Flatulence in the baby
Flatulence is the accumulation of gas in the intestines. In babies, they arise primarily from increased swallowing of air during feeding or from fermentation processes of food components during digestion. These are naturally occurring gas mixtures of oxygen, nitrogen, methane, carbon dioxide and hydrogen.
They are transported with the stool towards the rectum and can escape through it. Depending on the amount and composition of the gas, the flatulence can cause pain or take on an unpleasant smell.
The causes of bloating in babies can be varied. Most often, swallowing too much air during feeding leads to gas. If the baby swallows air in addition to breast milk through hasty drinking, this leads to increased gas accumulation in the stomach. Normally, most of the gases can be absorbed through the gastrointestinal mucosa and then exhaled through the lungs. However, if the gas content is too high or if the air is trapped in the food in the form of small bubbles, the air reaches the intestines. The resulting flatulence is rather odorless.
Flatulence only becomes odor-intensive when its gas is in mixtures. The mixtures are mainly created by fermentation processes during digestion. These are mainly caused by naturally occurring intestinal bacteria that break down nutrients. It is mainly the breakdown of protein that can lead to foul-smelling flatulence in the form of hydrogen sulfide, ammonia or butyric acid.
Reduced peristalsis favors the development of flatulence, as the stool stays longer in one part of the intestine. Bacteria thus have more time to produce gases from food components, which lead to an expansion of the intestinal loops. Visually, this is expressed in babies by a bloated, round belly. This is also often present when there are food intolerances. If food components such as lactose or fructose cannot be digested, these nutrients remain in the intestinal lumen. Bacteria only dwell on them and cause increased gas development.
Read more on the topic: Causes of flatulence
Can Breastfeeding Cause Flatulence?
Breastfeeding can cause gas in the baby. One reason for this is the increased swallowing of air when feeding. Babies do not completely enclose the nipple or the suction attachment with their mouth, especially when drinking hastily, so that they swallow the air as well as the milk. For this reason, a baby usually also makes a burrow after a meal if you lightly pat it on the back after feeding.
If the gas cannot be excreted this way, it reaches the intestine and is excreted through the rectum. Another reason can also be the incomplete maturation of the gastrointestinal system in the baby. Although the intestine is present as an organ in the baby at birth, it does not yet work like an adult. It is only with the breast milk and the food that it comes into contact with nutrients for the first time and has to split the food independently.
This process has to be learned and takes some practice. In addition, colonization of the intestine with natural intestinal bacteria can be reduced. Bifidus and lactic acid bacteria in particular are important for regular digestion. The child receives this through contact with the external environment and through giving breast milk. Besides supporting the immune system in the intestine, the task of bacteria is to break down dietary fiber. If this natural component is missing, flatulence also increases.
The diagnosis of flatulence can also be made by a layperson. It is important to know that bloating is only a symptom and not a disease in itself. The baby should be carefully observed in daily handling for the diagnosis.
If an increased loss of gas is noticed, this indicates flatulence. These can be odorless as well as malodorous. The flatulence is accompanied by a round, bulging belly and a possible restlessness that results from accompanying abdominal pain.
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Accompanying symptoms of flatulence in babies result from the increased accumulation of gas in the intestine. The gas causes the affected intestinal loops to widen, which in the baby shows up in an increase in the volume of the abdomen. Parents can therefore often observe a round, bulging belly in the baby. If the expansion of the intestinal loops is very strong, this can lead to pain in the baby. If the intestinal mucosa is stretched too much, this leads to irritation of sensitive nerve endings. This stimulation is processed as a pain signal.
Another symptom is increased crying and whining. Babies often try to get rid of gas themselves. If you feel pain, instinctively tighten your legs and move restlessly from one side to the other. The effect is to get the intestinal loops in motion and thus to transport the gases towards the rectum. The drawn up legs unconsciously facilitate the discharge of the gases.
Babies often show this behavior, especially in the context of so-called "3 months colic". It is noticeable that after the gases escape, the babies relax and behave completely inconspicuously at the same time. Any signs of inflammation and fever are not typical of gas. They speak of an infection.
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When the gas stinks
Unpleasant-smelling flatulence in babies is caused by intestinal bacteria that break down proteins. The proteins reach the bacteria in the intestine through breast milk or food.
In contrast to odorless flatulence, digestion of proteins produces gas mixtures such as hydrogen sulfide or ammonia in small doses. These are very odorous. However, they are harmless and should not be a cause for concern.
What can you do?
In itself, flatulence is harmless and should not give rise to intervention. Only when the baby makes a dissatisfied impression or even expresses pain should various measures be taken. The most gentle way to do this is to massage the abdomen gently (see also: Baby massage). To do this, the baby's tummy should be gently stroked clockwise with circular movements.
This stimulates the natural transport of stool and gases and facilitates elimination. In addition, the baby should be able to move freely. Babies instinctively know how to help themselves with gas. A restless turning from one side to the next or an increased tightening of the legs indicates that the baby is trying to move its intestinal loops back and forth and thus loosen any congestion in the intestine.
To some extent, this should be tolerated. However, if the baby is crying or behaving noticeably different, one should intervene with home remedies or medication if necessary. With babies, the principle should always be to support them as gently as possible. Herbal supplements should therefore be given priority and their suggested dosage should always be adhered to. The form of administration is to be selected depending on the individual tolerance and the best effect on the baby. So it is up to the baby's own experience whether drops or suppositories should be preferred.
Read more on the topic: Anti-flatulence drugs
Drops against flatulence in babies
Drops for flatulence are drugs with various active ingredients. In general, a distinction is made between antispasmodic and defoaming agents. Antispasmodic agents such as Buscopan help to relax painful muscle cramps in the intestines.
Defoamers such as Lefax or sab simplex, on the other hand, help to reduce the surface tension of gases in order to enable absorption through the gastrointestinal mucosa. The effect sets in with this form of administration within half an hour.
Homeopathic remedies for flatulence are given in the form of globules. Globules with the ingredients of chamomile have proven to be particularly helpful. They are available in pharmacies under the name Chamomilla. In addition, electrolytes in the form of magnesium can also help. They are available as Magnesium phosphoricum. Both ingredients have a relaxing effect and can provide relief from slight flatulence.
Globules with okoubaka are a little less known. It is a jungle tree, the bark of which has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial ingredients. Thus, these globules can relieve flatulence with an additionally irritated mucous membrane of the intestine. To ensure that all homeopathic remedies are correctly dosed, a doctor should always be consulted regarding their use.
In the case of babies, the dosage in which they can be given depends largely on their size and weight. In addition, globules should only be used for mild flatulence and should be replaced with medication for severe symptoms.
Read more on the topic: Homeopathy for colic in babies
Home remedies for flatulence in babies
The most well-known home remedy for flatulence is the so-called "four bindweed tea". It consists of a mixture of fennel, caraway, anise and peppermint. The main effect consists of the antispasmodic component of the plants. If the tense muscles of the intestine are loosened, the body's own peristalsis can start again as normal. The intestine can therefore tighten and relax again in rhythmic waves and the gases can be better distributed.This means that some of them can be absorbed through the mucous membrane and exhaled through the lungs.
The other part, in turn, can be better maneuvered towards the rectum and excreted there. However, it is only suitable for children who are already consuming liquid in addition to their breast milk. These babies can also be offered to consume some basil with their food, which also has a puffing effect. For whom these measures do not help or are not possible, warmth is also a good option. The heat must be used very carefully, as it can quickly lead to burns when used in the form of heat pads.
It is therefore advisable to wear appropriately warm clothing, especially for small babies. The warmth ensures better blood circulation in the intestines. It activates the intestines and helps the digestive pulp to mix well. Gas bubbles are no longer enclosed in the stool and, as already described, can either be absorbed through the mucous membrane or transported further.
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How long does the flatulence last?
It is very difficult to estimate the duration of gas. This is due to the fact that the gases are transported with the rhythmic tension and relaxation of the intestinal muscles in the direction of the rectum like the stool itself. If gases escape through the rectum, they only last as long as the peristaltic wave.
Flatulence is therefore periodic and can be accompanied by breaks. However, severe gas can last for hours. Stopping for days does not have to be pathological, but it can indicate a possible dysfunction of the bowel function.
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How can you avoid flatulence?
In itself, flatulence is not a disease. Rather, they are seen as a symptom that accompanies the digestive process. It is perfectly natural for gases to develop. They only become pathological when additional symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea or cramps occur. If such complications occur with flatulence, prevention is advisable. If the cause of the flatulence is increased air swallowing when feeding, it is advisable to use an anti-colic attachment when feeding with the bottle.
For nursing mothers, it is important to find out whether the baby may need more frequent meals. Drinking hastily can be an indication of a strong feeling of hunger. But changing the position when breastfeeding can also help the baby to better enclose the nipple. Here it is important to vary with sensitivity and to observe changes closely. After feeding, the baby should be held in an upright position for a while in order to make a so-called "burrow".
The effect of belching air is that swallowed air can escape through the mouth and is not even transported into the further gastrointestinal tract. Flatulence is reduced as much as possible. So that the baby can breathe air, a light tap on the back with the hand can help. Parents shouldn't be surprised if this can take a few minutes.
If a baby has flatulence on a regular basis and suffers from it, the food consumed should be considered as a trigger. This means that flatulent foods such as boiled cabbage or peas should be avoided when feeding them. Finally, if there is no real trigger, a food intolerance should also be considered. In turn, it can be treated well with a targeted diet.
Read more on the topic: Food allergy