We've all been there... After a great feed, your baby won't burp and you've tried everything under the sun to help relieve them of this evil pocket of gas, but nothing is shifting it.
Baby is crying, uncomfortable and perhaps spitting up (but is that really burping?)... As a new mum this can be quite alarming...
But, I want you to know that you're doing great. Not burping occasionally is perfectly NORMAL for babies and there are a huge variety of tricks to try to help baby burp, so please don't worry.
In this post, I want to share with you my 8 Pro Tips and Techniques to burp ANY baby from my many years of experience as a Norland Nanny and mum - I've burped a lot of babies in my time!
So let's dive right in and get some burps happening!
What counts as a baby burp?
So what EXACTLY is a burp?
Well, when your baby feeds they take in air that becomes trapped in their tummy and needs to be released.
The releasing of this trapped air up through their mouth is what we call a burp.
Sometimes your baby won’t burp but they’ll spit up some milk instead. This is called a ‘wet burp’ and I’ll explain more about this phenomenon later in the article.
Breastfed babies are less likely to need to be burped as they tend to take in less air when feeding than bottle-fed babies.
However, if you are producing a lot of milk or your baby is a quick feeder, they will probably need to be burped.
The 3 Reasons why baby won’t burp
There a few reasons why your baby won’t burp:
- Sometimes they simply don’t need to!
- You have not found the best position yet for your baby to burp. I'll let you know the best positions later on!
- They have fallen asleep immediately after a feed.
It is important to remember that your baby is born with an immature digestive system and for the first 3 months you may have to deal with trapped wind, colic, reflux or problems with burping.
As with all aspects of infant care, learning what works for your baby and riding out these early phases can be exhausting for parents... but with a lot of patience, trial and error, you will find a solution that works for you and your baby.
So with all this in mind, when is it best to burp baby and how can we help shift that tricky gas bubble?
When is it best to burp a baby?
The best time to burp your baby is immediately after they have had a feed.
If you can, I would also recommend burping halfway or two thirds through a bottle-feed, or when you swap breasts.
The advantage of burping part way through a feed is that babies will often take in more air when they are very hungry at the beginning of the feed as opposed to the later stages of a feed.
Getting rid of any trapped air from an enthusiastic feeder midway can really help prevent a huge build-up of air that may prove difficult to shift later on.
8 Pro tips and techniques to burp a baby that won’t burp
There are many different ways to burp a baby and finding the positions that work best for your little one requires a bit of trial and error.
Some babies are easy burpers and will oblige as soon as you lift them onto your shoulder or sit them up after a feed.
Others will struggle to release any trapped air while others may not need to burp much at all!
You will get to know what suits your baby best, but if your baby is obviously feeling uncomfortable from trapped wind and is struggling to release it, then here are a few burping options to try:
1. Over the shoulder
This is the most common and well-known burping position where you lift your baby up to your shoulder and pat or rub their back.
This is the easiest and best way to burp a baby that has fallen asleep.
2. Across your lap
Some babies find it easier to burp if they are lying face down across your lap. I believe rubbing works best in this position.
Another common way to burp your baby is to support their head and chest with your hand with one hand in a sitting position away from you and rub or pat their back with the other.
I often use a combination of sitting and shoulder when burping mid-feed and at the end of the feed.
4. Switch Things Up
Sometimes just changing from a sitting position to a shoulder position will produce the burp without you having to rub or pat.
5. Rocking in a sitting position
This is a trick I learnt from a matron at Queen Charlotte's Maternity Hospital in London many years ago.
Our job as nursery nurses was to help teach the mothers burping techniques and she advocated holding the baby in a sitting position, supporting the head with your hand on their chest under their chin and rocking them gently back and forth.
I have had a lot of success with this technique especially with babies who struggle to bring upwind!
6. Colic Hold
Another way to wind your baby that sometimes has good results is the colic hold or aeroplane hold. Lie your baby face down along the length of your outstretched forearm and gently rub or pat their back.
7. Rubbing the tummy
If all the above have not been very successful, you could also try laying your baby on their back and gently massaging their tummy.
Try following the ' I Love You' technique:
- I = Gentle pressure from top of tummy down to the bottom of the tummy.
- Love = L = Gentle pressure from just up and left of belly button across, down and through tummy button. Imagine this shape ¬ on baby's tummy.
- You = U = Gentle pressure from bottom left of baby's tummy up and over belly button and back down to the bottom right of baby's tummy. Imagine an upside down U.
Keep pressure light and underneath baby's rib cage when relieving gas buildup.
8. Bicycle moves
Another trick that often works for difficult burpers is laying your baby on their back and gently moving their legs in a cycling motion.
This can get all sorts of things moving inside baby, so make sure they're also wearing a nappy!
What happens if baby doesn't burp?
If your baby doesn't burp you do run the risk that they may wake soon after a feed due to trapped wind.
However, not all babies need to burp after every feed and you will get to know your own baby and what works best for them.
Signs that your baby has trapped wind are that they will squirm, become cranky and will be difficult to calm and settle.
Is it OK if my baby doesn't always burp?
It is absolutely fine if your baby doesn’t always burp. The need to burp will depend a lot on how much air they took in at a feed and their individuality.
The fact is that some babies need to burp more than others and as long as your baby is comfortable then there is no need to worry if they have not burped.
If, however, your baby is a reluctant burper and wakes soon after feeding then it is best to try and get rid of that trapped air.
Try some of the techniques we have explained to see which one works best for your little one.
Babies often do not need to burp at night as much as during the day as they are sleepier and tend to feed less vigorously at night.
Therefore, you may not need to wait for that burp in the middle of the night, but only trial and error will establish what works for your little one.
4 Super Common 'Baby Won't Burp' Questions
Here are 4 of the most common baby won't burp questions to help you in those tricky situations when nothing seems to be working!
1. baby won't burp and has gas
Sadly there are some babies that just struggle to burp and are clearly uncomfortable with trapped gas. Some may burp eventually but others will need to be calmed in other ways.
- Try babywearing. Sometimes babywearing can help calm a baby with trapped wind, it is also a good way to keep your baby in an upright position after a feed and still keep your hands free.
- Baby massage. Massage can often help a baby calm down if they have painful gas so teach yourself how to perform a baby massage.
- Swaddling. Swaddling has also been known to help calm a baby in discomfort and bring them some relief as it makes them feel safe and secure
- White noise machine. A white noise machine is useful for settling your baby in general and can help with calming and distracting your baby if they are feeling uncomfortable.
- Change formula. Talk to your paediatrician or feeding consultant about changing your baby’s formula to see it that helps.
- Consider what YOU are eating. Think about what you are eating that may be causing your baby to have gas. Consider reducing your caffeine intake and cut back on spicy foods for example.
If your baby is persistently struggling to burp and is in obvious discomfort that you are unable to ease then you should consult your paediatrician to rule out colic, reflux or any other digestive issue.
2. baby won't burp at night
As already mentioned some babies do not need to burp at night as they feed less enthusiastically due to being sleepy and therefore take in less air.
If your baby doesn't burp at night and goes back to sleep quite happily then you do not need to worry!
However, if your baby is waking shortly after a feed with obviously trapped wind on a regular basis then you should make an effort to get them to burp before you put them down.
The best way to burp a sleeping baby is in the shoulder position as they can rest their head comfortably as they sleep and you can then pat, or massage their back. If they are still not burping try walking around the room and very gently jiggling them up and down.
If all this fails to produce a burp then I would cut your losses and put baby down, chances are they didn’t have any wind to bring up and they will settle and stay asleep.
3. baby won't burp and gets hiccups
Some babies are prone to getting hiccups instead of burping and some will do both.
In either case, hiccups are perfectly normal in young babies and there are a few things you can do to help:
- Move from lying to sitting. Lying your baby down on their back and pulling them gently to sit may help relieve hiccups in your baby.
- Elbow to knee movement. Another trick to lay your baby down on their back and bring your baby’s opposite elbow to knee together then repeat with the opposite elbow and knee.
- Try the colic hold. The colic hold which helps with colic babies can also help with hiccups. Hold your baby face down with your hand under their tummy and their head on your forearm.
- Feed a little more. As with adults, where drinking water can help with hiccups, so can giving your little one a little extra feed.
- Help them to relax. Soothing your baby and rocking them so that they relax may also help.
4. baby won't burp but spits up
Some babies are more prone to spitting up than others and as said before this is perfectly normal in healthy babies especially in the first 3 months when your baby’s digestive system is not fully mature!
Spitting up is just a wet burp and is the same release of built-up air in the tummy.
If your baby is spitting up or suffering from reflux try the following:
- Keep your baby in a more upright position during feeding and for up to 30 minutes afterwards. Burping your baby over the shoulder is a good position for babies that are prone to spitting up and they are more likely to burp in this position.
- Avoid overfeeding your baby if they seem to be spitting up frequently. Try to feed smaller amounts more frequently until your baby can manage larger feeds.
- For bottle-fed babies, you could try using slower flowing teats.
- Finally, try burping your baby in the middle of a feed or even more frequently. You may find that your baby is more likely to bring up wind if they are burped frequently rather than just at the end of a feed, when they may produce a wet burp or major spit up instead.
Final Take Away
My final take away is this: burping is NOT essential.
All babies are different and some will be troubled by trapped gas more than others. Some will burp easily while others will struggle.
As with most young baby issues, this is a phase that you will learn to manage once you have learnt what works for your baby!
As I briefly mentioned in this post, for more information on how to deal with colic and reflux check out my post about how I handle colic and reflux.
If you enjoyed this post about 'why baby won't burp' and found it useful, then be sure to give it a share! It's much appreciated!
Also, if you're looking for products for your little one and you're not sure where to begin, be sure to check out my Parenting Toolbox.
It is full of all my favourite products which I've tried to ensure are all non-toxic, eco friendly, sustainable and, of course, they’re all baby proof!
Do you have any blog recommendations that you'd like me to write about? Drop me an email [email protected] and let me know!
Thank you for your continued support and until next time, Happy Parenting!