Babies are gassy creatures, every parent knows that. They are like cute little fart and burp machines that spit up a lot when brand-new.
In out previous article, we talked about gas in breastfed babies. We learned that breastfed babies can get gas from a poor latch, an underdeveloped gut, or very rarely, an allergy to something that mom eats like milk or eggs.
However, as it turns out, not only breastfed babies get gas. Apparently, more and more breastfeeding moms are coming out about their own experience of gas while breastfeeding.
It might be hard to connect the two since mom’s gastric system is not really connected to the breast. But some moms can’t help but wonder if their gas did develop as a result of breastfeeding. You can read on several anecdotes of mothers who share this concern here.
So, is there a correlation between the two? Does breastfeeding cause maternal gas? If it does, how?
Here are the possible reasons why a breastfeeding mom can experience gas:
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The production of breast milk starts towards the end of pregnancy. That means that your body already has prepared droplets of colostrum even before your little one is born.
When the baby is born, after the placenta detaches, the milk let-down reflex activates. This causes your milk to be released as the baby begins to suckle right after birth if you place them to the breast.
The milk at this stage is thick and yellowish. There’s not much of it -only about a teaspoon on the first 24 hours; and that’s perfectly normal! Babies do not need that much milk on the first day of life because their stomach is just the size of a cherry.
Unfortunately, a lot of mothers do not know this. They begin to worry, thinking that they do not make enough milk. For this reason, many mothers resort to diets that are choc-full of “milk-boosting” ingredients to help with their milk supply.
These foods may come in the form of baked pastries, juices, capsules, or teas. While many mothers find that their milk supply increases when they consume these Galactagogues, some mothers may tend to overconsume them, thinking that the more they consume, the more milk they make.
Unfortunately, some ingredients of these special foods may potentially cause gas in mothers. This is especially true if you tend to consume too much or if you have any gastric sensitivity to some of its ingredients.
It’s an undeniable fact that breastfeeding makes moms hungry. I remember eating almost twice the amount I normally would eat during the years I breastfed my babies.
The reason why moms are so hungry while breastfeeding is because your body is literally making food for your baby. It has to work double-time and spend an extra amount of energy trying to produce milk while recovering from pregnancy and birth in the early months.
Your body is trying to recuperate after birth. However, its responsibilities do not stop. In fact, it is even magnified because it now has to provide external nutrition for your little one. No wonder you’re starving all the time!
Breastfeeding mothers tend to scarf down food fast due to the intense hunger. We also tend to eat more often. Consuming large amounts or eating frequently is one ingredient in the recipe for gas.
If you’ve read our article on overfeeding, one of the symptoms is gas -lots of tooting and belching. This phenomenon is not only common among babies but among moms as well.
You see, if you feel extra hungry, you’ll tend to overeat. You’ll eat faster and eat more and end up eating a lot more than you actually need. If that happens, your stomach begins to feel uncomfortable, goes into overdrive, and ends up producing a lot of gas in the process.
Motherhood brings on a lot of physical changes in your body. One set of changes that your body goes through is your hormone levels.
After birth and while breastfeeding, the body maintains high levels of progesterone, prolactin and oxytocin. These hormones help the body produce and eject milk. They also help loosen and relax your muscles and tissues in the process.
One possible side-effect of these hormones is increased gassiness. Since your muscles and tissues, including your digestive tract, are relaxed, it may result to the production and the passing of more gas than usual.
In many cases, your body will learn to adapt to its “new normal”. However, some mothers report that their gas problems persisted throughout. If such is the case for you, a visit to your doctor, or healthcare provider could help as they may provide you with treatment to ease the discomfort.
Irregular sleep patterns and stress
Another thing that most breastfeeding moms (and even non-breastfeeding moms) go though is irregular sleep, sleep deprivation, and stress.
When you’re breastfeeding full-time, you become your baby’s nutritional lifeline 24 hours a day, and seven days a week. That means that you are the only one who can get up to feed baby all day and all night.
Some moms choose to pump a little extra during the day so that dad can give baby a bottle at night to let mom sleep in for a bit. However, some moms are too busy caring for a newborn to pump during the day, or find pumping uncomfortable or hassling.
Being the sole person to wake up with the baby at all hours, plus the new responsibilities of motherhood cause a lot of physical and mental stress for a new mom. Stress can have a full host of effects on the body, and many people who are stressed experience a lot of gastric symptoms.
Some of these symptoms are indigestion, loose bowel movements, hyperacidity, stomach cramps, and increased gas. This might be a contributing factor for a breastfeeding mom’s increased gassiness.
How can you address maternal gas among breastfeeding moms?
So breastfeeding and gassiness in moms do have a connection. Having established that, what can you do to help yourself?
Look into your diet
Almost all foods have a potential to cause gas. If you are consuming a special breastfeeding supplement, or eating increased amounts of one type of food, try taking a short break from it and try to see if your gas eases up. If it does, that food or supplement is likely to be the culprit.
“But my milk supply depends on my supplements!” you may worry. However, it is proven that your milk supply really depends on how much you let your baby suckle.
That means that you are only making as much as how often your baby empties your breasts. If your baby is growing and thriving well, that means that you are making enough to fit her needs. You need to be able to trust your body.
If you are absolutely convinced that you need supplements to maintain your supply, the good news is that there are now so many options out there. Try out several of them and see which one does not give you gas.
It can be hard to control yourself if you feel like you’re starving and a plate of delicious food is set in front of you. However, scarfing everything down in record-breaking time will cause an upset tummy, bloating, and gas later on.
Try to enjoy every bite you take. Take the time to chew your food properly and savor it well. Appreciate the flavors, textures, and smells. Make meal times a pleasurable experience instead of a race for survival.
If you take in your meals this way, you’l eat a lot slower and you are not likely to overeat. At the end of the meal, you will be adequately full, but not too overfull that you experience indigestion afterwards.
If you find it hard to do this, a trick I found works for me is to drink a glass of water or juice before eating. The filling sensation of fluids in the stomach minimizes the hunger pangs and decreases the sensation of wanting to eat everything up as fast as possible.
Ask for help
Everyone has this impression that moms can do it all. While that may be true, a lot of what we overdo tends to take a toll on our stress levels and overall health.
As much as you can, try to ask for help. Remember that you are already up with baby day and night. Your body is making food that allows your baby to grow and thrive. You are already doing a lot while recovering from birth.
Try to ask for help around the house so you don’t have to do everything. Things like dishes, cleaning, and the laundry can be temporarily delegated to another family member or hired help if needed.
Consult your doctor
If you think your gas is not improving and it’s affecting your daily life, consulting a doctor about it could help. Your doctor may prescribe you with breastfeeding-safe medication that can address the gas, and give you medical advice related to your diet and lifestyle which may have an impact on your condition.
New motherhood is full of challenges. The sleepless nights and learning about your new baby is all part of it. However, some difficulties like gas do not have to happen.
Watching your diet, taking it slow, giving yourself time and care can help you ease into your new role so that you and baby can have a healthy and happy breastfeeding journey.