My Baby’s Suffering from Wind!

WARNING: This article may annoy you if your baby ‘definitely had bad wind’ and burping him was apparently essential for him/her to settle. If so, you can stop reading here!

But I have to follow the science, my experience and insight.

 

When babies get upset or stressed for whatever reason, they get tense and draw their knees up to their chest; they arch and strain. And push out the bowel gas. “Ohhh!” say his parents “he’s suffering from wind!”

It’s a good day if I get through to lunchtime and nobody has mentioned ‘wind’. It seems to be the ‘go-to’ diagnosis whenever a baby is unsettled, hungry, tired, upset, or wishing his grandma would leave him alone.
See the x-ray above? This is a normal x-ray of the abdomen of a baby a few hours old. All the black parts are gas and, as you can see, there’s lot of it.

BURPING

After birth, babies swallow lots of air, which passes to the stomach. The valve between the oesophagus (gullet) and the stomach is a ring of muscle, which in babies is hopelessly incompetent and hangs open: it can hardly trap a feed (hence most babies posset/vomit), let alone trap an air bubble. So if the baby swallows air, he can easily burp it up.
There are two take-home sentences from this:

1)       All babies reflux. Studies show that stomach contents are refluxed up into the oesophagus on average      about 20 times a day.

2)       Babies don’t need burping. That is not to say babies do not like to be sat up and patted (at maternal heart rate) but they doing it for comfort, not to help them burp.

Crying babies swallow more air– so if you pick them up they may burp. But he’s not crying because he needs burping – he’s burping because he’s crying.

AND AT THE OTHER END….

Once babies start milk feeding, the germs in the large bowel ferment the lactose to produce litres of hydrogen gas as a by-product. This fills the lower bowel.
Hence babies tend to fart like troopers (apologies to our Armed Forces) and can have 20 gassy explosive stools a day.
So, the bowel is a long fleshy tube open at each end, filled with liquid contents. So no pain, no distension.

All babies are windy. But they don’t SUFFER from it.

By |July 11th, 2018|2 Comments

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2 Comments

  1. tomgg October 25, 2018 at 9:43 am

    Thanks Dr. Chilton. I find the website very helpful and really enjoyed your lecture at the hospital.

    Our 3 week old clearly strains when she needs to poo – her face goes red, she pushes into her lower abdomen and she screams and cries. It’s clear she’s trying to poo but she can’t seem to make it happen. It can go on for hours before she finally poos (a normal poo – not a hard stool). It’s difficult for us at night as we spend a lot of time setting her / comforting her until it happens. We followed your tips on settling a baby (“COLIC? Bore Your Baby to Sleep!”) and it’s effective – however it doesn’t completely resolve the issue as the cause doesn’t appear to be overstimulation.

    I googled this and it appears to be Infant dyschezia? Is there anything we can do for this or is it just a stage that eventually passes? I’m hoping it doesn’t go on too long as she cries a lot and requires a lot of nursing day and night.

    • Howard Chilton November 7, 2018 at 2:03 pm

      Ah! the problems with getting help from Dr Google! It is not dyschezia and it’s not even related to the bowels. As you say the stool is normal. Babies characteristically strain, push, and arch when they get a little tense and stressed. It is the same as the ‘colic’ story – which you are addressing it seems. She needs calm, comfort and connection to her parents. Put her on your chest, for hours if necessary, and gently talk to her. It’s okay she needs nursing day and night – we are a continuous contact species and babies get anxious when not in contact with a parent. Stop worrying about her bowels especially if she is breastfed – these babies are never constipated. Also ‘constipation’ in babies is defined by pebbly hard poos, not infrequency. Are you local to Sydney?

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