Reviewed by: Tabitha Lynn, Certified Doula, Newborn Care Specialist
In the early months, babies have the curious honor of making their parents go gaga over every bodily sound they produce. The burp is a case in point. Have you ever wondered why it’s necessary and what to do if baby doesn’t burp?
Does my baby need to burp?
Babies may need some help with this basic bodily function because the sphincter which controls gas release in the esophagus is still maturing. The main cause of gas is when baby swallows air while feeding (aerophagia). Excess gas can also be related to foods that a breastfeeding mom is eating. Gassiness (or colic) is very uncomfortable for babies and it can be distressing for parents who are trying to resolve their child’s discomfort, so it is recommended to make burping a part of every feed.
Note that not all babies will need to burp. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that breastfed babies may need less burping because they swallow less air than bottle-fed babies. Follow your baby’s cues - if they are fussy or squirmy, you will know that a burp is in order.
When should you burp your baby?
Most experts recommend burping your baby after they take 1-2 ounces of formula or, if you are breastfeeding, when changing sides. It is also recommended to burp them when feeding is over. You may find that your baby needs to burp less.
By the time they are two months old, baby will start to burp independently. As they develop h3er tone in their neck and stomach, they will also stop swallowing as much air. By 4-6 months they will probably outgrow the need to be burped. As always, let your baby guide you and seek out professional support for any concerns you may have.
How to burp your baby
One baby, many experts. Everyone will have a take on the best way to burp. Here are the most popular positions - try them to see what works for you:
Over the shoulder – Sit upright, place your baby with their chest against the front of your shoulder and gently rub or pat their back. With this method, your baby can comfortably use your shoulder as a chin rest.
Sitting up on your lap – Sit your baby upright on your lap and lean them slightly forward. Support their head by cupping their chin with your palm and placing your arm against their chest. Use your other hand to pat their back until they burp.
Facedown on your lap – You may find it comfortable to lay your baby on their belly across your lap. Make sure that their head is a little higher than their body and support it with your hand. Gently pat their back with your other hand.
If you’re burping a newborn, ensure you provide sufficient neck and head support.
Don’t want a messy cleanup? Opt for a towel or bib over your shoulder to protect you and your baby from surprise wet burps and spit-ups.
Burping is a great little task to delegate to another caregiver or friend, so that you can stretch your legs or jump into the shower.
What if my baby won't burp
Any air trapped in your baby’s belly will eventually make its way out from the top or bottom. Here are a few tips to help the process along:
Bounce it out – You may find it helpful to walk around with a gentle bounce if baby is taking their time to burp. Gently bouncing on an exercise ball is useful too.
Cycle it out – Lay baby on their back and gently cycle their legs to release pressure in their belly.
Massage – Gently massage baby’s back. Their head should be tilted to the side, on a slight incline.
If your baby is experiencing ongoing discomfort, consult with your doctor or lactation consultant. Breastfeeding moms may need to think about their own diet, as some foods (such as cabbage, chocolate, onions, garlic, broccoli, dairy, summer fruits, citrus fruits and more) can contribute to gassiness.
Every feeding journey is different and unique to each family. It takes time to establish the best feeding routine and rituals for your baby. You may find that the Emulait bottle, designed to minimize air swallowing (aerophagia), is useful in your journey.
As always, don’t forget to consult with your healthcare provider if you are experiencing feeding challenges or if your feeding journey is impacting your mental health. Join our online community for more tips and support.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only, and does not substitute for professional medical or health advice. Always consult a medical professional or healthcare provided for any medical advice, diagnoses, treatment, or health objectives.