Burping helps to expel some of the air that babies tend to swallow while feeding, in this blog you will find out everything you need to know about why your baby is burping and the best techniques to help them. Every baby needs to expel, or, more appropriately, burp. In fact, one of the first skills you’ll learn as a mother, on par with learning to change a nappy or fold a pram with one hand, is helping your newborn release that trapped air in his tummy.

Below, we’ll answer some basic questions that will tell you why it’s important to help your little one burp and give you some important tips and considerations. When your baby burps, it is because a lot of gas has built up in his digestive system, causing discomfort.

Why should you help your baby burp?

During the first few years, babies’ sensitivity is very high, so any accumulation of gastrointestinal gas can cause them a lot of pain and discomfort. For this reason, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents help their babies burp frequently, even if they do not show discomfort from gas.

When to burp a baby?

The ideal time to help your baby burp, as recommended by the AAP, is between feedings or immediately after each feeding.

  • If you are breastfeeding, burp your baby before changing breasts.
  • If you’re bottle-feeding, the APP recommends burping every 85 millilitres, up to 6 months.

Tip: Although it’s recommended that you burp your baby after every feeding, the AAP advises that you do it every chance you get.

Support your baby's head and neck, make sure their tummy and back is nice and straight (not curled up), and rub or pat their back gently. You don't need to spend ages burping your baby, a couple of minutes should be enough. There are a few ways to burp your baby. Try them all out and see which works best.
CREDIT: HELENA LOPES / PEXELS

What are the best positions to burp a baby?

Support your baby’s head and neck, make sure their tummy and back are nice and straight (not curled up), and rub or pat their back gently. You don’t need to spend ages burping your baby, a couple of minutes should be enough. There are a few ways to burp your baby. Try them all out and see which works best. The most common positions to burp your baby are:

Over the shoulder

Hold your baby with both hands and lay his tummy on your chest so that he is looking over your shoulder. Make sure his head has enough support. Now hold him with one hand and use the other hand, pointing slightly upwards, to pat his back.

Sitting on your lap

Place your little one on your lap and check that he is well balanced. Use your hands and arms to give him enough support for his body and head. Now hold him with one hand and use the other hand, pointing slightly upwards, to pat his back.

Lying across your lap

Lie your baby across your lap face down. Supporting their chin (don’t put any pressure on the throat area), use your free hand to gently rub or pat your baby’s back.

Tip: Some parents and doctors recommend curving the palm of the hand with which you pat your baby’s back slightly. The air bubble that forms when you move your hand will create more compression in the area, so you won’t need much force.

Additional considerations:

  • Burping sessions should last about one minute and should be as gentle as possible.
  • Make sure your baby has sufficient head and neck support at all times.
  • Always use a cloth or rag to protect your clothing when stimulating your baby to burp. Generally, burping gas will be accompanied by food debris and saliva.
  • If you feel that your baby is gassy, but you can’t get him to repeat, the ideal thing to do is to stop and change position for a minute (from sitting to lying down, for example). Changing the orientation of their body will help the gas bubbles to release.
  • If patting doesn’t seem to be enough, some doctors recommend laying your baby on his back and moving his feet up and down gently.

What if my baby won’t burp?

If these methods don’t work and your baby shows signs of trapped wind (crying, arched back, drawing legs into tummy, clenched fists), try lying them on their back and gently massaging their tummy. Also, move your baby’s legs back and forth – like they’re riding a bicycle. If this doesn’t work, talk to your health visitor, and they’ll be able to advise you on the best thing to do.

What to do if burping is not enough?

If your baby is frequently gassy, talk to your paediatrician, they may ask you to change some of the following:

  • Your diet, as he may be allergic to some of your foods.
  • The powdered formula for liquid formula, to avoid the concentration of bubbles.
  • The type of teat to reduce milk flow, as it may be too advanced for your baby.

Remember that it is important to take into account the small details or changes that your baby may present and if you have any more specific doubts, do not hesitate to contact your paediatrician.

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Start4Life. 2022. Burping your baby will get rid of the air they have swallowed while drinking milk. Find out more about burping tips and best positions. [online] Available at: <https://www.nhs.uk/start4life/baby/feeding-your-baby/breastfeeding/how-to-breastfeed/burping-your-baby/> [Accessed 22 June 2022].

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