How to burp a baby

Burping a baby is truly an art.

There’s no one way to do it, no one technique that always work.

Every baby is different and has different needs. And every parent will have a slightly different touch.

(In your household there’s probably one parent who just seems to be awesome at it for whatever reason).

But regardless, burping your baby can sometimes be a time consuming and frustrating task. So it’s fair to ask when you can stop burping your baby, or around what age to stop burping your baby.

There’s no one, definitive answer here but most of what I’ve read says you can stop burping your baby when they’re around 4-9 months old, depending on a few different factors.

Let’s dive in a little deeper to what those are and what goes into this decision.

Why do babies need to burp, anyway?

We know from the get-go that learning to burp your baby is a crucial skill, up there with swaddling and changing a diaper, but we’re never really taught why it matters.

So why do we need to burp our babies?

The simple answer: When babies eat, gas builds up in their tummies and needs to come out in the form of a burp to prevent discomfort and gas pains.

The gas comes from a handful of different sources, but the main ones are:

  • Natural gas created by digestion
  • Air swallowed during feeding

This gas or air can built up inside a baby’s stomach and make them feel full, or even cause them a bit of discomfort. If you know anything about babies, you’ll know that crying is pretty much their only way of communicating early on, so any kind of fullness or ache is going to potential cause a lot of wailing.

For that reason, it’s been recommended for decades that you burp your baby during and after feedings.

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(Breastfeeding moms are typically told to burp while switching breasts, and formula-fed babies should usually be burped after every couple of ounces they drink.)

That’s pretty much it. Usually, nothing too terrible is going to happen if you forget to burp your baby or if he or she won’t burp, though they may be a little uncomfortable until the gas works itself out.

What changes as babies get older?

The basic bio-mechanics of breaking down food don’t really change we get older. Digestion will always form gas, as will drinking out of a bottle.

But two key things do change as your baby graduates from newborn to just regular ol’ baby, that may indicate it’s time to stop burping.

(Stop is a strong word, but you can choose to stop burping your baby if you feel like it’s no longer necessary)

  • Your baby begins to move around better on his or her own and sit up
  • HIs/her digestive system matures and becomes less sensitive

Moving around: Having more and better motor control plays a big role in when your baby will be ready to stop being burped. After all, YOU don’t need to be burped because you’re able to contort your body as needed to find a comfortable position, weather short-lived gas bubbles, or even burp yourself if needed! Something similar happens to babies on a smaller scale. Usually by the 4-6 month mark your baby will be sitting up on his own, which will give him a lot more ability to get comfortable after gas bubbles form during feeding. Moving around on his own will also help work those bubbles out much faster than he could when he was more static.

Sensitivity decreases: Simply put, in baby’s earliest days, anything but breastmilk or perfectly mixed formula is dangerous for his extremely sensitive stomach and digestive system. As he grows older, his stomach gets a little tougher and able to handle more. For example, somewhere around the 6 month mark your baby will be ready for some solid foods. When his stomach is ready for purees, apple sauce, yogurt, and the like, he’ll be a lot less prone to uncomfortable gas bubbles during milk feedings.

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So… when can I stop burping my baby?

The answer… it depends!

The catch-all response is that your baby should be ready to stop burping (or burp naturally on his own) in that 4-9 month range.

When you actually stop manually burping your baby is up to you and depends on a number of factors:

  • If your baby is breastfed, you can probably stop burping sooner.
  • If your baby is bottle fed, you might need to burp longer.
  • If your baby is a happy eater with little fussiness after, you can probably stop burping sooner.
  • If your baby gets easily fussy with gas pains, you might need to burp longer.
  • If your baby has excellent motor control and sits up, you can probably stop burping sooner.
  • If your baby is less mobile, you might need to burp longer.

See… it all sort of depends.

Probably the best thing to do, if you think you’re ready, is to try a few test feedings where you don’t burp your baby, and observe his behavior.

In all likelihood, this won’t cause any problems for you or baby other than some minor gas discomfort. If you notice fussiness, you can burp him and make a note that you might not be ready to go burpless.

What if my baby has severe gas pains? (And burping doesn’t work)

Some babies just won’t burp.

Or, if they do, it doesn’t seem to relieve all of the gas pains.

In that case, you’ll probably want to consult a doctor if your baby is still very young. 

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There are lots of over the counter medicines and at-home remedies you can try to relieve gas pain when your baby won’t burp, but I wouldn’t try any of them without doctor approval first, especially for newborns.

It’s also worth noting that intense spit up (projectile vomit, not just regular spit up) after feeding is also something that needs doctor attention. Not belching should not cause your baby to spew vomit like the girl from The Exorcist.

A little spit up, like gas pains, is normal, but it shouldn’t be something that takes over your life. If it becomes a persistent problem, consult your pediatrician.

(My daughter had severe spit up problems as a baby and rotated through every specialty formula on the market, plus ruined a lot of furniture, so I feel you here!)

Signs your baby may be ready to stop burping

So let’s recap.

Usually your baby won’t need to be manually burped anymore somewhere between 4-9 months old, depending on a few factors.

Here are some things to look for when you think it might be time to stop burping during and after feedings, or before bed:

  • Your baby can easily sit up and move around on his own
  • Your baby handles solid foods like applesauce, cereal, and yogurt without issue
  • Your baby is a happy feeder who rarely shows signs of fussiness or gas pain

The best way to tell, again, is to run a no-burp experiment lasting a few feedings, and keep a log or journal of your baby’s response.

If you don’t see any discomfort as a result of not-burping, it’s plenty safe to continue.

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