This is a question I received a while back, and also get asked about a lot. Thought some of you might find it helpful. (Beth Yohalem-Ilsley also adds her expertise to this one.)
My baby is 3 weeks old, and as of this past Monday evening she started grunting through the night, consistently. She sounds like she is trying to push out a poo or gas. I have since started giving her gas drops (Little Tummies), colic calm, and gripe water, none seems to be doing the trick. She gets relief, at least for a short while, when she has a big release of gas or poo, but it doesn’t last long.
She is no longer sleeping peacefully. When I lay her down, she grunts, and moans herself to sleep, even though she was sleeping peacefully in my arms. She is restless and gets her arms out of her swaddle while sleeping. When feeding (BF) she gets over amped up and white knuckles her fists, kicks her feet, and grunts. I have to stop her every 3-5 minutes to burp her because she is sucking too much air.
I have been able to get good burps out of her, but she still remains fussy. I am finding that she is throwing up about 1 meal a day… and its not from her gut because its not curdled, it still the milk she just ate.
I went to a naturopath yesterday and they tested me and found that I am sensitive to dairy, gluten, chocolate, and coffee, so I have eliminated those. My ped recommended the Mylicon gas drops, which we have tried, but with little success..
I have been putting her on her tummy, laying across my lap, and massaging her back, which is also massaging her belly on my legs.. I would get a little bit of relaxation from her at times, but in most, it just irritated her more.
Any suggestions or thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
Your experience sounds similar to others that I have heard from. Babies around 3 weeks of age often start to become more gassy and fussy, and parents often are mystified by this. However there are a few things you could try to ease this time for her.
You mention the feedings being difficult for her to manage. Sometimes a lactation visit can help with this, as you could work with some positioning that might help (and it is hard to think of new positions when you are brand new to nursing!). You might try a position that uses gravity to slow the flow of milk to your baby (often when they white knuckle like that they are struggling with the flow being too fast, and just trying to hang on and get what they need—kind of like drinking from a garden hose!). They suck air because they are trying to suck, swallow and breathe (in that order, usually) and they are just getting hit with milk too fast to breathe slowly. So they gulp, and in turn it causes burps and gas that need a lot of management afterward. (There are other things it could be as well, like reflux, but I think your Ped would be a good person to take a look at that, and there are so many ways to work on the breastfeeding first before we start to diagnose anything else. You can find a lot of different nursing positions on http://www.kellymom.com.)
It might take up to 3 weeks to get the allergens out of your system (and hers) completely, so sometimes there is just the waiting period. In the meantime, try using the baby yoga hold with her, either in arms or in the sling/wrap. This can be done by placing her back to your chest and holding her legs in a flexed position at the hip level. Keep her back straight, but allow her legs to be bunched up. You will be surprised how much easier it is to get gas or burps out in that position.
You can also use some baby massage to ease her digestion. Baby massage is wonderful for so many things (including good sleep patterns and weight gain!) but can be done with just some tummy strokes to relieve some gas. There is too many details to go into here, but there are baby massage vides everywhere, as well as classes around PDX that would go into more detail with communicating with your child as well as easing her body discomforts.
Regarding the sleep grunting, I would say that many babies this age do a lot of grunting while asleep. Ask at a local moms group about this and a huge show of hands will illustrate how many babies start really grunting at 3 weeks. (I host 2 of these per week in the Providence system, all new mamas with babies under 6 mo old are welcome; http://www.providence.org/classes for more info.) Swaddling can make a big difference with this, but you might have to use the bat wings to keep the arms tucked in (arms out really doesn’t help much with swaddling until they are much older, and can suck on their hands for comfort). If you don’t have a source to teach you the ‘bat wing’ technique (we teach it at Providence so many new mamas know how to execute this technique) consider getting a postpartum doula or other professional to show you. (There is a you tube clip on the bat wings now.) You might also try having her sleep at an angle or use some movement at night to ease the grunting. (Many moms use a bouncy seat/vibration chair or use a vibration unit on the baby’s bed to allow the parents to get some sleep while baby is still being “moved.”)
It sounds like you are trying many things already that will help, and hopefully some of these suggestions can ease her way as well as yours! I do think you would benefit from the help of a postpartum doula, as they are specialists in this early age and transition into parenthood when you are learning how to interpret your newborn’s behavior. There are many wonderful postpartum doulas in PDX, and they can really make a big difference when you are learning so many new things all at once.
Congrats on welcoming your little one and I hope things resolve for you soon!
Kimberly Bepler ABC Doula Service
Sometimes little ones who seem so calm and peaceful for the first 2 weeks start showing signs of soft tissue injury right about then and the next few weeks. The “injury” is caused from the crazy process of being born but it take a few weeks before the soft tissue forms enough to show signs of damage (even slight amounts). I’m not sure what the birth story of your baby is but the manifestations usually show up as discomfort in certain positions, difficulty in eating comfortably, vomiting after eating and some signs of general discomfort. Infant craniosacral therapy is a wonderful and gentle way to relieve areas of muscle and fascia tension and can be done at any point.
There are also some more specific treatments if the vomiting is due to food sensitivity from your milk and affecting your baby’s digestive tract (since you mentioned learning about your own food sensitivities and it is possible your baby will be affected by what is in your milk). Hopefully your new knowledge about that will help. Another option for you is Shonishin. This is an excellent non-invasive technique that involves tapping and rubbing along the skin of acupuncture points and meridians with small metal tools. There are also Chinese and western herbs that can be given to babies 1 month old and older to assist with digestion. There are a few of us here in Portland that practice eastern medicine for children and also several practitioners who do infant craniosacral therapy. Best of luck in getting through this very difficult transition.
Beth Yohalem-Ilsley Mississippi Health Center