 25, 2013
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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