How to burp your baby

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Created on Sep 27, 2023 · 5 mins read

The skills you learn as a new parent are endless, from the swaddle to the first nappy change, you will soon master a host of expertise you never imagined. Burping is something you probably never thought would become such a big part of your life.

If you find your little one gets fussy or cranky after nursing or bottle-feeding, it’s likely they have some trapped gas – how pleasant! Air can easily get stuck after gulping down all of their meals and build up throughout the day, which is why you often find they are fussier in the evening or overnight. This discomfort will come out in crying or distress (something that will be ever too common), which is when you will have to get the hang of the tips and tricks.

How to know when you need to burp them

For starters, every baby is different when it comes to gas but you’ll figure out pretty quickly what your baby needs. Not all babies will need to be burped, and the ones that do more often will likely grow out of it after a few months thankfully. In general, though, bottle-fed babies tend to need burping more than breastfed ones. The telltale sign your baby has some built-up wind is if within minutes after laying them down they start to squirm or grumble. Picking them up and resting them right on your shoulder should begin to settle them.

The logistics of burping

Luckily, you only need to dedicate about a minute or two out of your jam-packed schedule to burping. It could happen immediately after eating or within a few minutes with some pressure on their tummy. If, however, your little one seems to remain uncomfortable, speak with your doctor to get further help for relieving gas.

It’s always a good idea to keep your trusty burp cloth close by or over your shoulder in case a little vomit or milk comes back up. It’s nearly impossible to escape a day fully unscathed, but it doesn’t hurt to try!

Focusing on the left side of your baby’s back will target where their stomach is located; efficiency is key!

There are a few positions you can try, as some will work better for different babies than others.

  • Shoulder: Your shoulder is the perfect area to put pressure on their tummy while holding onto their bottom with the other hand.
  • Face-down on your lap: With their stomach on one of your legs, rest their head on the other leg to gently pat their back. This is a simple and easy way to keep them comfortable.
  • Sitting up: Tuck their body on top of your lap in a seated position, with them leaning a little bit forward. One arm should be used to support their chest and head while the other is doing the work.

Times of the day you need to burp

While breastfeeding, it’s key to burp when you’re switching breasts for extra milk. If the baby has swallowed too much air, they might confuse that for fullness and refuse any more. When this happens mid-feed you will know it’s time to burp.

On the other hand, bottle-feeding is another beast altogether. It is suggested that you burp your little one halfway through their bottle or at times when they appear uncomfortable. It’s best to always burp after the feeding is *finally* over and switching positions can help move along the process. But you’ll work out what works best for you and your baby.

What if my baby is asleep?

Sometimes you will even need to burp your baby while they’re sleeping. A newborn can truly sleep through anything when they choose to! Drifting off while nursing is beyond natural, but sometimes trapped air while asleep can lead to even fussier babies and waking soon after you place then down. So, it’s better to get a burp in to avoid delayed discomfort. Here are a few possible positions to keep your little one sleeping peacefully.

  • Move them up onto your shoulder: Relocating them this much might seem like an impossible feat, but if your baby is already in a semi-upright position, try to swiftly get them onto your shoulder. This position keeps them cozy and the pressure from your shoulder will release the air.
  • Rock on your arm: Sometimes called ‘sloth hold’, which might help you get a visual idea of this one. Move your baby so that their body is relaxing on your forearm with the support coming from the bend of your elbow. After letting their legs dangle across your arm, a gentle pat should lead to the desired burp.
  • Lower chest hold: This position is almost identical to the shoulder movement, except it’s lower on your body and less movement for the sleeping baby. Your little one will naturally curl up against you, making it easy to tap on their backs to get rid of the gas.

What to do if burping doesn’t work?

If you’ve tried all of these positions asleep or awake and your baby is still quite distressed after multiple attempts, don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor. Continuous unsettled behaviour could be due to some other issue, so speak with your GP who may be able to offer other suggestions as to why your baby is unsettled or may prescribe medication or over-the-counter remedies.

In the end, burping is a skill you will become very well seasoned in, with rose-coloured memories looking back on the hundreds of shirts tossed in the laundry after.

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