What is baby wind?
All babies get wind: it’s simply the air bubbles in their stomach. It only becomes uncomfortable and problematic when these air bubbles become trapped in the stomach due to babies taking in lots of air at once (usually through feeding or gulping).
Baby wind is extremely common and is usually easily resolved, yet it can be extremely distressing for babies and their parents if it happens frequently. While some babies seem to suffer with it on an almost daily basis, other babies rarely experience it. It’s often ‘luck of the draw’, since there’s no specific triggers that make a baby predisposed to trapped wind. While it may be more common in bottle-fed babies, breast-fed babies can also suffer with it.
Trapped wind can be very uncomfortable for young babies but parents should be reassured that it doesn’t cause any problems for their long-term health and quickly passes.
How does baby get trapped wind?
There are several causes for trapped wind.
Some babies take in more air than others when feeding, whether they are breast or bottle-fed. The air bubbles from this then make their way to the gut: where they remain since they are too large to be able to pass causing the baby discomfort.
Babies also get trapped wind through gulping down air creating more wind and a sense of fullness. While it is possible to have trapped wind with breast-fed babies, it is more common in those who are bottle fed as breast-fed babies tend to swallow less air than bottle-fed babies.
Symptoms of wind in babies
Trapped wind is not much fun for babies and can make them feel very uncomfortable. One of the key symptoms of trapped wind in babies is crying, as a way of expressing the discomfort of gas bubbles in their stomach. Because of this discomfort, babies may also resist further feeding- either through rejecting the bottle-feed or in cases of breastfeeding, resisting feeding from the other breast. This is because the gas bubbles in the gut create a feeling of fullness; even if it appears your baby has not had much milk.
If your baby is put down shortly after its feed, they may struggle to settle; appearing restless and constantly squirming. Your baby might also seem to pull ‘funny faces’ or even grimace; one of the many non-vocal ways babies communicate their emotions.
If the trapped wind is particularly bad, babies may bring their knees to their chest as a way of trying to deal with their full tummy.
Once the gas has been expelled, many babies go back to normal very quickly and may want to be fed further or snap up the chance of sleep (since at it’s worst, trapped wind can prevent babies from getting a good night rest).
How to wind your baby?
Before following these steps, pick the right time to wind your baby. If he or she is still happily feeding, don’t interrupt to burp right away as this may worsen the issue and cause your baby to take in ever more air!
Once there is a natural pause in feeding, find a comfortable position for winding that works for you and your baby and make sure you have a cloth on hand to mop up any mess!
There are several positions that work well to wind your baby; changing these frequently can also help support the flow of excess air to come out:
- Hold them against your shoulder and gently rub or pat their back. This is often successful as it keeps your baby straight. This is considered the easiest position to wind a baby and also the most suitable for new-borns- since it provides the most support.
- Sit the baby on your lap supporting her head with your hand under his or her chin and gently rub or pat his or her back using your other hand.
- Lay your baby’s stomach-down on your lap- rubbing your baby’s back at the same time helps to provide comfort and reassurance.
- If these don’t work, then you may also consider helping your baby relax in a warm bath or gently massage his or her tummy in a circular clockwise motion, which can bring relief as well as helping to release trapped wind.
Try these techniques for a few minutes to find relief for your baby. You may find that as you do this, your baby brings up a little milk. This is completely normal and is only a cause for concern if this happens in much larger quantities. If, after a period of ten to fifteen minutes, winding is not successful, consider trying to feed your baby again and then following the feed with further winding.
You may find that during the first few months of your baby’s life, you wind them frequently but this will lessen as they grow up- your baby will learn to control the amount of air they take in when feeding and their digestive system will also develop and adapt.
If you find that you are winding more than usual, or that your baby is bringing up larger quantities of milk or sick then it always advisable to speak to your GP.
Winding baby technique video
If symptoms do not improve, or get worse contact your health visitor or family doctor for advice.
Do breastfed babies get wind?
Yes, breastfed babies can get wind (although they tend to suffer with it less frequently compared to babies who are bottle fed). This is because breastfeeding mothers have a better control of milk flow; preventing babies swallowing too much air. However, if a breastfed baby takes in milk quickly or gulps when they cry; they may still struggle with wind.
How can I help my bottle-fed baby to avoid wind?
The key to avoiding trapped wind is trying to control the flow of milk from the bottle to prevent your baby from gulping milk too quickly. Try to keep your baby as upright as possible while they are drinking and consider giving your baby smaller, more frequent feeds to counteract the problem.