Tiny babies need help with just about every bodily function, including burping. But sometimes, that bubble just won't come up. Your baby will most likely let you know if a burp is stuck with loud and distressed crying, and knowing what to do if your baby won't burp can save you both a lot of discomfort and stress, because sometimes, the usual shoulder-pat method does not quite work.
If your go-to burp techniques aren't working and your baby still won’t burp, then some simple changes to your routine may help out. “The most common burping ‘mistake’ I see is that parents are patting the baby on their backs [behind] their ribs,” doula Darcy Sauers, aka The Doula Darcy, tells Romper via email. In this instance, a tiny adjustment can make all the difference. “If you move your hand down a bit so that you are patting right behind the stomach area, you are more likely to get that burp out.”
In many cases, however, the baby is actually just fine. “If your baby doesn't burp easily but also isn't fussy, it could mean that they just don't need to burp,” Dr. Beth Oller, MD, a practicing family physician in Stockton, KS, tells Romper in an email, so you don't need to try to force a gas bubble to come up, or panic that something might be wrong if they seem perfectly content. Signs that your baby does need to burp include squirming or grimacing at food.
If your baby does seem to need to release some gas, then here’s some advice and insight from the pros. With just a few tweaks to your usual routine, it’s possible to help your little one get relief in no time. And soon enough, your baby will be mature enough to deal with their gas on their own.
Wear The Baby
Break out the Babybjörn and get moving. “What I have recommended to their parents is to wear the baby in a carrier after their feedings if possible while doing household chores, etc.,” says Deborah Malkoff-Cohen, registered dietitian and nutritionist. The upright position helps the baby’s digestion, and the movement can help move the gas around (and hopefully out), she further explains. In addition to burping, babywearing can also help develop bonding and trust with your little one. (Plus, it frees up your hands for at least a few minutes.)
Wait It Out
Don’t immediately rush into a burping. “Babies are often sleepy immediately after finishing a feed,” says Tori Hamilton, obstetrical registered nurse, lactation consultant, and founder of motherhood support group Mothericity.com. “Burping a sleepy baby can be nearly impossible.” If you’ve ever tried to burp a little one who’s intent on sleeping, then you understand this particular dilemma very well. Instead, waiting for about 10 to 15 minutes after the feeding before trying to burp can be helpful, as she says. Some babies just need a little extra time.
Get Up (And Down)
“A change in elevation can help with burping,” says Hamilton. “For example, walking up the stairs, bouncing up and down, or going from sitting to standing can release a burp.” Try moving around with your little one after feeding time to get those burps out.
Don’t Wait Until Your Baby’s Done Feeding
Mid-meal burps might help things move along “One of the easiest things to do may be to burp your baby more often,” says Oller. Try to burp a breastfed baby when they’re halfway through a meal, such as when you’re switching breasts. For bottle-fed babies, stop and try to burp every 2 to 3 ounces, Oller advises. Over time, you’ll probably fall into a rhythm and have a better sense about when your baby is in need of a burp break during feedings.
Use Infant Massage
Even little babies will find a nice rubdown super-relaxing. “You will get a lot of different answers on what techniques are best, but the most common are gently pressing down on the babies abdomen and massaging in a clockwise motion, laying the baby flat on their back and holding their knees together then flexing them up toward their tummies, or bicycling the legs,” explains Dr. Oller.
Use Gripe Water With Caution
Sometimes sold as a remedy for colicky, gassy babies, gripe water is generally not used by the experts. “I would not recommend using any over the counter preparations such as gripe water without first running it by your family physician. Some of these preparations can contain alcohol or sucrose, which aren't suitable for infants,” explains Dr. Oller. Plus, it might not necessarily do anything for your little one. “Gripe water is purported to reduce colic from gas pains, but the effectiveness is not recognized,” says Hamilton, who also does not recommend it.
Consider Other Medications
There are some medications that doctors do recommend. “Using something like simethicone (gas drops) to help with gas may be helpful, but as always, run the use of any medication by your family physician before using it,” says Dr. Oller.
Sit Up Tall
Here’s a little modification to the classic burping pose that just might help your little one. “Holding the baby upright on your shoulder or in a sitting position (so that their spine is straight) and firmly massaging upwards along their backs — from belly to neck — is also a great way to encourage a burp to come out,” explains Sauers. Experiment with this upright pose and see if it works for your baby, too.
Although it might take a little time, you’ll eventually discover your baby’s preferred burping technique or techniques. Whether it involves a change in position, some post-feeding movement, or even a conversation with the pediatrician, your baby’s gassy woes can soon be soothed.
Tori Hamilton, BScN, RN, IBCLC, Obstetrical Registered Nurse, Lactation Consultant, and owner of Mothericity.com
Deborah Malkoff-Cohen, MS, RD, CDN, CDE, Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist, Expert in Pediatric Nutrition, and Certified Diabetes Educator/CGM and Insulin Pump Trainer
Dr. Beth Oller, MD, a practicing family physician in Stockton, KS
Darcy Sauers PCD, Doulas of North America (DOULA), The Doula Darcy
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