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Feeding a baby is an exciting experience for any new parent. It can also be a little intimidating, especially if you don't know what to expect. So here's a quick guide to an important aspect of feeding — burping.

Burping helps to get rid of some of the air that babies tend to swallow during feeding. In some babies, not being burped frequently and too much swallowed air can lead to spitting up, crankiness, and gassiness.

How to Burp Your Baby

When burping your baby, repeated gentle patting on your baby's back should do the trick — there's no need to pound hard. To prevent messy cleanups when your baby spits up or has a "wet burp," you might want to place a towel or bib under your baby's chin or on your shoulder.

Try experimenting with different positions for burping that are comfortable for you and your baby. Many parents prefer to use one of these three methods:

  1. Sit upright and hold your baby against your chest. Your baby's chin should rest on your shoulder as you support the baby with one hand. With the other hand, gently pat your baby's back. Sitting in a rocking chair and gently rocking with your baby while you do this may also help.
  2. Hold your baby sitting up, in your lap or across your knee. Support your baby's chest and head with one hand by cradling your baby's chin in the palm of your hand and resting the heel of your hand on your baby's chest (but be careful to grip your baby's chin, not throat). Use the other hand to pat your baby's back gently.
  3. Lay your baby on your lap on his or her belly. Support your baby's head and make sure it's higher than his or her chest. Gently pat your baby's back.

If your baby seems fussy while feeding, stop the session, burp your baby, and then begin feeding again. Try burping your baby every 2 to 3 ounces (60 to 90 milliliters) if you bottle-feed and each time you switch breasts if you breastfeed.

If your baby tends to be gassy, spits a lot, has gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or seems fussy during feeding, try burping your baby every ounce during bottle-feeding or every 5 minutes during breastfeeding. If your baby doesn't burp after a few minutes, change the baby’s position and try burping for another few minutes before feeding again. Always burp your baby when feeding time is over.

For the first 6 months or so, keep your baby in an upright position for 10 to 15 minutes (or longer if your baby spits up or has GERD) after feeding to help prevent the milk from coming back up. But don't worry if your baby spits sometimes. It's probably more unpleasant for you than it is for your baby.

Sometimes your baby may awaken because of gas — simply picking your little one up to burp might put him or her back to sleep. As your baby gets older, you shouldn't worry if your child doesn't burp during or after every feeding. Usually, it just means that your baby has learned to eat without swallowing excess air.

Babies with colic (3 or more hours a day of continued crying) might also have gas from swallowing too much air during crying spells, which can make the baby even more uncomfortable. Using anti-gas drops has not proven to be an effective way to treat colic or gas, and some available medications can be dangerous.

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: October 2013

 
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Related Resources:
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)
This site offers information on numerous health issues. The women's health section includes readings on pregnancy, labor, delivery, postpartum care, breast health, menopause, contraception, and more.
Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children - better known as the WIC Program - serves to safeguard the health of low-income women, infants, & children up to age 5 who are at nutritional risk by providing nutritious foods to supplement diets, information on healthy eating, and referrals to health care.
Zero to Three
Zero to Three is a national nonprofit organization that promotes the health and development of infants and toddlers.