Stomach Pain In Infants
Gas pain can range from mild to chronic and is the result of your digestive system breaking down the foods you eat. As your digestive system extracts the vitamins, nutrients, fats, sugars and proteins from the food, the fermentation creates gas in the intestines. We commonly refer to this as gut pain.
If you have ever eaten a big meal and then an hour or two later heard the gurgling sounds in your gut, that is your intestines doing their job and breaking down the food. It is at this point the gas bubbles are created, and they can collect in pockets along the intestines. The pockets can grow large and create pressure that results in feeling pain or intense discomfort in the gut.
As humans, we release gas either through our mouth in the form of burps or through our anus as flatulence. People will argue they never fart, but the truth is that every human releases gas from the anus on average 20 times a day. When you bend over or sit down, small amounts of gas escape that make no noise and have no smell, so they go unnoticed even by the person producing them.
Then there is the loud and smelly kind that are an ordinary occurrence and the result of the food you eat. These can be emitted at a time and place you would not want them to find their escape creating embarrassment.
Let The Gas Escape
Never hold gas in when you feel the need to expel a build-up of gas either as a burp or as flatulence. Holding your gas in can cause excruciating pain and bowel discomfort.
You make gas in several ways. When you drink carbonated beverages, the carbon dioxide bubbles force you to burp. When you swallow air and when the bacteria in your large intestine digest your food, you develop gas bubbles or pockets.
As the food moves from the small intestine to the large intestine, the bacteria go to work, making hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and methane, all of which are in gas form and need to be expelled from the body.
Surprisingly, not everyone will get gas from eating the same foods. One person might eat beans and have no obvious gaseous results for which beans are famous, while others only need to eat a small amount of beans or legumes, and they sound like a mini dirt bike sputtering away.
Worse still, that gas can be so powerful in smell that people around you need a gas mask, and you get the label of a human stink bomb!
For adults, gas can easily be managed through exercise, heat packs and medication. In babies who are not able to communicate their pain and discomfort, that build-up can cause them intense pain that makes them understandably irritable and listless.
How To Treat Your Baby’s Bottle-Fed Gas Pains
There is a difference between breastfeeding infants and bottle-fed infants. Breastfed babies latch onto the nipple and do not ingest air the same way bottle-fed infants do. Breastfed babies do not produce enough gas to cause a burp unless they gulp large amounts of breast milk and are overfed.
Bottle-fed babies drink the formula in the bottle, and as a result, the air pressure in the bottle builds as they deplete the liquid. Bottle-fed babies, therefore, ingest large quantities of air that require them to be gently burped after their bottle to release that gas from the stomach.
All babies should be gently burped after feeding, but breastfed babies may never offer up a burp or vomit after feeding the same way bottle-fed infants do.
Things You Can Do To Lessen The Gas Build-Up
Adjust Feedings: Try different feeding times and restrict or control the amount of milk they consume. No two children are the same.
Offer smaller meals more frequently or larger meals less frequently, depending on your infant’s need.
Don’t Overfeed: Babies on the breast will drink until they fall asleep, the breast is empty, or the nipple is removed. Some babies will be over-fed and then vomit afterwards. It is harder to control how much liquid an infant consumes from the breast than to control bottle-fed babies.
Positioning: As they grow, positioning can greatly assist babies prone to gas build-up. Hold them upright during bottle feds, and then gently patting the back during and after feeds can help to eliminate gas bubbles before they enter the gut.
Movement: Rock your child gently as you pat and rub their upper back. Lie them on their back and gently move their legs like they are pedalling a bicycle. Babies love this move as it forces air in the bowels to be ejected and removes their pain and discomfort. You are often rewarded with a lot of giggles and squeals of delight.
Massage Your Child: Gently pressing and rubbing your child’s stomach and abdomen in an anticlockwise direction can force pockets of gas, causing discomfort to slip past food blocking their escape. The pressure should be deeper than one inch and will be dictated by the individual baby.
Another version is to lie them across your lap and pat their back in a gentle form of modified karate chop motions where you cup the hands and move up and down the length of the back.
Apply Warmth: Heat helps to relieve pain and is especially effective on the abdominal area. Place a warm towel or wrapped heat pack on your child’s tummy for ten (10) minutes. Ensure that the heat pack is only warm enough to provide gentle heat, not burn the baby. Gel packs and heated wheat can get blistering hot quickly, and the child cannot move it themselves. Constant checking and care is required when using heat products with infants. Warm towels straight out of the dryer or hot water bottles with temperature-controlled water inside can also be good options. The ideal heat temperature for babies is between 38-40 degrees Celsius.
Review Feeding Products: If formula-feeding, talk with your paediatrician about switching to a rice milk or soy-based formula or, if your child is older than one (1) year, soy or almond milk. If an older child has gas pain after having milk products, talk to your doctor about lactose intolerance, especially if there is a family history.
Breastfeeding mothers do not need to be concerned about their diet causing gas pains in the baby. There is no evidence that a mother’s diet has any effect on creating gas in babies.
Which Foods Are Most Likely To Cause Gas In Infants?
The most likely cause of gas is eating foods high in carbohydrates. Foods like:
- Vegetables (especially broccoli, cabbage, and onions)
- Whole-grain foods
- Dairy products
- Soft drinks
- Fruit drink
What Are The Symptoms Of A Gas Build-Up?
In addition to burping and flatulence, you may experience a bloated, heavy feeling in your abdomen. You might experience pain in your stomach or sides. That pain could be mistaken for appendicitis.
If the stomach or abdomen becomes swollen or distended, you should seek immediate medical attention and assessment. In infants, dial 000 in Australia.
Can Chronic Gas Indicate Other Medical Conditions?
Absolutely. Chronic belching may indicate upper digestive tract issues, like ulcers or gastroesophageal reflux disease or ‘GERD’.
An overabundance of rectal gas can signify a range of bowel or large intestine cancer and should be assessed where the problem shows signs of developing and the stench has changed from the normal baseline.
Thing That Cause Bloating Include:
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Crohn’s disease
- Celiac disease
- Fluid retention
- Colon cancer
- Ulcerative colitis
- A hernia
- Lactose / Gluten intolerance
How Are Gas-Related Illnesses Diagnosed?
Since the diet is the main cause of gas, your doctor will ask about the food you consume, when, and how frequently. They will ask you about the symptoms you have noticed that are causing you concern. They may ask you to keep a record of what you eat and drink in a food diary to help them identify and eliminate foods that cause problems. They may also ask you to track how often you pass gas.
You might want to keep a record of the food you eat and the time and then make any notes about the effects you feel and what time you began to feel them. By doing this in advance, you might be able to identify and eliminate from your diet a specific food group or item and resolve the issue.
Food intolerances are different to food allergies in that the body may not be allergic to the item but find it difficult to process and digest. Food items and groups that cause issues should be avoided, such as gluten for gluten intolerant people.
Several gastrointestinal and immune system conditions will cause the abdomen to swell and distend, causing varying levels of pain and discomfort that require assessment, diagnosis and treatment.
What Are The Best Treatments For Gas Pain?
Gas problems are treated by changing your diet and training yourself to swallow less air. There are also prescription and over-the-counter medications that can help in the short term.
Changing your diet requires eliminating the foods that cause gas. Unfortunately, this may also result in you having fewer nutritious foods. Ask your doctor to help you build a healthy, balanced, and nutritious diet that doesn’t cause much gas. Your physician will refer you to a clinical dietitian to assist you with your dietary requirements.
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