Burping Babies for New Moms

Reviewed by James Brann, MD
If you are new to parenting, you might be wondering how to burp a baby, or why it needs to be done in the first place? One thing that many people do not realize is that burping a baby is predominately a “Western Culture” thing that first caught on the same time that bottle feeding was introduced. Milk or formula that comes from bottle nipples flows faster than it does from a mother’s breast milk, therefore the baby might have a tendency to take gulps of air in between the sucking of the bottle.
If your baby latches on well to breastfeeding, the need for burping is less than it is with bottle feeding. Also, the position of the breastfeeding infant enables a slower, rhythmic suckling than in babies who use a bottle. This is just one of the many reasons why doctors and pediatricians recommend breastfeeding, however for women who are unable to breastfeed or who choose to use formula instead, the baby will need to be burped.

Why we burp the baby?

You can control the milk flow better when the technique of burping is used, because it lessens the likeliness for the baby to take big gulps of air. Burping also slows down the feeding process and can help to manage “spit ups” in which a baby takes in too much milk all in one feeding. It would be the same as an adult human sitting down and shoveling down a big plate of food without coming up for air or taking a break in between mouthfuls. This is difficult to do, especially for a newborn. Just to be clear, even breastfed babies should be burped occasionally. Feeding the baby at a 45-degree angle or more is best for optimal feeding, and try to keep the latch your baby has on the nipple as firm as possible. Some mothers wrap the baby around their body, instead of allowing the baby to hang down or dangle away from the breast.

Signs the baby needs burping

Your baby will give you signals when it is time to burp, so you don’t need to stop every minute to do it. Watch for discomfort or facial expressions like the baby is struggling to breathe. The baby might start squirming or make a “pained” face. Sometimes, your baby might not need any burping at all. You don’t have to feel like a failure if you do not manage to get a burp out of your baby during – or after – every feeding. It largely depends on how comfortable and how content the baby is, and how fast the baby is feeding. If the baby is steady and relaxed, the need for burping simply might not happen.

How to burp the baby in the most ideal position

Every baby is different, so this might take some practice to learn the best way for your baby. Some people try gentle patting an infant on the back, which can be soothing, yet perhaps not as effective as some of these easy ways to burp a baby:
  • Drape baby over one leg:
    Keep your legs crossed and spread the baby over your thigh so that it pushes very gently against the baby’s belly. Make sure the baby’s head is supported with one hand while you use the other hand to rub or pat the baby’s back and let the burp come out.
  • Shoulder burp:
    Draping the baby over your shoulder is one of the most common methods. Your shoulder should press softly against the baby’s belly, while you gently pat the infant’s back. Make sure the baby feels secure by holding one arm under the infant’s arm, while the other holds the head.
  • Sitting burp:
    Professional baby caretakers use a method of sitting an infant on their lap, while gently pressing the heel of your palm against the baby’s tummy. Make sure to hold the neck and head wear so that it does not flop all over the place. You can lean the infant in a forward position while rubbing the baby’s back.
  • Change sides:
    Some babies burp while changing positions, so try laying the baby down and gently pulling the infant up toward you, and then slowly back down to allow air to rise through the belly.

Burping the baby does not require any sort of expertise or class to take. It just takes practice and getting to know your baby.


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