It's pretty common knowledge that after a baby is fed, they need to be burped. But, while some babies can seemingly burp on command, others spit up when they are burped and many seem to struggle to burp at all.
This last scenario was my experience and it left me wondering what to do if my baby won't burp after feeding —and do I need to be concerned? For those who have a baby in the same anti-burp boat, we have the details you want to know!
What Happens If You Don't Burp a Baby?
When a baby feeds, they are continuously swallowing. During this process, they inevitably swallow air, which becomes trapped in their little belly. If this gas builds up and you don't burp a baby, it can cause discomfort, irritability, and seemingly random spit-up at another time.
It can also make them feel full sooner, which can cause them to wake up early wanting to feed again. By burping them, you help to release this trapped air and make sure that you have a happy baby!
What If My Baby Won't Burp After a Feeding?
Contrary to popular belief, not every baby needs to be burped. Research shows that burping does not decrease the instances of colic or crying episodes, and it can increase the number of spit-up events. The assumption that you need to burp your baby also causes many already exhausted parents to agitate their previously content baby by trying to attain that elusive burp.
So, if your baby seems content and doesn't tend to be gassy, it's likely that nothing bad will happen if you don't burp them. And if you try to burp your baby who is normally gassy, but if nothing comes out, they likely just don't have a burp!
So how do you know if you need to burp your baby? You feel their tummy! If it's hard, then gas is likely trapped and they need to burp. If it is soft, they are likely good to go.
How to Burp a Baby: Three Techniques to Try
Sometimes, your baby won't burp after feeding because the method of burping isn't right for them. Every baby is different so having a few methods for burping your baby in your back pocket is always a good idea.
Most experts recommend burping your baby after every two to three ounces for bottle-fed babies and between breasts for breastfed babies. The intent is for you to gently pat them on the back a few times and then get back to the feed. If a burp does not come out, it may mean that they don't have any trapped gas in their tummy. Here are the different methods that you can try!
Over-Shoulder Burping Technique
This is the classic way to burp a baby. Place their chest against your own with your infant's chin resting on your shoulder. Support their bottom with one hand and gently pat the left side of their back with the other. Aim for the center left, right at the base of their rib cage.
Your stomach is on the right side of your body. However, when your baby is facing you, their stomach will be on your left. This is why it is always best to pat them on the left side.
Seated Burping Technique
For this method, you will sit your baby upright in your lap, making sure to support their head and body by cupping your infant's chin in the palm of your hand and resting their chest on the heel of your hand and wrist. Then, just like with the shoulder method, gently pat the left side of the back.
For this method, make sure to hold onto their jawbone and not their throat.
Laying-on-Lap Burping Technique
For the final method, drape your baby across your legs, supporting their head in the same way as detailed in the seated burping method. The goal is to have them at a slight incline so that their head is positioned higher than their tummy. Then, gently pat them on the left side of their back.
Burping your baby with an open palm can be jarring for your little one. Instead, cup your hand to attain the same result with a more gentle application.
Other Ways to Get the Gas Bubbles Out
If your child is like mine, he or she won't burp after feeding no matter what method you try. Thankfully, there are other ways to help get that trapped gas moving out of their tummy!
This method can be done right after a feed. Simply lay your little one on their back on a flat surface and position yourself at their feet. Next, grab ahold of each of their calves and begin moving their legs like they are riding a bicycle.
After about thirty seconds, fully extend their legs and then gently, but firmly, push their legs into their tummy until you feel resistance. This should let out some gas from their back end, giving them some more room in their tummy! Repeat until their toots stop!
This method should not be done immediately after a feed because it can cause your baby to spit up. However, if burping does not work and 20 to 30 minutes have gone by and they seem fussy, this can be an excellent method to try. Best of all, you just need to lay your baby on a hard, flat surface on their tummy!
Once you lay them down, let them wiggle around. This will naturally massage their belly, helping to release some of the trapped gas. For this method, you always need to supervise, especially if they are unable to lift their head by themselves.
If your baby is not crawling yet, get them motivated to move by placing bright toys just out of their reach.
Bouncing should be used as a last resort because it can bring a higher instance of spit-up events, but when done slowly and gently, bouncing can be another way to help get your baby's burps out.
This method works best when paired with the over-the-shoulder burping technique. However, you can also use it with the seating burping method as well. Just make sure to snag a burp cloth or two in case more than gas comes out.
Ways to Diminish the Need for Burping
Many of us have wondered — it's ok to put a baby to sleep without burping? The last thing you want is for your baby to spit up while they're asleep and you're unable to help them. Thankfully, there are some simple ways to lessen the need to burp your baby and even better facilitate a more productive dream feed.
- Try Dr. Brown's Bottles: Unlike regular bottles, this brand facilitates a vent system in their bottles that helps to prevent your baby from swallowing as much air.
- Adjust Your Nipple Size: If you bottle feed your baby, they may be swallowing too much air because of the speed which the formula is being released. If it's moving too slow or too fast, you can adjust the speed by simply changing your nipple size.
- Consider Switching Formulas: Just like every human on the planet, there are foods that agree with us and there are foods that make us a bit gassy. If you are burping your baby, but they still seem agitated, consider switching formulas.
- Add Probiotics to Their Diet: Formulas with probiotics can help your baby break down their food without producing as much gas. Breastfed babies can get the same benefits from probiotic drops. Just talk to your doctor about dosing before administering these products.
- Change Up Your Diet: For breastfeeding moms, certain foods that you consume can also make your baby gassy. Eliminating these menu items from your diet can help limit their need to burp and pass gas.
- Talk to Your Doctor About Simethicone Gas Drops: For exceptionally gassy babies, simethicone can be a great option. It's a medication that treats gas symptoms. Talk to your doctor about safety and dosing for a child of your baby's age and weight before giving this solution.
- Keep Them Upright After Feeding: By keeping your baby upright for 10 to 15 minutes after feeding, you can help those gas bubbles come out naturally and prevent spit up at the same time.
Many veteran parents will tell you that gripe water is another solution. However, studies have found that "anything (including gripe water) other than breast milk administered to a baby during the first six months may increase the risk of introducing bacteria, causing allergies and irritating the baby's intestines." These products are also not regulated by the FDA and many contain alcohol in them.
Regular Burping Isn't Required for Long
While burping your baby can seem like a tedious task, most parents find that their baby doesn't need to be regularly burped after four to six months. By following the tips for preventing gas, you can cut this time down even more. However, just like every person, there will be times that your older baby still needs to get out some trapped gas. These simple tips can help in those instances as well!