New Mom FAQ: How necessary is burping a newborn, really?

Burping a newborn baby may seem disruptive at times, so how important is it? New moms ask this question quite often. For example:

Dear Baby+Company,

My one-month-old daughter is gaining weight well. We are breastfeeding and recently added one bottle of expressed milk most evenings. She often falls asleep when nursing, and my burping efforts wake her up.

I usually try for a burp, but often don’t get one. Do I need to burp her after every feeding? How long do I keep trying before I give up?

-Burpless and Confused

Dear Burpless and Confused,

Congratulations! As you’ve discovered, burping a newborn or baby isn’t always mandatory, and your baby may or may not burp at any given session. Chances are, you’ll learn the nuances of your own baby soon, and will decide how important (or not) burping may be to your baby.

Although “baby gas” (see, “Why is my baby so gassy?!”), this is only partially due to swallowed air that might come up with a burp. Much of the baby gas experienced (and passed) by infants is related to digestion and motility, rather than swallowed air. If you are trying for a burp for a minute or two with no luck, try another position (see below), or give up and continue with the feeding or next activity.

When breastfeeding, most babies don’t take in a lot of air (though some might, especially if there is a lot of on/off at the breast during feeding) and might not have a big burp to release. However, it’s worth trying for a burp most of the time. Sitting your baby up to burp after nursing on the first breast may help to rouse her for the second breast, helping her take in a little more milk. Then, burping after ending the feeding may help the milk to settle in her tummy and prevent extra spit up. Or not.

When bottle-feeding, it’s definitely a good idea to take a pause midway through the feeding for a burp, and at the end of the feeding as well. This helps to “pace” or slow down the bottle-feeding, allows for additional interaction, and may help to reduce spit up.

Whether breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, use the baby’s natural pauses to time a burp break and let out some baby gas. Don’t pull away the nipple from a baby who is busy eating – she may protest, cry, and take in air, likely defeating your goal! Instead, when she begins to fall asleep, flutter-sucks with long pauses, or releases the nipple from her mouth, that’s a good time to try.

Try these favorite positions for burping a newborn

In these positions, try patting your baby’s back gently, or a little more firmly, or alternate pats and circle rubs on her back, while putting a little gentle pressure on baby’s tummy area. And remember, baby may not burp – it’s ok!

  1. Resting with her tummy HIGH up on your shoulder (for gentle tummy pressure) with her head cuddled near your neck.
  2. Sitting upright (or slightly leaning forward) on your lap with her chin/cheeks supported in your hand (this one is good for helping to rouse a sleepy baby).
  3. Laying tummy down over your lap with her face turned to the side.

A note about spit up:

Some babies tend to spit up a lot, with or without regular burping. If your baby is a spitter, position a burp cloth, receiving blanket or small towel over your shoulder or lap when burping. It’s common for a mouthful (or more) of milk to come up with a burp, and this doesn’t mean your baby overfed. Expect to see more spit up, not less, by the 3rd or 4th month as baby is eating larger volumes and jiggling her body, arms, and legs more.

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