What You Need to Know About Burping a Newborn

Taking preventive measures of gas buildup makes burping a baby easier. Developing gas that needs to be burped out is a natural, normal process for your baby, so we’re not saying they’ll never be burped if you follow the tips below. But the following tips can help decrease the need for burping and improve the baby’s comfort. Too much gas is uncomfortable for the baby and can become difficult to release. Therefore, you want to do everything you can to prevent too much gas as well as correctly burping them on a regular basis.

Use the Right Bottle

Choose a bottle that’s designed to keep as much milk near the nipple as possible because it minimizes air bubbles. Bottles that are angled, have vents or have disposable liners are good for minimizing air bubbles. You should also always use a bottle that matches the age of your baby. The wrong age bottle nipple can cause the baby to swallow excessive air.

Don’t Feed the Baby Right After Shaking the Formula

When you shake formula to mix it, air bubbles are created inside. You should wait for it to settle to help eliminate some of the air bubbles before feeding your baby. Another option if you don’t want to wait on the formula to settle is to use pre-mixed formula. Or you can stir the formula rather than shake it. Make sure it’s stirred well and at the right temperature.

Find the Right Flow

If milk flows from the bottle or mother’s nipple either too fast or too slow, the baby will swallow more air. When your baby is born you have two different options for 0+ months: preemie nipple and level 1. Preemie nipple has a slower flow than level 1; it’s designed for preemies and newborns who naturally need a slower flow. If you try the level 1 and the baby chokes, coughs, has milk dripping from their mouth or refuses the bottle, this means it’s too fast. You’ll need to drop down to the preemie nipple even if your baby wasn’t born prematurely.

How do you know when it’s time to move up a level? Signs that the baby is ready for a faster flow are taking longer to feed and becoming irritated or fussy while feeding. Bottle nipples will usually clarify what age the level is meant for as well. Level 2 is for 3+ months, and level 3 is for 6+ months.

If you breastfeed and you have an overactive flow, it can be helpful to try different breastfeeding positions until you find what works for your baby to comfortably feed. You could also try nursing twice on one breast before switching.

Position the Baby’s Head Higher Than Their Stomach

Whether you’re bottle feeding or breastfeeding the baby, you should position their head higher than their stomach. This makes it easier for them to burp because milk has an easier time flowing to the bottom of their stomach with air floating to the top. You can use a nursing pillow for support. When bottle feeding, tilt the bottle up to help prevent air bubbles in the nipple.

Regularly Burp Them

A recommended rule of thumb is to try burping your baby before switching breasts or every 30-60 mL of formula. And burp them again after they’re done feeding unless they fell asleep. If the baby fell asleep while feeding, then they typically don’t have any gas that needs to be immediately released. Waking them up for burping will only cause them stress and upset. You can safely let them sleep.

Experiment with Burping Positions

If you’re having trouble burping a baby, experiment with different burping positions. Write down which positions seem to work for your baby. Also pay attention to any sequence of burping positions that get your baby to burp. Sometimes, a baby doesn’t respond to a single burping position but a certain sequence.

Most burping positions involve sitting the baby in an upright position and then patting or rubbing their backs. Pay attention to whether patting or rubbing works better for your baby as this is another nuance that can make a difference in successfully burping a baby.

Examples of burping positions to try:
  • Over-knee – Lie your baby down on their stomach over your knee.
  • Over-hand – With the baby sitting on your lap, position the heel of your hand over their stomach and the top of your hand under their chin. Gently lean them forward.
  • Over-lap – Situate your baby sitting on your lap with the heel of your hand applying a small amount of pressure under their ribcage.
  • Over-shoulder – Position your infant with their belly over your collarbone.
  • Knee-to-chest – Gently apply the baby’s knees to their chest.
  • Over-arm – Hold your baby over your arm and walk around the room.
  • Grandmother’s – With the baby sitting on your lap, place the heel of your hand over their stomach and your fingers on both sides of their chin. Rub your thumb and index finger up their spine rather than patting or rubbing their back with the palm of your hand.

For all of these positions except for grandmother’s burp, you must pat or rub their back to encourage the burp.

Always be prepared for the baby to potentially spit up during burping. Position a burp cloth on your shoulder or wherever their mouth is to help minimize the mess in case they spit up. Spitting up every once in a while isn’t something to be concerned about. However, if an excessive amount is spit up or they are doing it frequently, there may be a health issue.

Try an Alternative Method of Burping

Still unable to burp the baby? If none of the positions above work, you can give your baby a gentle massage, walk upstairs while carrying the baby, lightly bounce them on your lap to assist with the burp or “bicycle” their legs while they’re lying on their back.

Keep in mind that some babies just may not need to burp. Pay attention to their signals to know whether or not this is true. Signs of discomfort mean they do indeed need to burp, so be patient and don’t give up. Once you learn what works for your baby, the process becomes easier.

Breastfeed as Much as Possible

Babies swallow more air through bottle feeding than they do breastfeeding, so breastfeed them as much as possible. Try to limit your intake of dairy products if you breastfeed because this can cause more gassiness in the baby. Eat a lot of nutritious foods as well. You can keep a food diary to try determining which foods upset your baby’s tummy. Foods that give you gas aren’t necessarily the ones giving your baby excessive gas.

Try Different Types of Formulas

Experiment with different types of formulas to find what brand settles well with your infant. Some brands are designed to be easier on their stomach, digest more easily and reduce gas. If those still don’t seem to agree well with the baby, then check with your health care physician to see if the baby may have a problem digesting milk. You can find non-diary options in formula when this is the case.

Take the Baby to the Doctor

If you are doing everything outlined above and your baby still has trouble burping or seems to have an excessive amount of gas to the point of discomfort and upset, then you’ll need to take them to the doctor. They may have a health problem or illness. It’s not recommended to self-diagnose with over-the-counter gas relief medications. They aren’t that effective and shouldn’t be relied on for burping a baby. They can offer relief when all else fails but only if the doctor advises it.

Burping a baby is easy once you know all of this important information and you have learned through reading your baby’s cues what works for them and what doesn’t. By following all of these tips, you will likely find that your baby doesn’t need to be burped that often and will burp faster when they do need to release gas.

However, you must always work to burp the baby during and after feeding whether they burp often or not. You simply can’t tell if they need to burp or not by looking at them. The point that you can see visible signs of discomfort isn’t a good thing, so always make sure to burp them on a regular basis to avoid gas buildup.