What Do I Do? If My Baby Won't Burp

Tiny babies need help with just about every bodily function, including burping. But sometimes, that bubble just won’t come up. Knowing what to do if your baby won’t burp can save you both a lot of discomfort and stress. After all, your baby will most likely let you know if a burp is stuck with loud and distressed crying, and sometimes, the usual shoulder-pat method does not quite work.

But what causes gas in babies in the first place? Plenty of factors can affect your baby’s individual need to be burped. According to many experts, breastfed babies typically do not need burping as much as bottle-fed babies, because they do not gulp down as much air while feeding — that doesn’t mean that breastfed babies don’t ever need to be burped. That said, moms of bottle-fed kids aren’t out of luck. Many bottles are now designed to prevent gassiness. By feeding your baby in a more upright position, and even using bottles that slow the flow of milk, your baby may be less likely to get gassy in the first place.

When Should You Burp Your Baby?

The best time to burp a baby is every so often during a feeding, as well as post feeding, to release that gas. If you’re breastfeeding, burp your baby when you switch breasts during the feeding. If you’re bottle feeding, burp your baby after each ounce (30 mL) or two (60 mL) of fluid. Whether breast or bottle feeding, be sure to burp your baby when he’s finished eating. If baby has problems with gas, is colicky, or spits up, you may want to burp them even more frequently.

If the traditional “shoulder pat” method isn’t working, try some of these…

Sitting Up On Lap

Some parents find that sitting the child on their lap gives them more control and comfort. With a burp cloth on your lap (or a bib on baby), sit baby in an upright position on your lap facing away from you, using one hand to support the chest and your thumb and index and middle fingers to gently cradle the chin and head. Lean the baby forward and pat or rub the baby’s back until they burp.

Face-Down On Lap

Sit on a stable chair or couch with both feet on the ground. Lay baby tummy-down across your legs, one leg under his stomach and the other under his head, with his head turned sideways. Again with the burp cloth to avoid the dreaded “wet burp.” Use one hand to secure him and the other to gently pat or rub his back in a circular motion. When baby is a little older, some parents opt to lay on their side and place baby face-down over their hip to help burp them.

Massage The Burp Out

Lay the baby stomach-down with their head tilted to one side on a slight incline. Place gentle pressure on baby’s spine and gently slide one hand up your baby’s back until you reach the shoulder blades. Place your other hand at the base of your baby’s spine as you massage.

Knee-to-Chest Burp

Bend the baby’s knees up against their chest and rub or pat their back.

Over-the-Arm Burp

Sling baby (gently 😃) over your arm and gently pat their back as you pace the room.

Bicycle Baby’s Legs For Gas

This is really a form of massage, can help a constipated or gassy baby get it all out, and is a great way to play with your baby. Babies with gas will often kick their legs in pain, and by bicycling his legs, you will do it for him, only more effectively. Put him face up on your lap, grab both legs, and then gently move them like he is riding a bike.

What do you do if you’ve tried all the positions above and your baby is still uncomfortable but won’t burp?

For some families, nothing cures gas faster than gripe water. Gripe water is a liquid supplement which often includes a combination of stomach-calming herbs such as chamomile, dill, ginger, or peppermint. But you may want to use some caution with the stuff — some brands of gripe water contain alcohol or sucrose — ingredients that aren’t suitable for tiny babies. If you want to use gripe water for gas relief, then review your brand’s ingredients carefully, and get your pediatrician’s take on it.

In addition, plenty of parents rely on gas drops to soothe fussy babies. Gas drops rely on the ingredient simethicone to break up gas bubbles. They are generally considered safe, although gas drops may interact negatively with certain thyroid medications. It’s another product that you should talk to your pediatrician about before giving some to your baby.

If your baby is regularly uncomfortable due to gas, it might be time to look into changing one of these potential gas-causers to decrease gas production.

Mom’s Diet

For those mom’s that breastfeed, your diet may be the offender. Everyone is different but one of the most common culprits for gassiness is dairy — milk, cheese, ice cream. Dietary changes are worth a try, but keep in mind that it can be tricky to find the offending food because some foods take weeks to get out of your system. Try keeping a food diary to see what you eat when your baby is most uncomfortable, then try eliminating that food from your diet and see if there is a difference.

Mixing Formula

Measure the water, dump in the formula, and shake, right? Actually, shaking vigorously adds lots of air to the formula that can lead to excess gas. Instead, try premixed formula, swirling the formula into the water to minimize air bubbles or letting the formula rest after shaking

Nipple Size

Bottle nipples come in a variety of flow options (that are usually classified by age (preemie, newborn, 3-6 months, 6+ months, etc.). If you use a nipple that is too big for your baby, it may be releasing the milk or formula too fast, making the baby gulp, sputter, and swallow a lot of air in the process. Choose an age-appropriate nipple to try to limit the amount of air swallowed during feedings.

Bottles

Consider switching to a bottle style designed to decrease the amount of air in the bottle. Some bottles are better angled to keep the milk towards the nipple. Parents can also try bottles with disposable liners, vents, or straw-like system bottles that keep fewer air bubbles from seeping in or allows the bubbles an alternate way out of the bottle.

As always, have a chat with your pediatrician if anything about your baby’s digestion seems off. Persistent problems with trapped gas probably warrant a doctor’s check-up. But keep in mind that sometimes a baby won’t burp because he straight-up doesn’t need to, and that’s perfectly OK.