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How To Burp Your Burp-Resistant Baby

Feb21

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Dearest Amy,

I don’t know what I would have done without your advice the last 4 weeks. Your site has brought me so much comfort and clarity in all the crazy newness of moming.

My son, Eli, just turned 4 weeks on the 13th and is a happy little pipsqueak 80% of the time. I’ve heard him actually cry all of maybe 8 times (including when he first came out). The problem I’m having is that I cannot, for the love of God, get this kid to burp. I’ve tried everything from putting him high up on one shoulder, then switching him to the other shoulder, then putting him in the colic-hold and patting, then switching him to my lap sitting up. Someone even told me to try tipping him upside-down a few times before trying to burp him to loosen up the bubble, but that hasn’t worked much. On occasion, in his up time after eating, he’ll burp on his own. Other than that, I struggle constantly with it. I know I’m patting hard enough after asking for help from several old-hat baby burping experts…by which I mean his grandmas and aunties.

I wouldn’t fret, being that I keep getting told that “breastfed babies don’t burp as often,” however, I know he has to burp because I have an oversupply/forceful letdown issue that we’re currently in the process of dealing with and I can hear him gulping air. It’s mostly under control at this point, but he is still gulping quite a bit in the beginning of a nursing session. He could still be getting too much foremilk, of course, but I’m pretty sure that part of it is resolved. The 20% of the time that he isn’t my happy baby is when he has gas issues, and I can’t help but blame myself for not being able to get him to burp 9 times out of 10. Usually when he starts with the gas, he struggles and yells for a good 20 minutes and it happens every time he wakes up to eat and 2-4 extra times during the course of the day/night. I’ve tried bicycling his legs and rubbing his tummy. Do you have any tips on burping? Do you think I’m blaming myself unnecessarily?

Thank you so much!

RANDOM TRIVIA: I completely and totally forgot about newborns needing to burp every time I had a new baby. Every time! I’d get all laser-focused on getting them to latch and suck and eat, only to wonder what the hell their problem was afterwards. Every time, a nurse would have to remind me to burp that baby, you idiot.

And then I would re-learn how to burp said baby, because they were all different. Sometimes the chin-on-my-shoulder position worked, sometimes the sitting-up-on-my-lap technique seemed better, other times we could only get a burp out if we laid them belly-down across our forearm with their jaw in the crook of our elbow. Sometimes rubbing worked better than patting, sometimes it was the opposite. Sometimes nothing worked, other than waiting it out until they yakked up some milk 20 minutes later.

(One thing that never worked, because I’ve never even heard of it, was “tipping them upside down a few times first.” That sounds…uncomfy, and more like it would cause blood to rush to his head and/or further tummy upset from sloshing the milk around like he’s a can of soda.)

(Cue a host of comments about how that technique was a life-saver for them and I don’t know what I’m talking about. But since it’s not working for your particular baby, you can probably go ahead and table that suggestion.)

I would tell you to chill and not stress too badly about this — not all babies need to be burped regularly, particularly breastfed babies, blah blah blah — but obviously you are witnessing some gas issues due to his stubborn little anatomy and refusal to burp.

(Why yes, I am blaming him and not you. It’s now my patented-technique for newborns. Blame them, not yourself. It’s okay! They don’t care! They don’t even know! Meanwhile, new moms tend to have an excess of caring and blaming — I can’t get him to latch/sleep/burp/whatever! I’m terrible at this! Screw that. It’s your baby’s fault for being weird. You’ll figure his particular brand of weirdness out eventually and everything will be fine.)

ANYWAY. I would try:

1) Limiting your burping efforts to one or two positions each time, preferably ones that give him a little pressure against his tummy while you pat or rub. Try to burp him at least once mid-feeding and again once he’s done.

2) If there’s no burp after a minute or two and he seems okay, stop and move on with the feeding and/or your life.

3) If there’s no burp but he seems clearly uncomfortable, give him gripe water/gas drops. The over-the-counter stuff with simeticone that they sell in the baby aisle. Give it a few minutes and try burping again, or keep him upright until he burps on his own.

4) At his next well-baby visit, talk to your pediatrician or lactation consultant. They might have a good position suggestion (ask for a demonstration) or even upgrade you to a prescription gas drop, if his discomfort continues to get worse.

If you feel like Better Parenting Through Product Consumption, I would recommend putting him in an Ergo/mei tai-type baby carrier after feedings — any kind that keeps him upright and facing you, against your chest. And a bucket-style baby bathtub (like the Tummy Tub or washPOD) is AWESOME for gassy babies, since the warm bath relaxes them while the shape of the tub keeps them upright. My third was my gassiest, spit-uppiest baby and he would totally zen out in that tub.

Oh, and 5) REMEMBER THAT THIS TOO SHALL PASS. Every day and week that passes, his digestive system is changing and maturing. In just a few months, manual burping will be a thing of the past altogether and you’ll have long since moved on to a heap of other worries and concerns related to eating/sleeping/pooping.

(Those will also all be totally his fault and not yours, BTW.)

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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35 Responses to “How To Burp Your Burp-Resistant Baby”

  1. Kendra Feb 21 at 1:43 pm Reply Reply

    We had really bad gas issues with our daughter. She was breastfed as well and the best way to get burps out of her was to rub up her back repeatedly. Not down, just up. Even when we would get burps, she would still have problems with gas. For relief we ended up using the gripe water/gas drops Amy suggested above. We also loved the Happi Tummi Removable Waistband. It seemed to soothe her down quickly when the gas got really bad. You can find it online at Amazon.

  2. Diana Feb 21 at 1:44 pm Reply Reply

    Fwiw Best trick for mine was carrying her up and down the stairs a few times

  3. Stephanie Feb 21 at 1:49 pm Reply Reply

    Gripe water and gas drops.

    It was a short period of time that our baby had bad gas, but it was not a fun time. Also, our friends would sit on an exercise ball and bounce. The bouncing seemed to help.

  4. KimCS Feb 21 at 2:06 pm Reply Reply

    What is with these newborns? I also have a 4 week old burp resistant boy. By time we get the gas out he’s overtired and then will cry for 1-3 hours. So I’m really looking forward to reading the comments and trying the suggestions. The Mei Tai had been helpful for us but he is not yet a fan of the Ergo.

  5. Jessica Feb 21 at 2:11 pm Reply Reply

    You can also try the gas drops right before you feed him. We did that with my first and it worked for him.

  6. Amelia Feb 21 at 2:11 pm Reply Reply

    My oldest had to be burped by patting his bottom, HARD.  He would jump a little bit with each pat, but then the burp would come (and he would belch like a teenager, too) and all would be well again.

  7. Martha Feb 21 at 2:14 pm Reply Reply

    My breastfeed daughter wouldn’t burp every time either. So, when she seemed like she was uncomfortable, I just wore her around in the moby wrap or ergo until she started feeling better. Worked like a charm.

  8. Daisy Feb 21 at 2:15 pm Reply Reply

    I would never advocate thumping on a baby hard, but I found that when my daughter and my nephew were born, older family members burped babies with miniscule force. They claimed it was how my brother and I were burped but…no. Both my brother and I got great laughs out of the fact that, you had to use a firmer pat then they ever did. NOTHING that would harm a baby, but at the same time, you have to ensure you are helping to work the air out. I found that moving my patting hand up and down the back helped- by the third time I moved up, the burp would work its way out. That plus gas drops = happy baby.

  9. EW Feb 21 at 2:19 pm Reply Reply

    Yay for simethicone drops!  We thought we had a difficult colicky baby with our second.  Nothing for it, just cranky and fussy, just have to wait it out.  Everyone was irritated and tired of him at six weeks.  When we visited my cousin and her three kids, who held him, touched his belly, and said “this baby has gas.”  The gas drops made such a difference!  Even now, at almost three, he’s kind of a gassy little guy, and if he wakes up at night, he usually needs the drops (and yeah, he belches like a teenager afterwards).

  10. Britt Feb 21 at 3:05 pm Reply Reply

    My daughter had horrible reflux, so burping was quite an ordeal in our house.  Here’s what I learned over the newborn months:

    -Don’t pull them away from a feeding to burp too frequently.  Each time they unlatch and relatch, they take in air.  I got so obsessed that I was waaaaaaay over-doing it.
    -That being said, watch your little one while he’s eating, to see if he makes any pauses.  That’s the best time to give him a burp, way better than just at the midpoint, when you switch breasts, etc.  If they take a pause, it usually means that there is an air bubble, and at that point, it’s close to the top!

    And it will get better!  Amy is totally right, it’s not your fault at all.

  11. Bethany West Feb 21 at 3:16 pm Reply Reply

    A voice of dissent: gas drops were useless for my first. Big, disappointing failure. If your problem is painful gas, dairy-free mom might fix everything. If it’s just burps, I second the upright carrier idea.

  12. Karen Feb 21 at 3:21 pm Reply Reply

    Oh my this letter just reminded me that I will have another newborn in my house soon! Eecks!

    Please don’t sweat this too much as it’s so normal. It’s so rare that a baby is ever perfectly non-gassy (those babies typically have perfect latches).

    If you have an opportunity to attend a mother-to-mother breastfeeding support group, they could provide some great advice and reassurance that, like Amy said, this too shall pass. And working on a good latch is a better use of time than working on perfecting a good burp technique.

    Regardless, oversupply is oversold IMO and I think we have managed to drive new mothers crazy with all the foremilk/hindmilk blah blah. See: http://www.nancymohrbacher.com/blog/tag/block-feeding

  13. sassygil Feb 21 at 4:30 pm Reply Reply

    Just to let you know don’t worry if nothing works and/or your pediatrician doesn’t offer prescription drops. The over the counter ones were useless for us as was mommy going dairy/wheat free. My son spit up constantly until after one year old and is still gassy at 18 months. But it is much better and is getting better every month. In a few months even if baby is still gassy you’ll be so used to it it’ll just be a part of your baby’s uniqueness. Also don’t let anyone con you into switching to formula to help gassiness it won’t help!

  14. Eiko Feb 21 at 8:40 pm Reply Reply

    Like you don’t have enough to deal with as a new mom, right?

    My baby was pretty gassy until I went dairy-free; of course that’s not going to work for everyone but it made a pretty big difference. I’m just wondering if maybe it’s not only that the air can’t get out, but there’s something in the milk? Sometimes my little girl will have terrible pain from broccoli and garlic as well. It’s worth experimenting a bit. 

    For the actual burping, I find the tummy-on-the-knee position and alternating between patting and rubbing in a circle works when not much else will. 

    My doctor and naturopath also recommended probiotics (not sure if newborns can take them so you’d want to check).

    Good luck! It will get heaps better, even if it doesn’t go away completely for a while.

  15. Ak Feb 21 at 9:27 pm Reply Reply

    I’m sure all of this works. But, I’ll add that some babies are just stubborn gas hoarders. My daughter was the same as a newborn. Now at 2 she farts a lot (and laughs thanks to her dad).
    I’m convince that some babies aren’t bothered by it enough to do anything until it reaches a part of their digestive system in between exits.
    No blaming yourself or trying a million poses. Remember: babies that regularly burp still fuss about gas issues.

  16. Dorothy Feb 21 at 10:40 pm Reply Reply

    DS responded best to jiggling/bouncing.  There is also a technique where you take your pointer and middle finger’s knuckles, make a “V”.  You place them either side of the spine near baby’s bum and run your fingers up their spine.  That worked OK, but perhaps you’ll have better luck.  

    And remember!  Not your fault!

  17. Worker Bee Feb 21 at 11:44 pm Reply Reply

    Our son had trouble burping too. Someone suggested bouncing him to loosen/bring up the bubbles. We would hold him on our laps and bounce him up and down. That was the most effective burping method we found. We used gas drops too if he seemed to be having tummy troubles.

  18. Ann Feb 22 at 3:42 am Reply Reply

    Please read askmoxie.com it’s the best! Our daughter had the same problem and would cry until she eventually farted. One tip I found on Moxie was to press lightly on the left side of her torso just at the base of the ribcage. It worked like a charm for us. Also trying to burp her upright, failing, they laying her flat on her back for a minute and then resuming the process worked. Something about switching positions helped release the gas. Good luck and if nothing works just enjoy sitting around with the baby on you in an upright position, they grow so fast sigh…

  19. L Feb 22 at 7:29 pm Reply Reply

    I had the same issues: oversupply, baby who needed but couldn’t burp. Gas drops did nothing. But letting him lay on his side or back for a couple minutes after eating and then burping him usually did the trick. Good luck. And a lactation consultant can suggest nursing holds to help with the complications of a forceful letdown.

  20. Jordy Feb 22 at 9:18 pm Reply Reply

    I work with babies at a daycare and have dealt with quite a few “stubborn burpers.” If every other typical way of burping fails I’ve found a gentle bounce sitting up on the knee can loosen up air bubbles. Just be sure to have a burp cloth at the ready! :)

  21. newbie mom Feb 22 at 11:21 pm Reply Reply

    That was my lil munchkin. She’d fall asleep after failing to burp for 15+ minutes. Then wake up crying 30min later screaming from gas. A burp (or fart later) she’d be wide awake and hungry again. We would walk with her (more for comfort than gas relief) Eventually I started to let her rest with me belly to belly until the tummy air was out.

    On the plus side she was a clean baby who never spit up much either. She still has trouble burping but now (13mo later) she is more mobile so the gas comes out easier.

    It isn’t you. And hang in there momma !

  22. V Feb 23 at 1:24 am Reply Reply

    Yes this was me. Oversupply, gulping, and a baby that didn’t want to burp. I never really found a magic solution. He really just did not burp much. I also second the above comment that he didn’t spit up much either. I just accepted it after a while (though I still tried with the burping in various positions anyway, but didn’t overdo it or drive myself crazy with it). He did outgrow it eventually.

    Things that helped with the gas were alternating the bicycling with lifting his legs all the way up to around his forehead and also the belly to belly time that someone else mentioned above. Nursing while laying on my back helped with the gulping. You aren’t doing anything wrong. :)

  23. Swaddle Feb 23 at 4:03 pm Reply Reply

    Wow, I too almost forgot about the regular burping routine with our first son. I’m reading this and have to remind myself that I need to burp when my 2nd one comes out. Thanks as we all sometimes need a little refresher.

  24. Lesley Feb 23 at 5:45 pm Reply Reply

    I never really got my stubborn burper to burp but I did solve the fast letdown/tiny baby by catchin the first couple of seconds of the big letdowns in a prefold for the first few months until she was able to handle it better.

  25. Zhay Feb 23 at 10:14 pm Reply Reply

    Starting around the perimeter of baby’s belly, do clockwise circles getting closer to the belly button. I have no clue why this works but I do it for myself too.

  26. Autumn Feb 24 at 12:18 am Reply Reply

    I rarely burped my daughter when she was nursing.  She just didn’t burp.  Now that’s she’s 2 1/2, she lets out these random huge burps in the middle of a sentence.  It’s hilarious now, but soon we will have to teach her about burping politely.  Will tackle that after potty training, round 2

  27. Jennifer Feb 24 at 12:42 pm Reply Reply

    One thing that worked well for our daughter for gas pains was peppermint.  This was a suggestion from my dad who said it worked on us even past baby stage as an upset stomach soother and is something I still use as an adult (and it works for me for morning sickness when I’m pregnant).  We used hard candy peppermints  (yes, I know mints have sugar/sweetener in them, the small amount she was getting was worth the results for us), and would wet and rub her binky on it just to get a little on it, repeat 2-3 times if needed. (Hopefully this doesn’t need to be said, but DO NOT give the mint to your baby to suck on! Major choke hazard!) Usually calmed her down fairly quickly.  We occasionally used breath mints in the same fashion if we were away from home and that was all we had at hand.  My brother used this same technique with my nephew, he said it worked for them when nothing else did.  He was bottle fed so when he got fussy from gas they would put a mint in a bottle with a little formula or water and let it sit for a minute before giving it to him.
     *Please use your own judgement on what and how and decide what you are comfortable giving your baby.* 

  28. MR Feb 24 at 12:57 pm Reply Reply

    My second was incredibly difficult to burp. What worked was what one of the nurses showed me. They kind of sat her with her legs straight out, left hand supporting her head and neck from the front, and bent her forward so that her lap helped compress the stomach and raise the burp. With my right hand I would either rub or pat her back. If that didn’t work, then I would lean her back into a semi-reclined position for about 30 seconds, and then repeat. It seemed to help the bubbles release and move up. It would sometimes take a few times of back and forth (reclining and leaning her forward), but it worked every time and was pretty quick overall. I hope you find what works for you!

  29. Christina Feb 24 at 1:20 pm Reply Reply

    I would try to fix the reason the baby is inhaling air versus trying to get it out. We were able to nearly eliminate burping for our son as a newborn by changing our nursing position. Something called laid back nursing works wonders and now at 8 months we still do it and its the best way for him to nurse in almost every respect. Side lying can help a lot too.

  30. Grace Feb 24 at 1:46 pm Reply Reply

    My baby had terrible gas for the first 8 – 12 weeks. What worked for us wasn’t bicycling his legs so much as drawing his knees up to his chest and gently pushing them against his tummy. But instead of burping, he’d let out some epic farts. Worked like a charm every time!

    He was doing all the same things as your baby, so I thought we really needed to get him to burp. But it turned out the gas just needed to come out the other end. 

  31. Loa Feb 25 at 1:47 am Reply Reply

    Okay, I’m a NICU nurse, there is no scientific evidence, but this works for me, with difficult to burp babies, I always burp them sitting up with my hand againist their tummy, and fingers supporting their neck.  I use my fingers like drumming a bongo-lightly but firmly.  Then I gently lay them on my lap on their back, I turn them slowly onto their left side, and then I slowly sit them up.  Then I go back to burping. If they don’t burp I try it again.  But this whole process should only take 5 mins max-then move on.  With my own gassy baby who made life miserable for the first 6 monthes I used gripe water-worked great, and then occasionally simethicone.   Again, no scientific evidence, however maybe I should name this technique :)  but it works for me.

  32. Arwen Feb 26 at 10:04 pm Reply Reply

    Okay, it’s unclear to me from the question if the gas the baby struggles with starts right away, or some time after the feeding, but if it is right away then she should consider the possibility that the screaming is not due to gas, but to reflux. I’ve had three hard-to-burp babies, and they all turned out to have wicked reflux. Four weeks is a standard age for reflux symptoms to onset. If the baby is also fussy and/or seems to be in discomfort while eating, doesn’t like to be laid flat (especially after feedings), has hiccups often (not all refluxy babies have this but weirdly it is a common symptom), and spits up (although babies can have “silent” reflux without spitting), it’s worth talking to his doctor about whether reflux could be the problem. Meds made a huge difference for my babies, but there are other options too.

    Oh, and for gas? I went completely dairy-free while nursing my first and saw no difference. With my second I tried probiotics, which helped hugely. I like HLC Neonate Powder.

  33. Leslie D Feb 26 at 11:04 pm Reply Reply

    Maternity nurse for baby #2 felt really strongly about just letting the baby sit upright on your lap supported with a hand on tummy/chin and the other supporting the lower back and counting down two minutes. No stroking or gentle jiggling, but I’ll be damned if it didn’t work every single time. It was a little freaky. And sometimes you’d count almost to two minutes, and occasionally there’d be no burp at all, but 95% of the time it worked. She said that for some babies even the slightest stroking or jiggling would break up their burp enough for it to not easily pass. Worth a shot if you haven’t already? Good luck!!

  34. Samantha Feb 27 at 4:44 pm Reply Reply

    Another vote for simethicone and gripe water and the stroking up technique. This will pass! My baby was an impossible burper. You had to thump much harder than you would think and do “the burp dance” first. Hold baby sitting up on your lap facing you and rock baby front and back and tilt baby side to side slowly a few times. My dude is seven months now and manages his own burping (YAY!). Also, in our case there was a severe dairy sensitivity coupled with a little dude who was just plain gassy. I avoided cruciferous veggies for a month or two as well. Soon, I promise, you will have almost forgotten the burping woes and will be busy keeping your small one from yesterday other troubles. Mine is trying to eat the (patient, long suffering) cat right now.

  35. Samantha Feb 27 at 4:46 pm Reply Reply

    Oh! And we had the bad hiccups and silent reflux too. So another vote for that possibility.

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