How to Burp a Baby: A Quick and Easy Guide

How to Burp a Baby: A Quick and Easy Guide

Parents do everything in their power to give their babies the life they deserve. But until our children learn how to talk, it’s up to us to anticipate their needs. If your happy baby suddenly starts to fuss during or after a feeding, they might be trying to say “burp me.”

Since newborns and infants can’t release belches on their own just yet, it’s up to us to burp them and free up the gas in their bellies. Although this might seem like a difficult task, don’t despair, as there are many easy tricks you can apply to simplify your burping methods. Before you know it, burping your baby will become second nature.

Why Do Babies Need to Be Burped?

Before you learn how to burp your baby, it’s important to understand why babies need to be burped in the first place. Now, it goes without saying that the younger a baby is, the smaller their stomach will be. And, to be healthy, your baby needs to consume all the breast milk or formula their stomach can handle.

Most of the time, however, your baby is going to swallow some air while drinking his meals, and burping will help them release it. As you can imagine, a small belly full of air bubbles can quickly become something to fuss about. It can also make your baby feel irritable and gassy. Most concerning of all, however, it can cause your baby to feel full, preventing them from consuming their full milk supply. When you burp your baby, you liberate their tummy of air bubbles, allowing them to resume their feeding or drift off into a comfortable sleep.

Signs Your Baby Needs to Burp

Your little miracle may not be able to tell you when he needs to burp. But that doesn’t mean that he won’t show you. By paying attention to your baby’s behavior, you’ll be able to spot the telltale signs that he has some air trapped inside of his tummy.

  • Your baby is bringing his knees up to his chest, locking them in place. This form of scrunching is often used by infants to demonstrate pain, which may be caused by air bubbles in their bellies.
  • Your little one is making a slurping or sucking sound while feeding. When you hear these sounds, your baby is more than likely taking in a lot of air alongside their milk.
  • Your baby suddenly stops drinking their milk. If your baby cuts their feeding short, despite only drinking a fraction of their usual milk intake, they might have air trapped in their stomach.
  • Your baby is acting like drinking milk is a chore. Usually, infants are very happy and relaxed during feedings. So, if they take on a troubled or fussy state, this could indicate that they need to be burped.
  • Your little one is making strange facial expressions. If your baby seems unhappy or disturbed throughout their feeding, they may be attempting to show you his discomfort.
  • Your baby’s tummy feels harder or more bloated than usual. This could be a sign that he has a buildup of gas in his stomach.
  • Your baby is crying, or acting fussy, after their feeding. If you have done everything in your power to make your baby comfortable, but they continue to cry, they may be feeling pain caused by air bubbles.
  • Your baby is producing more gas than usual. If your little one is visibly forcing or farting more than usual, without needing their diaper changed, they may be trying to pass a build-up of gas.
  • Your baby is having trouble sleeping and continues to wake up. There are many reasons why a baby can’t sleep, and needing to be burped is a popular one.
  • Your little one is constantly burping up all of his milk. Constant spit ups are a telltale sign that babies need to be burped more regularly. This often happens because air is trapped underneath the milk in their stomachs, causing them to regurgitate the milk once they burp. This is not to be confused with infant reflux, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which also causes babies to spit up. Unlike spit up, which is caused by air, GERD is the result of a baby’s stomach frequently backing itself up.

How Often Should I Burp My Baby?

Your baby needs to be burped between and after feedings to expel the air bubbles from his system. Typically, your baby will require a good burping halfway through their meal to free up some space in their stomach.

Whether you choose to breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby plays a role in determining when and how often you should burp them. However, keep in mind that you should always burp your baby once their feeding session comes to a close — whether you breastfeed or bottle-feed.

Some babies need to be burped more often than others. And, since indigestion (which can be caused by a breastfeeding mom’s diet) can cause extra gas in the body, your little one may need to be burped outside of their feeding schedule, too.

When Breastfeeding

young pretty mother calmly breastfeeds baby on couch

It can be difficult to determine the exact time your baby needs to be burped. But, a good rule of thumb for breastfeeding moms is to burp your children before switching breasts, which is often considered to be the half-way point of the feeding. If your little angel prefers to stick to one breast per feeding session, keep their standard feeding time in mind and burp them at the half-way mark.

When Bottle Feeding

mother bottle feeds newborn baby on bed

Knowing when to burp your baby can be a little more complicated if you bottle-feed them. This is because some bottles, especially non-vented ones, can cause your baby to consume more air than usual. This results in your child needing to be burped earlier on in his feeding session.

Typically, you’ll want to burp your baby every 2-3 ounces to be safe. Alternatively, burp them right before they start to slow their feeding down, which could indicate that they’re feeling full despite consuming much less than they usually do.

For more information on how to choose the right baby bottle for your little one, check out our guide to the best bottles available today.

What You’ll Need to Burp Your Baby

Burping a baby is far from a glamorous affair but it’s necessary nonetheless. To avoid an unwanted mess, it’s best to gather the needed supplies before you sit down to nurse or bottle-feed your little one. If you’re not already stocked up, be sure to check out our guides to finding the best of the best of all of these essentials.

  • A burping cloth: Your baby won’t wait for you to drape a washcloth over your shoulder if he needs to spit up. So, have one at the ready. Doing this will stop parents from having to change their clothes multiple times a day.
  • A baby bib: You also want to keep your little one’s clothes as clean as possible (although this can be a challenge in itself). Place a bib on your baby before feeding him. This way, if he burps or spits up on himself, you won’t need to change his clothes.
  • Baby wipes: Baby wipes or a wet washcloth go a long way, too. Use whichever one you prefer to wipe your baby’s face clean after he burps.

How to Burp Your Baby: Popular Burping Positions

There are many ways to burp a baby, but there are 3 positions that stand out as the best and most common. Although burping your baby may be a challenge at first, you’ll soon master these positions and find out which one works best for you.

Over Your Shoulder

mom burping baby over her shoulder

The most popular burping position is the one that places your baby looking over your shoulder. It’s most commonly used by parents who are burping a baby under 6 months of age.

  1. Safely hold your baby with their chest against your chest, using your non-dominant hand.
  2. Place your washcloth over the shoulder that your baby is leaning against.
  3. Use your dominant hand to gently rub and pat your little one between their shoulders. Cup your hand to reduce its surface area. Doing so will limit the strength of its impact.
  4. Slide your hand in a downward motion as you gently tap.
  5. Repeat until your baby burps or spits up.

Sitting up on Your Lap

mom burping baby on her lap in a chair

Another very popular burping position is the one where your baby sits up on your lap. It can be used on newborns, infants, and babies. It is especially effective on babies who suffer from GERD, or babies who tend to fall asleep while being burped in the “Over Your Shoulder” position.

  1. Start by placing your baby on your lap in an upright position, facing away from you.
  2. Lay a burping cloth over your legs.
  3. Using your non-dominant hand, cradle your baby’s jaw with your thumb and index finger. This will support their head, while the palm of your hand supports their chest.
  4. Lean your baby forward so that they rest their weight on your non-dominant hand.
  5. With your other hand, gently pat and rub your baby’s back, as explained in the “Over Your Shoulder” technique.
  6. Repeat until your baby burps or spits up.

Face-Down on Your Lap

mom burping baby face-down on her lap

This next burping position isn’t used on newborns or young infants, as it is best suited for babies who are 6 months and older. It consists of laying your little one face-down on your lap.

  1. Start by laying a burping cloth across your knee.
  2. Then, lay your baby face-down on your lap, with their head hovering over the burping cloth.
  3. Level your baby so that their feet aren’t higher than their head, as failing to do so can cause your baby to experience a dizziness spell.
  4. Support your baby’s head by cupping his chin with the hand you’re most comfortable with.
  5. With your other hand, gently pat and rub your baby’s back, as demonstrated in the two burping methods above.
  6. Repeat until your baby burps or spits up.

If your baby hasn’t burped after a few minutes, you can assume that they haven’t absorbed any air during their feeding. However, should they continue to exhibit signs that they need to be burped, you can attempt to burp them again. Once you have successfully burped your baby, clean their mouth using a wet cloth or a wet wipe.

Can I Burp a Sleeping Baby?

There’s a high chance that your baby will fall asleep during their feedings, especially at night. But luckily, you don’t have to wake them from their milk-drunk slumber to burp them.

One of the easiest ways to burp a baby without waking them up is to use the “Sitting up on Your Lap” technique, as it lets gravity do all the work. It requires less strength than the “Over Your Shoulder” method, allowing your baby to keep dreaming.

If a seated position causes your baby to wake up, you can switch over to the “Over Your Shoulder” method. It’s a great one to use on sleeping babies, provided that you use a little less force than usual.

Whichever position you choose is ultimately up to you. However, it’s important to burp your baby before laying them back down to rest. Not burping your baby can cause them to feel great discomfort throughout the night, resulting in a very sleepless night for the entire family. It can also cause your little one to spit up during the night, which can be a choking hazard if your baby sleeps on their back.

Is Burping the Same as Spitting Up?

baby with spit up on his lips

The difference between burping and spitting up is that while spitting up produces liquid, burping does not. But, despite their differences, they do often occur at the same time. This is especially true when you’re dealing with a newborn or an infant, as they have not yet learned to drink milk without sucking up air.

Spit up is nothing to be concerned about as long as the expelled amount does not exceed a teaspoon or two of milk. If you have any concerns about your little one and how frequently they spit up, learn more about how spitting up relates to infant and toddler health by reading this informative article by the Mayo Clinic.

When Can I Stop Burping My Baby?

family burps their smiling baby

As your baby gets older, they will learn to drink milk without taking in too much air. And, around this time (6-9 months), he’ll begin to sit up on his own and burp himself, too. The majority of babies grow out of their burping phase before their first birthday.

You’ll know it’s time to stop burping your baby when you attempt to burp him and nothing comes out. When this happens, keep an eye out for signs that your baby needs to be burped. If none arise, your baby is learning to master the art of the self-burp. They grow up so fast, don’t they?

Last Thoughts

Babies rely on their parents for pretty much everything throughout their first years of life. And we happily give them a shoulder to lean on — even when they plan on spitting up on it. Burping your baby can be quite the challenge at first. But you’re bound to get it right with enough patience and practice. We wish you the best of luck on your journey as a new parent or caretaker. And remember, it’s only a matter of time before you burp your baby like a total pro.