A newborn that won’t burp is a frustrating experience. You finish feeding time, hold the baby upright on your shoulder, and pat their back, and nothing happens. In fact, sometimes, your baby falls asleep while you’re trying to get a burp out of them.
While this is an irritating thing that happens, know that it happens to everyone. And there are reasons why your baby may not be burping right after a bottle-feeding or nursing session. The good news is that there are also things you can try that can solve your problem and lead to a happier baby and a happier parent. Continue reading to learn exactly how to burp a newborn that won’t burp.
What if my baby won’t burp after feeding?
It’s easy to worry that there’s something wrong with your child if they won’t burp after feeding. But don’t worry. Even healthy infants rebel against the burp sometimes. There are many reasons why a baby won’t burp, and most of them don’t point to a health issue. A baby may be fussy after refusing to burp, but it’s only because the gas bubble that is trapped makes them uncomfortable.
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why your baby may be refusing to burp for you.
Babies Fall Asleep
Bottle-fed babies and breastfed babies alike, especially newborns, tend to fall asleep while feeding or immediately after. A sleeping baby is a difficult baby to burp. Even a sleepy baby who is still somewhat awake can be a challenge.
Burping your baby immediately after feeding may not always be necessary. In fact, many physicians recommend that parents wait ten minutes or so after feeding to burp a baby. This gives the baby time to relax and digest and gives the gas bubble that has developed time to work its way up, which will make for an easier burping experience.
Can You Burp a Sleeping Baby?
The short answer is yes; you can burp a baby while they are sleeping. However, it can be a bit tricky, especially if you want baby to stay asleep and don’t want to wake her up. The air bubble that is stuck in baby’s belly does need to work its way out, and if you gently pat your baby’s lower back behind the stomach while you have your baby flat on their belly, you may get a burp out of them.
You can also hold the baby upright and hold the baby’s chin, which supports the baby’s head, and gently pat the little one’s back while they are in a sitting position. Often, if the baby is asleep, and you do this carefully, the baby will stay asleep.
If you’re the type of parent who does better with visuals, there are also guides available online that will show you how to burp a sleeping baby, medically reviewed by physicians, so that you can be sure you are putting the baby in the correct position and burping her correctly.
You Aren’t Using the Correct Burping Positions
When too much air builds up in a baby’s belly, you start to see colic symptoms, which are heartbreaking for new parents, and make them feel helpless. However, all this means is that air bubbles are trapped, and if the baby is assisted in getting them out through burping, then the baby and parents will get some needed relief.
There are many positions in which you can burp a baby, but the most tried and true one is in a fully upright position or sitting. If the baby is slouching or in a semi-upright position, the excess gas can have trouble working its way up and out.
You can also lay a newborn flat on its stomach across your lap and pat or rub the lower back to work out as much air as possible after a feeding. Many babies respond well to this method, but make sure that the head is still supported and that the baby won’t have their face in any spit-up that may result from the burp.
You’re Patting the Wrong Area
Many parents set about burping a newborn by putting a burp rag on their shoulder, and then they burp their baby on their shoulder by holding them upright and patting their middle and upper back.
This might work, but if it doesn’t, it’s probably not your baby just being stubborn. There’s a good chance your baby can’t work out their own gas issues because you aren’t patting or rubbing the right place.
Lower vs. Upper Body
When you pat or rub the upper back of a baby, you’re putting pressure on the back of the rib cage. This is often not effective in your burping efforts. Sometimes, all it takes to see a huge turnaround in the success of burping your newborn is to change where you’re applying the pressure.
Massaging or patting behind the stomach area, on the lower back, right above the hips, and below the rib cage will help gently lift those pesky air bubbles out of your baby’s gastrointestinal system. Give this a try the next time your baby is visibly uncomfortable with gas but won’t burp for you.
How Often Do I Need to Burp My Baby?
Many infants benefit from burping not just after feeding but in the middle of a feeding. You should try to burp your baby halfway through feeding and then after a feeding. This may do wonders not only for fussiness and colic but also for increased food intake, as there will be more room for breast milk or formula if the baby works more air out mid-feed.
Bottle Fed Babies
Bottle-fed babies may have more issues with gas than a baby who breastfeeds because air can get into the bottles, and the baby ingests that air along with the formula or bottled breast milk. This can result in a baby who may spit up more often, have more gas issues, and is fussy.
Babies who bottle feed should be burped every two to three ounces. Be sure to sit the baby up fully upright for the best burping results, and if, after a few seconds of effort, nothing happens, try different positions. If this is still not producing a burp, it’s okay to let the baby eat a little more and try again after another ounce or two.
Breast Fed Babies
Babies who nurse can still have gas issues and experience colic, even though they often get less air intake due to a tight latch. If you breastfeed your newborn and they have a lot of gas issues or gas pain, it may be a good idea to consult a lactation consultant to be sure that you have established a tight latch on the nipple to prevent too much air during a feed.
Most nursing mothers switch breasts while nursing, and this is a great time to try to get a burp out of your baby, as well as give you a minute to rest before nursing again. Burping while in the process of switching breasts will provide your child an opportunity to ingest more milk when they change, as well. You can simply sit the baby upright after the first breast and pat the lower back. Remember not to pat the chest area, as that is far less effective when burping.
Gas Relief for the Baby That Doesn’t Burp
So you’ve put the baby on your shoulder, and they aren’t burping. You’ve stopped patting the back of the chest, and you’re patting the lower back. You’ve made sure baby was sitting straight, you supported her head, you had the bib handy…and baby doesn’t burp.
You can do the following things when your baby goes a long stretch without giving up that prized burp that will make you, your baby, and everyone in your house feel more relaxed.
Helpful Tips for the Stubborn Baby
There is often more than one solution to an issue with a baby. Each baby, just like each adult, is different. And what worked for your oldest child may not work for this baby. What worked for your mom may not work for you. That’s okay. You still have options.
With the baby flat on his back, pull up their feet and create a bicycle motion. Keep those little legs pedaling! Doing this will help in two ways. First of all, it can help move the air bubbles up so that the baby can burp. Secondly, it can help if the baby needs to let some air out the other end as well—this aids in both gas issues and in mild cases of constipation.
Belly and Back Massage
Who doesn’t like a good massage? Feel your baby’s tummy after a feed. If it feels hard and the baby fusses, there’s likely some gas and some discomfort going on for your little one. A great way to loosen things up and help your baby relax is to massage the belly and lower back gently. Sometimes this is all it takes for things to progress on their own.
Stay Away from Gripe Water
Most pediatricians advise against the use of gripe water. I know. After countless attempts to get your child to burp, you’re probably willing to try just about anything. But avoid this product.
First of all, in more than one randomized controlled trial, gripe water has been shown to show no real proof of working. And secondly, many of these products that promise to help your child contain substances like alcohol and sugar. Neither of which is good for your newborn.
If you’re at your wit’s end and don’t know what else to do and are considering using this product, please speak with your child’s doctor first. There are other products and much safer prescription medications.
When can you stop burping a baby?
Generally speaking, you can stop burping a baby at about six months old. However, this is not true of every baby.
Pay attention to your baby’s cues. If they are squirming away from food, are incredibly fussy after a feed, and are pulling their legs up after a feed, they may still need to burp. Only those who regularly feed and therefore know the signs of gas for the individual baby can tell with certainty when a burp is no longer needed.