Both breastfeeding and bottle feeding take practice with both parents and baby adapting to something new. When it comes to how to feed babies, we are given information on breastfeeding techniques or the best formula to use but there is little education when it comes to burping babies. All babies will need burping but some are gassier than others so the amount of burping required will vary.
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Why it is important to burp your baby
As your baby feeds, they take in air bubbles as they swallow, which can lead to discomfort and pain. If this discomfort is ignored your baby will become distressed and will go on to have difficulty with further feeding.
For some babies, burping comes easy and for others, it is more tricky so it is important to find a good burping routine. If your baby naturally brings up gas it is still important to try to wind in case there is remaining gas trapped in the stomach.
When to burp your baby
There are no hard and fast rules as to when to burp your baby—they are all different, as we know. If you have an older child you may have an idea of how to burp your baby but that does not mean that your new baby will follow the same patterns.
You are most likely burping your baby after a feed but it is important to observe your baby and try to read their body language for any signs of discomfort. If you notice that your baby is struggling to continue with a feed you can bring them up to burp and return to feedings when they bring wind up.
For breastfeeding parents, you might get into a routine of burping in-between changing sides to feed. If you are bottle-feeding your baby, a rough guide could be bringing them up to burp after every ounce that they drink.
You may need to repeat this process several times throughout the feed. If you have a baby that is not very gassy then you can simply burp at the end of the feed or a few minutes after.
A lot of babies, especially younger babies, will feed in their sleep both during the day and at night time. This will be a common occurrence in breastfeeding babies but some bottle-fed babies will fall asleep as they are propped up feeding.
Do not be tempted to just lay your baby back down after a feed, it is good practice to burp them even while asleep. Even babies that are not too gassy will feel discomfort if they try to sleep on a full stomach that has not been ended.
This is because babies will generally feed more during sleep as they are in a comfort zone in which they are enjoying feeding and may over-eat.
The best position to burp your baby
You will want to keep a muslin cloth or a bib on hand in case your baby brings back any of their food. If your baby does bring up milk straight after a feed this is completely normal so try not to worry.
If they consistently bring back milk and they are not feeding as much as they should you can speak to your family physician for advice.
Any signs of under-feeding will be picked up at your post-natal check-ups and weigh-ins. Once you have your cloth you will need to sit up straight and take up one of the below positions:
For all positions, you will need to support the baby’s head and neck and ensure that they are not curled up and their back and tummy are straight.
Sitting on your Lap
As we generally feed our baby while sitting down with the baby in our lap, the most common way to wind a baby is sitting down. In this position you should face the baby away from you with your hand spread flat on their chest. Be sure to support their head and chin but do not put pressure on the throat. Lean your baby forward slightly and gently pat or rub their back.
On your shoulder
You can burp a baby on your shoulder either in the seated position or standing up. Gently place baby over your shoulder supporting their head and neck with one hand and patting/rubbing their back with the other.
Lay across your lap
Lots of babies love burping in this position. Simply lay the baby face down on your lap supporting their chin without putting pressure on their chest and gently rub their back.
You should only need to burp your baby for one or two minutes so if it is regularly taking much longer you may need to try a new technique.
Why isn’t my baby burping?
Some babies may not be very gassy at all and only need burping now and again or release just a small amount of wind. This is especially the case as they get older and become more acquainted with feeding so take in less air. If your baby is not fussy and does not look uncomfortable then don’t worry if they don’t burp.
If your baby usually has lots of wind and is struggling to burp try not to worry, a change in technique may help get any stubborn gas up. Your baby may be struggling to burp if you notice any of the following behaviors:
- Clenched fists
- Arched back
- Drawing legs up towards the stomach
- Trouble sleeping
- Trouble feeding
Usually, babies will struggle to burp when the wind is trapped rather than it being a medical concern.
How to help my baby burp
There are many options you can try to help your baby if they are finding it hard to burp.
The most common mistake people make when burping babies is to pat the baby’s back directly behind the ribs. It is better to put your hand further down from the ribs, just above the baby’s stomach area to help bring up stubborn wind.
Wriggle your baby’s legs
You can help your baby expel gas by gently moving their legs up towards their stomach and moving back and forward or rotating. The motion is similar to a bicycling motion and it is a great technique for when older children have trapped gas too. This can help move the gas away from the stomach.
If you burp your baby sitting down you can try the shoulder position and walk around the room. The motion of walking around while patting or rubbing your baby’s back can help to disperse the wind.
Wear your baby
As walking can help with wind and reflux if you have a baby carrier or a sling try walking your baby around the house whilst getting on with your household chores. This will benefit your baby as being in an upright position will help them digest milk more easily and may ease a gassy stomach.
Slow down a little
If your baby is feeding while sleepy they may feel a little lethargic when it comes to burping. While you may want to get them settled and rest yourself, your baby may want to take things at a slower pace so waiting a few minutes in between feeding and burping may produce better results.
If you have tried all of the above ways to help your baby burp you may want to try using gas drops or gripe water. Both are available here or from drug stores and grocery stores and do not cost a lot.
It is, however, advised that you speak to your family physician to make sure the brand that you intend to buy is suitable. If you believe that your baby has reflux do not buy any over-the-counter medications without seeking medical advice.
Baby massage classes are very popular and massaging your baby is a great way to ease discomfort caused by gas. You should follow the steps you learned in class or from a guide book but, generally, the best massage technique is to gently circle the baby’s stomach area in a clockwise motion as the baby lays flat on their back.
Massaging your baby regularly can help reduce the amount of trapped gas they get over time so make this a part of your routine to prevent any periods of stubborn gas.
The most important thing to remember is that it takes time for you and your baby to get to know each other and that means that you will eventually build a way to communicate with one and another. You will quickly come to find a good feeding and burping routine and find strategies that will help when your baby won’t burp.
If you have tried all of the methods of burping above, along with the tips on how you can help them relieve wind, contact your healthcare team for advice. You should also contact medical support if you notice that your baby is burping and bringing milk back regularly or they show severe discomfort as this may indicate reflux.