Burping a Newborn: Why, When, How and What if...?

by Pamela Mercer May 05, 2020

baby on moms shoulder with burp cloth

Burping your baby can be a lovely opportunity to bond but it can also be a very frustrating experience if your newborn is unsettled 😓

Be patient as you learn what your baby needs and likes and what makes them feel better and remember that every baby is different so something that may work for one baby may not work for another.

Here you will find some information from professionals as well as our own experience to help make this stage as easy as possible for you. 

Why do I have to burp our newborn baby?

Among the list of things we have to do as we enter motherhood is burp our new baby. It isn't always easy but has to be done to help your newborn release any excess wind that they may have taken in during a feed or if they have been crying a lot.

As they get older, they may not need to be burped as often because they have learned how to eat without swallowing excess air. It will also become easier for them to release gas when they can sit upright.

Until that time, they will rely on you to help them. That's right, you get to have all of the cuddles and soak up all of their newborn deliciousness while helping them out 😍

When to burp your newborn baby?

  • If you are breastfeeding, you can burp your baby after feeding with each breast.
  • If you or another carer is bottle feeding your newborn, either from expressed milk or formula, try to burp your baby halfway through the bottle (around 60-90 mls) and then again at the end of the feed.
  • When burping in the middle of the feed it may be a nice time to sing or talk to your baby as you want them to be awake to feed from your other breast or take more milk from the bottle.
  • After the feed, keep your baby upright for 10 to 15 minutes to prevent the milk from coming back up. This might be a nice time to play or do an activity with your baby 🤗

When researching this topic, I discovered that breastfed babies are supposed to be less likely to need burping than bottle fed babies but that was not the case for our gas filled munchkins which you can read more about later 🥰 Always keep in mind that every baby is different.

How to burp your new baby?

There are different positions that you can try to relieve your baby's wind. Some may work better than others which you will discover as you and your baby spend more time together. Whichever position/s you try it is important to try and burp your baby for around a minute before continuing feeding or finishing the feed ☺

Over the shoulder

This was the one that worked best for us. With this position, you put a Burp Cloth over your shoulder (in case they spit up) and support your baby under their bottom with one arm with your baby's chin resting on your shoulder.

Use your dominant hand to gently but firmly pat them on the back between their shoulders, working your way up and down as you're patting and eventually rubbing their back.

This position can be done sitting or standing, depending on how you feel comfortable and what works for your baby.

You can also try sitting in a rocking chair and rocking your baby as you pat them.

Sitting on your knee

With this position, sit your baby on your knee with a Burp Cloth over your legs (or Bib on them if you prefer) and tilt them forward slightly while you have your hand open spread across their jaw, with the base of your hand resting on their chest and pat them on the back with your dominant hand, working your way up and down their back and then rubbing.

Laying across your arm

This position can be done sitting or standing. With your forearm across your body put your baby on top of your arm so that their head can rest in your elbow crease, so their head is slightly elevated and then give them a pat on the back or rub, depending on what works.

What if I pat them too hard?

Patting should be firm but gentle. It is a good idea to cup your hand when patting your baby as this will be gentler than a flat palm.

  • If you feel that you may be patting them too hard or becoming too frustrated, give someone else a try at burping your baby and try again later.
  • If you are alone, try talking or singing to your baby and then give burping another go when you're feeling calmer.

What if my baby is fussing during the feed?

  • If your baby is fussing during the feed, stop the feed to burp them and then try again.
  • If your baby tends to be gassy, spits up a lot or has gastoesophageal reflux disease (GERD), you can try burping your baby every 30 mls.
  • If your bottle feeding or every 5 minutes if you're breastfeeding to try and prevent gas build up😔

What if my baby spits up sometimes?

Unless it is an excessive amount and/or often, don't worry. It is probably more unpleasant for you than it is for your baby 🤢

What if my baby is still upset after I have tried burping them?

  • Some babies have more gas and may take longer to burp and settle than others. Try different positions and singing or talking to your baby while you're burping them until you find what makes them feel better.
  • Some babies wake up because of gas shortly after they go to sleep. If this happens with your baby, pick them up, burp them and put them back to sleep.

In some cases, there might be something else irritating your baby. Could they be hungry? Do they have a dirty nappy? Are they unwell?

In more extreme cases, you baby may have colic, which is considered to be 3 or more hours of continued crying. This may occur because of swallowing too much air during crying spells, which in turn can make the baby even more uncomfortable.

If your new baby is often unsettled after a feed or you are worried for any other reason, see your maternal health nurse or GP.

Please note that using anti-gas drops has not been proven to be an effective way to treat wind in young babies and some of these medicines can be dangerous.

What if my baby doesn't burp at all?

If your baby does not burp after a few minutes, try a different position before feeding again and then try again at the end of the feed. If your baby doesn't burp at all and they are settled, don't worry because that is completely normal too. Enjoy it! 🎉

Burping a newborn baby isn't always easy but it does give you hands on contact as you touch and hold your precious bundle of joy so try and enjoy it as much as you can. As you gain more experience, you will feel more confident and this time with your baby will become more enjoyable.

My experience

As a mum of two, my experiences with burping my children were very different.

  • My daughter would rarely spit up but was very unsettled after feeds, especially later in the day when she would cluster feed. I would spend hours trying to burp and settle her pacing up and down our dining room humming I'm a little tea cup (that's the tune she liked so I stuck with it 😍).
  • Then my son came along and I realised what a Burp Cloth was for 😨. For the first few months of his life he would spit up almost every feed 😩 .
  • The good thing was that he wasn't upset about it most of the time, it just meant that I had to be prepared so I wouldn't have spit up on me. This calmed down a lot between 4 to 6 months as he started to sit up more.
  • Oh and they were both breastfed which apparently means they take in less gas but that was not the case in my experience.

So however you are feeding or burping, hang in there! You may not believe me now but all of this will get easier with experience and as your baby and their little stomach develops and matures.

If you are struggling with life as a new mother or father, there is help available, see www.panda.org.au and www.beyondblue.org.au


Pamela Mercer
Pamela Mercer


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