Baby, Breastfeeding, Newborn (0-3m)

Burping a Baby – Everything Parents need to Know

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Burping a baby isn’t easy.

My first child struggled to burp. She was frequently gassy or fussy after feedings because we struggled to find a burping system that worked for her. I only knew one method (the over the shoulder). After a few months of frustration, I finally researched how to help babies burp and found an amazing flood of information, ideas, and techniques to try out!
Here’s everything I learned; no mama should ever have to struggle like I did ever again!

Why do we need to Burp Babies?

First of all, let’s chat about WHY we even do this! Why does burping matter? After all, it takes a lot of time and effort. Every mom and dad should have the peace of mind in knowing why they are doing what they are doing- so here’s the reasoning behind burping your baby.

baby wearing cute white hat with ears, being burped on shoulder
  • When feeding, babies swallow air that may cause pain or discomfort.
  • Babies who burp are less likely to be gassy.
  • Babies who burp are less likely to be fussy or upset.
  • Burping is great bonding time for parent and child. This is a wonderful way to include dad in feeding and caring for a newborn.
  • Burping provides healthy stimulation for the baby, such as touching, patting, rocking, talking, kisses, etc.
  • When a mom or dad is successful in helping a baby burp, it builds their self-confidence and reassures them that they can handle this crazy roller coaster called parenting.

When to Burp a Baby

How do I know when a baby needs to burp? Well, that depends on your baby. Remember that every newborn is an individual and will have different needs. Be attentive to what your baby is communicating to you by watching for their nonverbal cues.

For breastfed babies, a good rule of thumb is to burp the child when you switch sides in the middle of the meal and again when the baby is finished eating.

You may also like:

5 Benefits of Homemade Baby Food

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For bottle-fed babies (whether expressed breastmilk or formula), babies may need to burp more often. Be aware of the baby’s body language. How does your baby show that he is uncomfortable? Does he arch his back, or get fussy? Does he turn away? If your baby is showing these signs, he may need to burp. If the baby is comfortably eating, follow the same rule as a breastfed baby – burp once in the middle of the meal and again after the baby finishes eating.

How to Burp a Baby?

There are four techniques for burping babies. That’s right, four! Again, I had never heard of three! This information can save mamas from a lot of frustration. Try them all out and see what works best for you and your little one.

Over the Shoulder

This method is the most common. Mom or dad can sit or stand up to use this burping method. The baby should be facing you.

Young mother sitting outside on a park bench burping her adorable baby boy over her shoulder
  1. Hold him against your chest with his chin on your shoulder.
  2. Put one arm under his butt to support him and lean slightly back so that the child can lay against you.
  3. Rub and pat firmly between the child’s shoulders. Move your hand up and down the baby’s back as you pat. This helps to loosen up any air bubbles in his tummy.

Modified Over the Shoulder

If you are struggling to help your child burp, you might want to try this slight variation on Over the Shoulder burping. Use the same basic positioning as the Over the Shoulder method. The baby faces you, you may sit or stand, the child leans into you for support.

Grandmother burping grandson after meal. Isolated on white background.
  1. In this variation, hold the baby slightly higher on your shoulder so that your shoulder presses lightly on the child’s belly. This creates just enough pressure to release the burp.
  2. It’s important to make sure your baby is comfortable when using this (or really any other) method.
  3. Make sure baby can breathe easily and make sure that he isn’t slouched off to one side. Check in a mirror to make sure!
  4. Pat and rub the baby’s back as you would with all other burping methods.

On Your Lap

Mom or dad will be sitting down. The baby sits on your lap, facing either direction depending on what is comfortable for the parent.

Father sitting on the edge of the sofa in the living room and burping her newborn child after feeding him.
  1. With one hand, the parent supports the baby’s head by placing the index finger and thumb along the baby’s jaw. It is very important not to put your fingers around the baby’s neck or throat as this will cut off the baby’s breathing.
  2. The palm of the parent’s hand is held against baby’s chest for further support.
  3. Again, pat and rub the baby’s back between shoulders as you would with all other burping methods.

Lying on Lap

Mom or dad should be sitting down. The baby lies perpendicular to your body, across your lap.

Mother sitting on the edge of the sofa in the living room and burping her newborn child after feeding him. Her other son is standing behind the sofa playing while his toys.
  1. The parent holds baby’s head by laying one hand flat, palm up. Lay the baby’s cheek against the palm of your hand.
  2. The head should be held even with the child’s body or slightly raised, but never lower than the baby’s body (this would allow blood to rush to the baby’s head).
  3. Pat and rub the baby’s back.

Test these four techniques with your baby. Do which ever is most comfortable, easy, and effective for both you and your baby. If one method isn’t working, move on to the next. You might find that rotating between the four methods works best for you, or switching between two of the four, or maybe there’s just one perfect fit for your baby.

Be flexible and find out what you prefer!

Things to Watch Out For when Burping a Baby

Before we go, here’s just a few extra tips, tricks, and ideas for moms and dads to cut down on any unnecessary burping stress.

Babies don’t have to burp every time. Some babies eat and don’t burp. Just make sure you give it a good, honest try every time! If your baby hasn’t burped after a few minutes, just move on!

Breastfed babies tend to burp less frequently than bottle fed babies. That’s because kids swallow more air when eating from a bottle.

It is common for babies to spit up when they burp. Have a burp cloth, bib or both ready! Lay the cloth under the baby’s head and face to catch any spit up. This will protect your clothes and baby’s too.

A father's hand is holding a newborn baby girl's head up as he attempts to burp her as she is crying.

Keep baby calm by standing, swaying, talking, singing, bouncing, or whatever else your baby loves! Not that burping is a frustrating task for babies… but it’s harder to burp when you’re tense and crying!

Provide lots of stimulation. This is your time with your baby! Treasure it, make the moments count, soak up that little one while he’s little!

If your baby is excessively crying and will not stop no matter what you do, he may have colic and you should talk to a doctor.

Enjoy these tips and techniques! They helped my child, and I’m sure they can help yours too!

For more great information about burping, check out these great resources:
https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/burping.html

I’m Mrs. S at whenfithitstheshan.com. I’ve worked as a paraprofessional, as a preschool teacher, as a behavioral interventionist, as a habilitative interventionist (fancy term for going into homes to help with kids who act out), and as a parent trainer. But, all that doesn’t hold a candle to my experience as a mom. I found out quickly that being trained as a professional and being a mom are two totally different things and I’ve been learning more every day since!

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