How to burp your baby

Burping a baby can be daunting for a first-time mom. Francoise Gallet looks at when to burp your baby and when not to.

Turning winding into an exercise in ticking off items on a checklist, may lead to a mismatch between expectations and reality. It could also overstimulate your newborn. Rather work with your baby’s cues and see winding as an opportunity for a cuddle.

Not all babies need winding

“It’s a misconception that all babies need burping after feeds,” says Lynda Lilienfeld, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). “If your baby nursed very efficiently and didn’t swallow air, she may not need to burp. Or winds may be buried so deep in their system that they are only going to escape through their bottoms,” explains La Leche League leader, Jane Maasdorp. Protracted efforts to burp a content baby are more likely to overstimulate and irritate her immature nervous system, advises Lilienfeld.

Does my baby need a burp?

Many factors, for example, overactive let-down, a tongue tie, or your baby’s suckling habit, could mean that he’s unable to latch efficiently. Coupled with the immaturity of a newborn’s digestive system, this may mean that your baby could benefit from breaking wind, explains IBCLC Judy Kirkwood.
Also, formula is harder to digest than breast milk, and bottle-feeding is physiologically more taxing for a baby. The result, says Kirkwood, is that bottle-fed babies usually benefit from frequent rest periods and burping during feeds.

Tip: Whether your baby’s breast- or bottle-fed, any signs of distress or discomfort during or after a feed, can be seen as a cue to break wind.

When to wind

“If your baby has gulped and spluttered and obviously swallowed air at the beginning of a feed, then it’s worth interrupting the feed early on to see if a wind will come up immediately,” says Maasdorp. “If the breastfeeding baby has nursed comfortably, but the mom knows she’s inclined to need help with burping, she can wait until after the feed. For babies who feed from both breasts during a feed, Kirkwood suggests burping before offering the second breast.
If your newborn is bottle-fed, Lilienfeld advises that you stop every one to three minutes to give your baby a chance to burp if necessary.

Less air in, less to burp out

An effective latch is the first step to avoid – or at least reduce – the need to wind your baby.
When your baby is bottle-fed, it’s important to hold her in a slightly upright position, cuddled against your chest, with the tip of the teat full of milk. Your baby must be able to close his mouth properly to ensure a good seal, counsels Lilienfeld. When breastfeeding, Kirkwood advises nestling baby to mom like a “well-fitted bra” with baby’s mouth flush against your breast.

Tip: A clicking sound during nursing is a sign that the latch needs attention, advises Kirkwood. She says that women who are struggling with latching should consider consulting a lactation consultation or La Leche League leader.

Burping positions

The fundamentals of breaking wind involve keeping baby upright and using firm pressure, explains Kirkwood. It’s also important to stay calm. “Let winding be a relaxed opportunity for a cuddle,” she says.

Kirkwood suggests these positions and techniques:

  • Tummy to mommy: Rest your baby’s tummy against you while firmly patting his back.
  • The colic hold: Hold him with your arm underneath the length of his body and head, facing outwards at your elbow. Firmly pat his back.
  • On your knee: Drape him over your knee and gently bounce him while you slowly wiggle his bottom.
  • Bicycle baby’s legs: This can help dislodge wind from baby’s bottom.
  • Add some bounce: Gently bounce him on a birthing ball while you burp him.
  • For older babies: Sit him upright on your lap, leaning his weight forward on the heel of your hand and then pat his back firmly.

When to stop

As a general rule, try to burp your baby for five to ten minutes after his feed, and only if he seems to need it, suggests Lilienfeld.

There’s no standard rule for how many burps a baby needs to have made before he’s content. “Each mom needs to get to know her baby,” advises Maasdorp. If you aren’t able to get a wind out, try ‘wearing’ your baby in an upright position. Burping then becomes incidental, rather than a dedicated, time-consuming activity, she suggests.

As your baby develops greater mobility and his digestive system matures, he will eventually need less and less winding. “Normally around 16 weeks, trapped wind becomes less of a problem for babies,” explains Kirkwood.

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