Babies have special and unique needs. They make you as parents important and purposeful because you are the centre of their little worlds. It’s an awesome feeling knowing you get that unconditional love no matter what. When you think of all the little things you do for your baby which may seem inconsequential in the normal scheme of things, but that which is very important for their well being: Burping is one.
Burping a baby is one of those things that are minor for grown-ups. We just do it no big deal (except for when it grosses us out). For a baby, however, it is a big deal. Why?
Simply put they can’t burp themselves. The muscle called the upper esophageal sphincter in babies are underdeveloped. This muscle usually relaxes with swallowing to allow the passage of food and saliva and the passage of gas when one burps. It works differently in young babies. The muscle doesn’t relax by itself when gas needs to pass. Hence, the need to burp your baby.
Gas gets in the intestine when babies are not burped causing tummy pain
Their stomachs are small; gas or air bubbles take up space making them hungry more often
Their sleep may be interrupted because of gas in the tummy
It helps to keep the feed down
Now that we have looked at why it is important to burp your baby we will now learn how to do so.
Over the shoulder —position bub over your shoulder then pat or rub circles on his back. Spit up can and does happen when burping a baby so it would be a good idea to use a burp cloth over your shoulder.
Sit baby on your lap, not straight up but more in a position pointing forward with the hand balancing the chest and head. You can then pat the back or rub it.
If neither of those methods works, you can apply greater pressure on Bub’s stomach by lying Bub face down over one arm or your knee.
Tip: If movement seems to help your baby burp, you can try bringing baby’s knees up to the chest while rubbing or patting the back. Alternatively, you can lay him on the back and rotate the legs as if riding a bike.
Should I burp after each feed?
The answer to this is knowing your baby. If your baby show signs of being gassy it is best to burp after every feed and sometimes between a feed. Bottle fed babies may need more burping because they tend to swallow more air than breastfed babies.
What if my baby doesn’t burp?
If you have a newborn try to burp after every feed. Try changing positions if he does not burp and try at intervals during the feeding. As your baby grows the need for burping gets less. It usually means that your baby has learned to eat without swallowing too much air.
When can I stop burping my baby?
As your bub gets older his digestive system becomes more mature, burping will become less necessary. This change takes place around 4 to 6 months, when your baby starts eating solid food or sitting up.
Can I not burp my baby at nights?
If you don’t burp your baby after a night feed it may mean a shorter sleep time because of tummy pain. You can still burp your baby even if he has fallen asleep. If it is that you feel extremely tired and in danger of falling asleep while burping your baby don’t risk it.
The causes of air in babies are:
Swallowing air -babies swallow air while feeding. The faster they feed, the more likely they will be to swallow air.
Digestion and food intolerance -the foods we eat can make us gassier than normal. Thus, a breastfed baby may end up with gas as a result of what mum eats. A baby can develop an intolerance to the food eaten by mum. A formula fed baby can also have an intolerance to the formula he is fed.
Here are some tips to help with combatting gas in your baby:
Burp your baby at the first sign of gas - one of the best ways to prevent gas from getting out of control is to burp your baby as soon as he shows signs of gas - even if that means burping your baby every 5 mins. Similarly, if your baby falls asleep feeding, don’t be afraid to burp him. Your baby’s sleep may be disturbed if his tummy aches from gas pains.
Monitor Mum’s diet - a breastfed baby may be affected by the food mum eats. Maintaining a food diary will help to track what was eaten and if your baby was more gassy than usual after eating certain foods. If you suspect this to be the cause of your baby’s discomfort speak with your doctor for guidance.
Formula preparation - The way you prepare your baby’s formula can affect the amount of air he or she swallows. Do you shake each bottle to mix the powdered formula with the water? This produces tiny air bubbles in the solution which are ingested during the feed. Try letting the bottle rest after shaking it or mix the powder into the water by swirling the bottle instead of shaking it.
The formula used - switching formula may reduce gas if bub has developed an intolerance to any of the ingredients in the current formula. Your baby’s doctor should be able to help you select alternative formulas that are suitable for your baby.
Choose the right bottles and nipples - Some bottle feeding systems, such as Minbie’s are specifically designed to prevent bub from swallowing air bubbles during a feed. Choosing the right flow rate is also important because using a teat that is too fast for your baby can result in bub swallowing too quickly, which in turn causes bub to swallow more air.
Consult your doctor - if you think your baby is more gassy than what is normal speak with your doctor as you can never be too sure.
We hope your bub continues to thrive as you do your best to nurture and care for him or her. We are here for you should you ever need assistance with choosing a feeding system for your baby.