Breastfeeding and Burping Your Baby

When, Why, and How to Burp Your Breastfed Newborn

Woman burping baby over her shoulder
Burp your baby when she stops breastfeeding. Cecilia Cartner/Getty Images

Do You Have to Burp Your Baby if You're Breastfeeding?

Bottle-fed babies need to burp, but do you have to burp your baby if you're breastfeeding? The answer is yes. Even though babies who take the bottle swallow more air than babies who take the breast, you should still try to burp your breastfed baby during and after each feeding as needed.

Why Should You Burp Your Baby?

When a newborn or an infant swallows air during a feeding, burping helps to remove that air.

While breastfed babies tend to swallow less air than bottle-fed babies, your baby will still take in some air as he's breastfeeding. When that air gets trapped in your little one's stomach, it can be uncomfortable, and it can make your baby feel full. But, once your child burps and gets that air out of his belly, he will feel better. He may even start breastfeeding again, since removing the air will make room in his stomach for more breast milk.

When Should You Burp Your Breastfed Baby?

Some babies don't take in very much air during feedings, so they don't need to burp as much. However, if you have a strong let-down reflex or an overabundant breast milk supply, the fast flow of your breast milk can cause your baby to swallow more air. In these situations, you will have to burp your baby more often.

A good time to burp your breastfed baby is after she stops nursing, or if she becomes fussy during a feeding.

Your child will often stop nursing and seem uncomfortable if she has to burp.

If you nurse from both sides at each feeding, you can try to burp your baby in-between alternating breasts, and after each feeding.

If you breastfeed from just one side at each feeding, you can burp your baby when she stops nursing.

After you burp your child, you can offer the same breast again to see if she wants more. Then, when the feeding is complete, burp your baby again.

Burping is also helpful if you have a sleepy baby. If your newborn falls asleep at the breast, burping may help to wake her up and keep her breastfeeding a little longer.

However, if your baby is breastfeeding well and actively sucking, you don't need to stop him for a burp. Wait until he stops nursing on his own, and then burp him.

Burping When You're Not Feeding Your Baby

You can burp your baby during and after breastfeeding, but some babies need to be burped between feedings, too. If your little one is fussy and can't sleep, a burp may be all that he needs. Babies also swallow air when they cry. So, since some babies cry more than others, especially if they have colic, they will need to be burped more often.

How to Burp Your Baby

Babies sometimes burp on their own without any help or special positioning. However, it's natural to want to help the process along, and there are many ways to do that.

Here are three of the popular burping techniques. 

Over your shoulder: Hold your baby upright in a verticle position with her head over your shoulder. 

Lying on your lap: Place your baby on his belly across your lap and support his head with your lap, your arm, or your hand. 

Sitting on your Lap: Sit your baby on your lap. Lean him forward and support his head, neck, and chest with your hand. 

First, you may want to place a burp cloth or a cloth diaper under your child's head before you start burping to protect your clothing and catch anything that comes up. Then, when your baby is in position, gently rub or pat her on the back. You don't have to rub or pat hard. You don't want to hurt her. Plus, pounding harder on your child's back will not make her burp better or faster.  

What if Your Baby Doesn't Burp?

If your baby doesn't burp after a few minutes, you can try to change his burping position. If he still doesn't burp, you don't have to worry. A breastfed baby may not have to burp every time you try. You can continue the feeding or put your child down. If, after a while, you notice your baby isn't comfortable, you can always try to burp him again.

What Is a Wet Burp?

When your baby burps, he may bring up a little bit of breast milk along with the air. There is no need to worry about these little wet burps or spit-ups, they're normal. You can place a burp cloth or a bib on your shoulder, on your lap, or under your baby's chin while you burp him to catch anything that may come up.

Keep in mind that spit-ups are small, and flow slowly out of your baby's mouth. If your breast milk is forcefully shooting out of your child's mouth, that's vomiting, and it's not normal. Of course, occasional vomiting is usually not a concern. But, if your baby vomits after more than one feeding, or if your child has other symptoms such as fever or diarrhea, contact your child's doctor right away.  

Burping and Your Partner

Burping is an excellent way to include your partner in breastfeeding. Your partner can hold and burp the baby between breasts and after feedings. It's one of the many activities that your partner can do to spend time with the baby and feel like an important part of the breastfeeding team. It's also a helpful way to support you and give you a break to let you rest.

 

Sources:

American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Second Edition. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Seventh Edition.  Mosby. 2011.

Rempel LA, Rempel JK. The breastfeeding team: the role of involved fathers in the breastfeeding family. Journal of Human Lactation. 2011 May 1;27(2):115-21.

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