How to Burp a Baby

"How to burp a baby" or "How to wind a baby" is a common question asked by new moms and dads. Burping (winding as it's also known) is such a basic requirement for a happy baby, we all want to get it right.

This page answers questions about burping infants as well as showing a number of burping positions. The same advice applies for bottle-fed babies as for breast-fed babies. To read more about feeding your baby, click here.

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What causes burping in babies?

Burping in babies is caused by trapped air in the stomach. As babies feed they gulp air as well. The air takes space in the stomach so there is less room for the milk. The trapped air (also known as wind) has to be released - so burped out - to make space for the milk.

Babies have poor truncal tone (they just don't have strong muscles supporting the spine) so they can't sit up straight. This means there is pressure on the stomach and can trap air - when this trapped air (and sometimes milk with it) is released, it forms a burp. The answer to "How to burp a baby?" is to relieve some of this pressure which can be trapping the air so it can be released.

Not all babies have trapped wind so if your baby doesn't seem to have wind (trapped air) then don't worry - there is no need to continue trying to 'burp' your baby if she seems comfortable.

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Is it painful for babies to have wind (air trapped in the stomach)?

It is uncomfortable to have wind - you will probably know what it feels like to have gas (or wind) yourself. Babies also find it uncomfortable.

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How will I know my baby needs to burp?

All babies are different and you will get to know your baby and will recognize the signs of wind (trapped air). Some of the signs showing the need for burping a baby include:

  • baby stops feeding
  • baby squirms or wriggles
  • baby may cry or be unsettled
  • some parents say they recognize a subtle change in the baby's color

If your baby isn't showing signs of having wind, then she may not need burping.

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How often should I burp my baby?

Again, every baby is different but generally babies need to be burped midway through a feed and at the end of a feed. If your baby gulps a lot, then you may need to burp her more often.

If you stop your baby feeding midway through a feed and she cries vigorously, I would resume feeding. Clearly, she is not ready to burp and crying will only increase the amount of gulped air.

Burping your baby becomes less necessary as your baby grows and often by the time she is mobile, so crawling or walking, trapped wind will no longer be such a problem.

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Is it normal for my baby to vomit with burping?

It is quite common for babies to have a small vomit (also known as a spill or posset) with the burp. It is relatively easy for babies to vomit (or have gastro-esophageal reflux - this term just describes the anatomical process) - read more. As long as your baby is happy in herself and not distressed with the vomit, and she is putting on weight there is no need to worry about your baby vomiting with burping.

If your baby is distressed when vomiting with feeds, this is gastro-esophageal reflux disease (also known as acid reflux in infants) - read more.

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Why do some babies have more gas?

There are times when your baby will gulp more air when feeding and at these times you will find she has more trapped air(wind). This can happen when your baby is feeling hungrier and so feeding too quickly. It can also happen if your baby has been unsettled with a lot of crying. You will need to spend more time burping baby at these times.

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Is baby colic caused by trapped gas?

We don't really know what causes colic although there is a school of thought that it is related to trapped wind (gas) because many babies get relief from passing wind (either up or down!). Colic is excessive crying in infants so if your baby cries for long periods several days a week for several weeks, this would be referred to as colic. This may occur after feeds. To read more about baby colic, click here.

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What are the proper techniques for burping infants?

There is no one right way for burping babies. However there are several tried and tested burping positions as demonstrated on this "how to burp a baby" page. You may find one your baby finds best or you might try all of them at some time. I usually try one and if that doesn't work, change the burping position to another one.

"How to burp a baby" properly involves taking the pressure off the stomach (so straightening out the spine) and holding the baby upright (so the air will move up and out!). There are several techniques that will achieve this, as seen below.

burp position 1
  • How to burp a baby - position 1.

    Hold your baby with her head over your shoulder and her chest against your chest. Gently rub or pat the back. You do not need to be too vigorous, just pat gently if you elect to pat rather than rub. I cup my hand slightly to pat the back. Use a burp cloth and put it over your shoulder to catch any small vomit. See the picture on the right

burp position 2
  • How to burp a baby - position 2.

    Sit your baby on your lap. Put the thumb and forefinger of one hand (I use my left) on the bony part of the baby's jaw and hold the baby's jaw forward. The other hand can gently rub or pat the back. The baby's position should look like a triangle - by pulling the head forward, the spine is stretched and pressure on the stomach relieved. See the picture on the right

burp position 3
  • How to burp a baby - position 3.

    Hold your baby with one hand on her chest and one on her back. Gently lift her up so her body is stretched out. This stretching will help release trapped gas. Give your baby a kiss on the head - it's a lovely thing to do and will relax you both. This is a good position to try and you change positions, so maybe between positions 1 and 2, you could use this manoeuvre. See the picture on the right.

burp position 4
  • How to burp a baby - position 4.

    Lay your baby over your lap with her head on one side of your thigh and the body stretched over your knee. Babies love this position and will often fall asleep while lying over your lap. You can gently rub or pat the back with the baby lying. See the picture on the right

You may even know how to burp a baby with another position - if it works, keep doing it.

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What other measures could be tried for my unsettled baby?

If you have a very unsettled baby, your baby may have colic. There are several simple measures you can try including:

  • massage your baby's tummy - use a clockwise direction
  • using the colic hold - seen the pictures below. First put one hand between the legs and on the baby's tummy, and then the other hand comes around and the baby's head rests on it. This is a really comfortable hold and often settles crying babies. To read more, go to the colic page
ColicHoldFirstStage
colichold
  • anti-gas treatments as used in colic (eg, gripe water, simethicone etc) - read more

Finally, if your baby doesn't burp, don't panic. Air will come one way or the other!

Over time you will develop good options of how to burp a baby or keep your baby comfortable.

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When will burping my baby not be necessary?

By the time babies get upright, they are usually not bothered by gas (wind, trapped air) so much and it won't be so necessary to burp your baby at every feed. She will be able to do it herself.

Being upright actually refers to having less pressure on the stomach and this happens as your baby gets stronger muscles around the spine. In some babies, this happens once they start sitting well, but in others, it isn't until they are walking.

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If you have found information on how to burp a baby useful, surf around the site as there is lots more great information here.

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To the top of the How to Burp a Baby page, click here

To go to the Infant Feeding Page, click here

To go to the Crying page, click here

To go to the Colic page, click here

To go to the Gastro-esophageal Reflux page, click here

To return to the Home page, click here


Last reviewed 28 April 2011

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Dr Maud MD

Dr Maud MD (MBChB, FRACP, FRCPCH), a specialist pediatrician, provides health information and medical advice for parents of babies and toddlers. Read more about Dr Maud.


We comply with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health
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