Why Burping Your Newborn Is So Important

If you’re a new parent, one of the first skills you’ll get lots of practice at is burping. All babies get gas (air trapped in the gastrointestinal system) that needs to be released, and burping is the best way to help your baby get rid of that gas.

Why babies need to burp

Lauren Adler_02R WEB72
Lauren Adler, MD, FAAP

When gas bubbles get stuck in your baby’s stomach, they can easily cause your baby to feel full and uncomfortable, which then most likely will cause him/her to squirm or cry.

  1. Digestion. The bacterial breakdown of certain foods in the large intestine can naturally create gas. This includes food that the baby consumes as well as what the mother eats or drinks and passes on in her breast milk.
  2. Allergic reaction or food intolerance. If your baby is breastfeeding and has an intolerance to certain foods from your diet or to a type of formula, his/her body may react by creating more gas. Dairy intolerance is the most common culprit in this instance.
  3. Your diet. If you’re breastfeeding it is possible that something in your diet could be causing your baby’s discomfort. According to the National Institutes of Health, foods that contain carbohydrates are more likely to cause gas, as well as dairy (milk, cheese, ice cream), beans, certain vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts), sugar-free candies and gum, soda and fruit drinks. Changing your diet can help but it can be hard to pinpoint which food or drink is causing the gas because some foods take weeks to get out of your system. Plus, foods that produce gas in one person may not cause gas in another.
  4. Allowing too much air to enter your baby’s formula. Shaking vigorously after adding water to formula actually adds lots of air to the liquid, which then can lead to excess gas. Instead, try premixed formula, or let the bottle settle before giving it to your baby.
  5. Nipple flow. Bottle nipples come in a variety of flow options that are usually classified by age (preemie, newborn, 3-6 months, 6+ months, etc.). If you’re using a nipple that is too advanced for your baby, it may be releasing the milk or formula too fast, making the baby gulp, sputter and swallow a lot of air in the process. At the same time, if you are using a nipple that is too slow for your baby, it may cause your baby to suck too hard to get the milk out faster, thus swallowing a lot of air. Instead, choose an age-appropriate nipple to try to limit the amount of air swallowed during feedings.

When to burp your baby

Babies often swallow air when they feed, either from breast or bottle, which hurts their little tummies and can make them fussy. By burping your baby frequently during and after each feeding, you can hopefully keep painful gas pains to a minimum.

At Westchester Health Pediatrics, we recommend burping your baby during feeding breaks and when he/she has finished eating. For breastfeeding moms, we recommend burping before switching breasts. For bottle-feeding moms, we recommend burping between every 2-3 ounces for newborns up to 6 months old.

4 best positions for burping your baby

  1. Hold your infant upright with his/her head on your shoulder. Support your baby’s head and back while gently patting him/her on the back with your other hand.
  2. Sit your baby on your lap. Support your infant’s chest and head with one hand by cradling his/her chin in the palm of your hand and resting the heel of your hand on your baby’s chest (be careful to grip your baby’s chin, not throat). Use the other hand to gently pat your baby’s back.
  3. Lay your newborn face-down on your lap. Support your baby’s head, making sure it’s higher than his/her chest, and gently pat or rub your baby’s back.
  4. If your baby doesn’t burp after a few minutes, change the position and try burping for another few minutes before feeding again. Always burp your baby when feeding time is over, then keep him/her in an upright position for at least 10-15 minutes to avoid spitting up.

When to worry that it’s more than gas

Burps, passing gas and spit-up from babies are completely normal. Projectile vomiting is not. If your baby is violently vomiting up large amounts after feedings, contact your pediatrician to look for other causes. If your baby has a temperature over 100.4F degrees, diarrhea, bloody stools or is so fussy that he/she can’t be settled down, the burping may be a sign of something more serious going on.

Want more guidance about burping your baby? Come see us.

If you’re wondering whether you’re burping your baby properly, if your baby seems overly gassy and you want some advice on what to do, or if you have other questions relating to your baby’s health and well-being, please come in and see one of our Westchester Health Pediatrics pediatricians. Together, we’ll figure out what’s going on and work out solutions that bring relief to both you and your baby.

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By Lauren Adler, MD, FAAP, Lead Pediatric Physician with Westchester Health Pediatrics, member of Northwell Health Physician Partners