There are two major scapegoats I find people using to blame their babies’ sleep problems on.
One is teething; the other is gas.
Gas makes for a great fall guy when your baby gets fussy at bedtime, since there’s no way to rule it out as the culprit. You hold your baby on your knee, pat him on the back for half an hour, and nothing comes out. Then he gets fussy when he’s put down and Mom makes the connection of, “No burp = gassy baby = gas pains = no sleep.”
Of course, they forget the possibility that baby didn’t burp because baby wasn’t holding any gas to begin with.
A huge proportion of the parents I’ve worked with have told me that they had gassy babies. “He wakes up at least three times a night with gas pains,” they’ll tell me.
Amazingly, once they started the training and baby started sleeping through the night, the problem seemed to vanish, which leads me to believe that the issue wasn’t gas in the first place, but the association that baby was making with burping and sleep.
Parents often find it hard to believe that burping could become a sleep prop. After all, for all of the weird rituals people have around their bedtime routines, I’ve never heard anyone tell me they can’t get to sleep at night without a good, solid half hour of being firmly and repetitively slapped on the back.
But for a baby, being held by Mommy, listening to some soothing talk or singing, and having a rhythmic, repetitive touch of any kind right before bed can become a keystone of their journey into sleep.
In babies over three months old, I’ve seen very few situations where they had an actual issue getting gas out of their systems. The human body is normally quite adept at venting itself once baby has started spending a fair amount of time sitting upright.
I’m not suggesting that you don’t need to burp your baby, obviously. It’s done for good reason and babies can certainly get upset if they’re gassy, but it’s pretty rare that a baby will have a huge pocket of gas in their tummy and not be able to get it out via a good burp or fart, especially for an entire night.
However, if you’re still concerned that your baby is holding onto pockets of gas before bed and want to make sure she’s been properly vented before you put her down, hey, no problem. I would only suggest that you move her feeding up to an earlier spot in the bedtime routine and don’t let her get drowsy as you’re patting her back. If you see her eyes start to close, or she’s yawning or clenching her little fists, cease and desist. We want her to go into her crib awake so that she makes that journey all by herself.
As you probably know if you’re a regular reader of my blog, or have used the Sleep Sense Program, a huge component, maybe the single biggest component, of having your baby sleep through the night is that she learns how to fall asleep on her own, without bottles or bouncing or any other outside assistance to help her along.
Again, I’m not saying that your baby definitely doesn’t have gas, or that you’re misdiagnosing the problem. You know your baby better than anyone, but in my experience, the problem seems to remedy itself pretty regularly once the association between the burping process and sleep has been broken.
As a quick disclaimer, if your baby has a fever, isn’t pooping, or just flat-out won’t calm down, it might be a good idea to check with her pediatrician. These could be indicators of a more serious problem.
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