How to tell if baby is hungry or gassy?

An infant’s primary means of communication is crying. They cry when they are hungry, tired, need a diaper change, their tummy hurts, or any number of other reasons. With all this crying it’s often hard to decode how to respond! Can you tell if baby is hungry or gassy? In this blog, we will focus on identifying the difference between hunger and gas.

Infant Hunger

New babies eat 8-12 times, or even more, a day. If it feels like they are constantly eating, they are!

Signs of hunger in infants

When it comes to hunger, crying is actually a late stage response. Keep an eye out for the below behaviors to preempt hunger cries.

  • Head turning to look for the breast
  • Becoming more alert and active
  • Sucking on hands or lip smacking
  • Opening and closing mouth

*Source WIC Breastfeeding

If your crying baby doesn’t show signs of hunger, their cries are probably due to something else. If your baby continues to cry shortly into the feeding, they probably weren’t hungry.

Infant Gas

Baby’s digestive systems are still not fully developed. This, swallowing air, and sensitivity to things in formula or breast milk are the most common culprits of gas in infants.

Signs of gas in infants

Some of the most common indications that your baby’s fussiness is due to gas are:
-excessive burping
-bloated or swollen abdomen
-trouble eating or sleeping could be an indication of any number of things, but gas is one.
-squirming and pulling legs up to chest while fussy

Look for these cues to help indicate that your baby has some gas that they are having trouble passing. While gas is completely normal in all human beings, reach out to your pediatrician if you are experiencing the above situations regularly and for extended periods of time.

Preventing Gas

If your baby is uncomfortable and struggling to expel gas there are some things you can do.

Burp after and in between every feeding
Air can creep in during feeding time very easily. If you can get some of it out up front in the form of burping that will limit the amount of air that travels through their intestines to get out the other end.

Invest in vented bottles
If you are bottle feeding your baby, consider purchasing bottles that have a vent to help reduce the amount of air that can get in when feeding. One popular option is Dr. Brown’s bottles, but many brands offer the vent option.

Tummy time
Recommended to help strengthen neck muscles, laying your baby on their tummy can also help expel gas.

Add Probiotics
Depending on the strains used, some probiotics can help reduce gassiness by supporting overall gut health.

Learn more about decoding infant crying and the newborn parenting journey in general in our Education Center.


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