Burping your baby: Understanding the why and how

Burping your baby: Understanding the why and how

It is natural for new mothers to have different kinds of worries when it comes to feeding babies safely and efficiently. Now, you might be aware that burping the baby after feeding is a tradition that is followed not only in India, but all over the world. However, this is not just a tradition, as burping after a meal is necessary for the health and comfort of your baby. In this article, you will find out why burping is needed and what are the best ways to do it.

Why do you need to burp the baby?

When your baby drinks milk, they end up swallowing a little air along with the milk or formula. This is especially true when the baby is bottle-fed or drinks milk very quickly. Since they end up swallowing air, the air bubbles get trapped in their tummy. This makes them feel full and even uncomfortable, which can make them quite cranky. Burping the baby after feeding brings up any air that’s accumulated.

How often should you burp the baby?

If you’re bottle-feeding the baby, burp him or her once and usually when he or she is half-way through the milk. This will stop them from feeling uncomfortably full and make room for more milk. When you’re breastfeeding, burp the baby once you’re done with one breast and before you switch to the other. If the baby is only able to feed on one breast at a time, then just burp him mid-way.

Burping vs. spitting up vs. vomiting

Burping happens when the baby releases the excess air that gets trapped when he is feeding. Sometimes, when babies burp, they end up spitting up too. This is also known as wet burps. Spitting up is the process in which the stomach contents force open the sphincter and come flooding back up the food pipe. However, this flow is quite easy and happens when the baby burps.

Vomiting, on the other hand, is when forceful stomach contractions cause the stomach contents to come out through the mouth. While spitting up brings up only small amounts of milk and doesn’t cause any distress to your baby, vomiting is a completely different story. Plus, vomiting at that age could also indicate a serious health issue. So, if your baby is vomiting after every feeding or if there’s any blood in the vomit, contact your doctor immediately.

The best positions for burping a baby

You might wonder how to burp a baby in the best possible way. So, here are some of the most comfortable positions you can try:

While walking

Do this only if your baby has good head control. Hold him upright in front of you while you’re walking. Then, put one hand across the tummy and one under the bottom to apply pressure.

Sitting up

Hold the baby in a seated position on your lap, and use one arm to rub his back, while using the other to support his head and chest.

On the shoulder

Hold the baby against your shoulder and support his bottom with one hand. Use the other hand to rub his back and cause him to burp.

Try the positions one by one and stick with the one that works best for you and the baby.

Useful tips for burping your baby

  • If your baby is cranky in the middle of a feeding, it's probably due to air bubbles. So, make sure you burp him or her immediately.
  • Every baby is different - a gentle pat works for some while others require a slightly stronger rub.
  • Always keep a bib or burp cloth over your outfit in case the baby spits up.
  • While patting the baby, focus on the left side of the back. That's where the stomach is, and focusing on the area will make him or her burp more quickly.

What if your baby doesn’t burp after feeding?

While you need to make sure that your baby burps after every feeding, don’t be alarmed if he or she doesn’t burp. Some babies pass gas very frequently so they don’t need to burp after every feeding. Other babies just don’t swallow as much air, so they don’t really need to burp. As long your baby seems to be gaining weight and isn’t getting cranky or uncomfortable after the feeding, there’s no need to worry.

The bottom line

Burping is the best way to make sure your baby isn’t uncomfortable, and consequently cranky. It also makes sure that your baby doesn’t start feeling full before he actually is, and becomes undernourished in the process. Finally, regular burping also helps control spit-up.