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Burping your baby is an important part of their feeding routine. During a feeding, babies swallow some air bubbles along with their formula or breastmilk. Babies need help with positioning to expel that gas, which otherwise can become trapped in the digestive system and cause discomfort. Read on for all you need to know about how to burp your baby.
When do I need to burp my baby?
All babies are different. Some need to be burped frequently throughout a feed, and others only need a few pats on the back after finishing up. Learning how to burp your baby means paying attention to their individual cues, and using trial and error to find the best burping positions for their unique body.
To start, offer your baby a chance to burp after each breast or halfway through a bottle feed. Then try again after the second breast or at the end of the feeding.
Watch your baby for signs of discomfort. Behaviors like grimacing, pulling away from the breast or bottle, or inability to settle afterward are clues that your baby is uncomfortable. Spitting up after a feeding is usually normal, but could be lessened by offering more opportunities to burp during and after eating.
Which burping position is best?
When learning how to burp your baby, keep a few positional key points in mind:
- Support baby’s head and neck
- Keep their trunk straight, not curled in the fetal position
- Rub or pat their back gently to help expel burps
The best burping position is the one that works best for you and your baby. Different caregivers may have better luck using different positions. Try out different holds to see what works best for you. And make sure to have a burp cloth ready in the likely event that some spit up comes along with those burps (which is totally normal)!
Over the Shoulder
The most classic burping position, hold your baby over your shoulder to allow gentle pressure on their tummy. Gently rub or pat their back. Sitting or standing is fine – when you’re comfortable, your baby will be more comfortable, too.
Sitting in Caregiver’s Lap
Sit your baby on your lap facing away from you, and make a C shape with your thumb and fingers. Without putting any pressure on the throat area, hold their chin and jaw with your hand and allow the heel of your hand to rest flat on their chest. Babies often love this position and you will feel their bodies relax. Gently rub or pat their back as you wait for those burps to come!
Laying Across Caregiver’s Lap
Lay your baby face down across your lap, supporting their head and neck with your arm or the palm of your hand. In this position, gravity puts gentle pressure on your baby’s tummy to help them expel gas.
What if my baby doesn’t burp?
Your baby may not need to burp! Breastfed babies in particular may need to burp less, as they typically swallow less air than bottle fed babies. If your baby settles down nicely after their feeding and seems content, you may simply have a little one who doesn’t need to be burped much.
If your baby doesn’t burp, but seems uncomfortable, they may have some trapped gas. Arching their back, crying, clenching their fists are all clues that your baby still needs to pass gas. In between feedings, try laying them on their back and gently massaging their belly in a clockwise motion. You can also try to gently “bicycle” their legs, bending one knee up toward their belly at a time.
Along with these exercises, get in the habit of holding your baby with their knees tucked up toward their chest in between feedings. Air bubbles may travel down the digestive system, and holding your baby in the fetal position helps them to pass gas or bowel movements more easily.
If your baby remains uncomfortable after trying these tips, reach out to your pediatrician for advice.