Burping baby during and after feedings helps them bring up excess air that they swallow, and helps relieve gas and other discomfort.
Today, we’ll cover how to burp your baby, including exactly why it’s vital, positions you should use, when and how often you should burp baby, and other ways to help relieve gas and discomfort from air buildup (and cut down on swallowed air in the first place).
Why is burping baby so important?
Burping baby is vital because baby swallows air during every nursing or bottle-feeding session.
(Babies who are bottle-feeding, drinking quickly, or nursing from a breast with a strong let-down are especially prone to swallowing air, because they may be taking in too much milk or formula too rapidly. But all babies will swallow at least some air.)
If too much air builds up in baby’s stomach, they may feel full before they’ve actually had enough to eat. They may also become gassy and uncomfortable. And if the uncomfortable feeling leads baby to become fussy (or start “colicky crying”), they may take in even more air. This may lead to increased crankiness, and sometimes, spitting up.
(Baby may also experience more air buildup if they have an intolerance to an ingredient in their formula, or if they’re breastfed and their mother eats foods that are most likely to cause gassiness.)
But burping baby helps release that air and relieve those discomforts (or stop those discomforts before they start.
How do you burp baby?
- “Burping” baby means gently patting or rubbing their back to help them release air.
- Cupping your hand to pat or rub keeps the “burp” gentler than using a flat palm.
- Pat or rub for about a minute.
- Most babies only need this gentle burping. But for some babies, you may need a slightly firmer rub or pat to get the air out.
When and how often should you burp baby?
If you’re bottle-feeding, burp baby after every 2-3 ounces they drink.
If you’re breastfeeding, burp baby when you have them switch breasts (or about halfway through the feeding, if you don’t switch breasts during the same nursing session).
Even if baby gets sleepy (or falls asleep) during a feed, you should still burp them to help release the air. Just do so more gently.
And regardless of how you feed baby, you also need to burp baby after the feed is finished.
But some babies will need burping more often.
If your baby is usually gassy, is prone to spitting, seems fussy or uncomfortable during feeding, or has gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD or acid reflux), burp them after every ounce they drink (if bottle-feeding) or after every 5 minutes (if breastfeeding).
Baby burping positions
You can burp baby in any of these common positions. Stick with the one that’s most comfortable for both of you, and that works best for getting baby to burp effectively.
With all these positions, keep a burp cloth or towel on hand to catch any spit-up. Position it on your shoulder, or under baby’s chin. Or, have baby wear a bib instead.
Learn more about some of the common burping positions from Sky Ridge Medical Center:
Burping over the shoulder:
- You can use this position whether you’re sitting upright or standing.
- Place a burp cloth on your shoulder.
- Hold baby close against your chest, and position them so they’re looking over your shoulder. Their chin should be resting on your shoulder.
- Support baby under their bottom with one hand.
- Use the other hand to burp baby.
Burping over the elbow:
- You can use this position whether you’re sitting upright or standing.
- Place a burp cloth under baby’s chin.
- Hold baby so they’re facing away from you.
- Have the side of baby’s head rest on the inside of your elbow. Support baby’s stomach with your hand and their upper body with your forearm.
- Holding baby tightly, use the other hand to burp baby.
Burping on your lap (with baby sitting up):
- Place a burp cloth on your lap, under baby’s chin, or one in each position.
- Sit baby on your lap facing away from you.
- Support baby’s chest with one arm and hand. Cradle their chin with that hand (make sure you’re not placing that hand on their throat).
- Burp baby with the other hand.
Burping on your lap (face down):
- Place a burp cloth on your lap, and/or have one ready for under baby’s chin.
- Lay baby across your lap, tummy-down. Their stomach should be on one of your legs and their head should be on the other. Their head should be turned sideways.
- Support baby’s head so it’s slightly higher than their chest.
- Securely hold baby with one hand, and use the other hand to burp baby.
Will baby “grow out” of needing to be burped?
As baby’s digestive system develops, they’ll naturally swallow less air during feedings, and burping will become less important. You’ll likely notice that baby naturally becomes less gassy when they start eating solids.
This varies from baby to baby, though. Some babies may still swallow air and become gassy when they’re a bit older. If you notice continued gassiness, colicky crying, excessive spitting, or other stomach discomfort, keep up the burping routine. The same goes if baby has GERD.
Other ways to relieve or reduce air buildup
What if you’ve burped baby frequently but they still seem like they need more help getting the air out? Try these methods:
- After consulting your doctor, try giving baby a massage.
- Give baby “tummy time” (only when they are awake!)
- Use the bicycling technique (push baby’s legs back and forth when they are on their back).
And how to cut down on the uncomfortable air buildup in the first place? These tips may help:
- Look for signs of fullness and stop the feed when you see them, as overeating can cause baby to swallow too much air. Signs of baby’s fullness may include turning away from the breast or bottle, becoming distracted, or becoming sleepy during a feed.
- If bottle-feeding, select a bottle with a slow-flow nipple and anti-colic valve. These bottles are designed to keep baby from swallowing too much air during a feed.
- Talk to your doctor if you think baby has an intolerance to a formula ingredient. They may suggest switching formulas (only switch formulas after getting the ok from your doctor).
- If you’re breastfeeding, ask a doctor or lactation consultant if certain foods you’re eating may be causing your baby’s gas.
- If you’re breastfeeding and suspect a strong let-down, try pumping a little breastmilk before a feed to slow the flow for baby.
What if baby just doesn’t burp much?
If you’ve used the right burping technique and baby doesn’t seem to burp much, they’re just fine as long as they don’t seem uncomfortable. Some babies naturally swallow less air, and some babies pass enough gas to reduce their need for burping.
Of course, if baby doesn’t seem to be burping enough and still seems uncomfortable, talk to your pediatrician. They can help you figure out what’s causing baby’s discomfort.
All health-related content on this website is for informational purposes only and does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the advice of your own pediatrician in connection with any questions regarding your baby’s health.
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