Practical advice for new parents

Burping your Baby

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It is inevitable that when your baby feeds that a certain amount of air will be swallowed along with the food, which is why it is necessary to burp your baby after each feed. While it seems a simple enough exercise, burping your baby can be an intimidating exercise for new parents, and the smaller the baby, the more difficult it can be to burp them.

Why do you need to burp your baby?

Quite simply, for peace of mind for all concerned. A gassy baby will be irritable, cranky and will often spit up. This can lead to frustrating times for both parents as there is little that the baby can do on its own accord to alleviate the problem.

Bear in mind that your baby's control of its internal organs is not fully developed, and sensations such as trapped gas will be a new and very uncomfortable experience for your baby.

How to burp your baby

There's really only two ingredients that you need to successfully burp your baby - patience, and the knowledge that there isn't any one right way to burp a baby. Over time you'll discover which techniques and positions work best to burp your baby, so take the time to experiment a little.

When burping your baby, remember that gently does it, and that air will naturally rise to the surface - no matter which end is pointing up! Also bear in mind that your baby might be likely to 'wet burp' (this is not to be confused with 'throwing up'). Wet burps are simply small amounts of liquid being regurgitated by your baby, and are perfectly normal. Keep a small towel or something similar handy to cope with any wet burps your baby might deliver. Babies are a lot tougher than we generally give them credit for, but there is always the danger of patting your infant too hard when burping him/her. Remember, gently does it and coax that air out of them.

Some of the more convenient positions to try burping baby are:
  • Holding your baby against your chest (chest to chest) with his/her head resting on your shoulder (you can be standing up or sitting upright)

  • Place your baby, sitting up, on your lap or on your knee. You can support baby's head by holding the chin and resting the palm of your hand against baby's chest.

  • Lie your baby down on your lap on his/her chest while supporting the head (which should be higher than the body)

    Of course, you can choose any position you like that is comfortable and convenient to both you and your child, and it's often a good idea to vary the positions from time to time to help stimulate your baby. Just remember to support the head of your baby at all times, and to try to keep the head and chest higher up than the rest of the body.
When you have your baby in one of these positions, gently pat or rub your baby on the back. Be careful not to pat too hard, as all you should be trying to do is to gently coax the air out of your child, and it will come out eventually (and this is where the patience kicks in). If you can manage it, introduce a slight rocking motion. This has an extra effect of calming your baby as you burp him/her, and don't forget that you can always employ singing and talking to your child as extra backup!.

Remember also that you don't have to wait until the end of the feed to burp your baby. You can introduce two or three intermediate burping sessions during the feed, especially if your baby appears restless or irritated during feeding.

As your infant gets older, and more developed, he/she will learn how to eat without ingesting so much air, and the need to burp will diminish over time. As to when you can expect to cease burping your baby, well that will vary greatly from baby to baby. Normally speaking you can expect to burp your child for at least 6 months.

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