Learning how to burp (or wind) your baby seems like a pretty important skill to master when you have a newborn, and one that goes hand in hand with the feeding routine. But why do you need to do it and how?
Why do you need to burp a baby?
If your baby seems upset or fussy during or after a feed, there’s a good chance they need to be burped.
‘Winding your baby is important, because when a baby feeds, they can occasionally swallow air,’ explains Jordan Davies, midwife and developer of Puriskins Curate Babies Range.
‘This air can become trapped in their stomach, causing discomfort and making them feel full before they are,' she adds. 'By winding, you are helping to expel this air, providing relief and more room for milk intake.’
How to burp your baby
There are a few different ways you can burp your baby. Try them out to discover which position both you and your baby feel most comfortable with. In each position, it’s important to make sure your baby’s head and neck are well supported, and that their back is straight.
1. Over your shoulder
Hold your baby against you, with their head resting on your shoulder. In this position, you can gently rub or pat their back, to help release any trapped air.
2. Lying across your lap
Gently lie your baby down across your lap, supporting their chin and jaw with one hand (making sure you are putting no pressure on their throat). Aim to keep your baby’s head slightly elevated in relation to the rest of their body, to ensure they feel comfortable, then gently rub or pat your baby’s back.
3. Sitting on your lap
Support your baby in a sitting position on your lap, facing away from you, with a hand gently across their tummy and your fingers gently supporting the chin and jaw (again, making sure you are putting no pressure on their throat). Use your other hand to gently rub or pat their back.
How long should you burp your baby for?
There are no rules as to how long you should try to burp your baby for. In general, a few minutes should suffice. Over time, you’ll get to know what’s normal for your baby when it come to feeding and burping. And remember, your baby may bring up a little milk when burping, so it can be handy to position a muslin or towel beneath your baby’s mouth.
When to burp your baby
It’s often thought of as good practice to burp your baby after a feed, although there are no hard and fast rules, and if your baby has fallen asleep at the end of a feed and seems content, there’s no need to wake them to burp them.
You might also find that your baby needs to be burped mid-feed.
‘Some babies will often become fussy and pull away mid-feed when they need burping,’ reveals Davies. ‘Others may not need burping until after they have finished drinking. Generally, if your baby appears uncomfortable, taking a break and winding will usually make them feel better.’
Some signs your baby may need burping include:
Your baby stops feeding (as trapped air can make them feel full)
Your baby squirms or fidget during feeding
Your baby grimaces during feeding
Your baby pulls their knees into their chest (which can be a sign of pain)
Your baby cries during or after a feed
Do breastfed babies need to be burped?
While many people are aware that bottle-fed babies are likely to need to be burped, due to the fact there is a greater chance they will swallow air while feeding, do breastfed babies also need to be burped?
‘The answer is yes, if necessary,’ reveals Davies. ‘If a mother has a vast milk supply and a strong let-down reflex, her baby may need to swallow more frequently to keep up with the milk flow. Swallowing can often introduce more air, causing possible discomfort.
'However, for some infants it may not be mandatory to burp baby if he or she is comfortable during and after the feed, so it’s important to pay attention to their behaviour.’
What if burping your baby doesn’t help?
Burping your baby for a few minutes during and after feeding is all well and good, but what if it doesn’t seem to be helping your baby? If your baby doesn’t seem to be bringing up air during burping, or if they still appear to be uncomfortable or are crying afterwards, it can be distressing, but there are other things you can try.
‘If burping in one position, for example over the shoulder, does not get rid of the trapped air, trying another position, such as placing baby on your lap, may be more effective,’ suggests Davies.
‘If a change in position is not the solution, providing a gentle tummy massage may help – performing circular strokes in a clockwise motion can help with digestion and dispelling air,' she adds. 'Another recommendation is to stretch baby’s legs back and forth – as though they are riding a bicycle – to encourage tummy relief.’
Do you need to burp your baby at every feed?
If your baby seems comfortable (or asleep!) after a feed, it may not be necessary to burp them – and emerging research from a 2014 study has found that burping your baby may not even be necessary at all. Researchers conducting a randomised controlled trial found that there was statistically no significant reduction in colic episodes between burped and non-burped babies over a three-month period. In fact, the babies who were burped during and after feeds actually brought up more milk that the babies who were not burped.
It’s also worth remembering that as your baby gets older, they will become better at feeding, which often results in less air being sucked in. This means you may find that, over time, there is less need to burp your baby.
While burping your baby during and after feeds is usually the norm, it’s clear that every baby’s needs are individual. Watch your baby’s behaviour for clues as to whether your baby needs burping or not.
Last updated: 10-06-2021
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