One of the first things a new mother will probably have to learn while she is still in hospital and attempting to feed is: How to burp a baby. The rule of thumb is: After every feed ─ burp the baby.
Burping is especially crucial to a newborn, particularly when he is learning to latch on to the breast if you are breastfeeding, and even more important ─ if he is being bottlefed. At this stage, he is already sucking in air which may well get in the way of his feeding and wellbeing.
How Does Air Get In?
Most babies suck in air as they drink, especially if they are drinking from a bottle. It is a natural occurrence of physics regarding airflow and pressure and there is no way to prevent it from happening even if you are using special anti-gas airflow bottles. The teats of the bottle also play a role in determining how much air goes in. Milk should not be allowed to flow too fast, that is why the midwife at the hospital will tell you to only poke through the teat with a heated pin so that the hole is not so big as to allow a fast milk flow from the bottle. It is easier for baby to suck milk from a bottle than from a breast.
Sucking in air also happens with breast-fed babies, especially when they are trying to get their small mouths to latch on to swollen breasts in the first few days after delivery. He will swallow air every time he pulls away and latches on and pulls away and latches on.
Whichever way baby is feeding, gas and air will tend to get trapped in baby’s immature gastrointestinal system. It needs to be released. If not, the gas can cause a feeling of fullness in which case he will stop feeding, discomfort which will cause baby to writhe and cry and fuss. Trapped gas in his tummy may even lead to colic.
A colicky baby will cry for more than three hours a day, and for more than three days a week. This will lead to even more gas in the tummy due to swallowing more air while crying.
The distress caused by colic can be seen through these symptoms:
- Baby will clench fists when crying
- Bend or clench arms and legs towards his belly
- Have a tight, bloated tummy and tight stomach muscles
- Have a red, flushed face while crying
- Pass gas when shedding tears
Burping is thus one way mothers can help their baby get rid of that gas.
All About Gas and Colic
Sucked in air is not the only cause of gassy babies, although many times it is the main reason. Here are some of the other reasons why he may have gas bubbles.
- Swallowing Air: As we have seen above, babies tend to drink faster when feeding from a bottle. Some gulp and can finish 8oz in five minutes. It happens to breastfed babies too, especially if mother has a lot of milk or has a fast letdown, or if baby is very hungry and wants to quell his hunger fast.
- Digestion: The breakdown of certain foods in the large intestine by bacteria can naturally create gas. This happens to adults too. Digestion causes gas. In babies, he is digesting not just but what mother has consumed and passed on in her breast milk. Foods that contain starchy carbohydrates are more likely to cause gas ─ (if it causes gas in mother, then it will cause gas to baby). Some of the common gas-producing foods are: beans and legumes, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, dairy such as cheese and milk, rice, wholemeal bread, salt, high-salt processed carbs like crisps and chips, spicy meats like rending or sambal, garlic and onions and of course carbonated drinks and fruit juices.
- Allergic reaction or food intolerance: If baby is breastfeeding and has an intolerance to foods mummy is eating (like seafood) or to his formula, his body may react by creating a lot of gas. Lactose intolerance is more common than you think.
How does Burping Help?
A burp is the release of gas bubbles up the esophagus and out of the mouth. These gas bubbles can also be released out the other end of the baby and defecating while feeding or crying is a common occurrence. Most burps at the beginning stage are usually wet burps, meaning baby will bring up some of the milk along with the gas as she burps. To protect your clothes, do place a small towel on your shoulder or near his mouth to catch the regurgitation when baby burps.
There are several ways to burp a baby.
How to Burp Your Baby
There are several common burping positions: over your shoulder, sitting your lap and lying over your lap.
- Over your Shoulder: Hold your baby over your shoulder, with his face towards you facing toward you. Use one hand to hold the baby and the other to burp. Remember, if he is a newborn, his head will be floppy as the neck muscles are still unable to support his head. So ensure that that baby’s head is supported. Pat your baby on the back or stroke gently downwards firmly or gently for a minute or so. If baby is fussing while feeding and hasn’t burped yet, you may want to stop and burp him midway.
- Sitting on your Lap: Sit your baby on your lap, using your arms and hands to support the baby’s body and head. Cradle your baby’s chin in the palm of your hand. (Remember, don’t hold him by the neck!) Use your other hand to burp baby on the back. Use the same steps above (patting and stroking firmly downwards). Changing baby’s positions also can help move those gas bubbles to a better position to be released.
Watch How to Burp your Baby
What if the Baby Doesn’t Burp?
Then try these methods.
- Burp your baby way over your shoulder: Carry the baby high enough so that his head reaches over your shoulder so that his chest is touching your shoulder. Then, lean back enough so that your baby is at a slight incline facing downwards instead of just upright or worse, angled as if he’s leaning back.
- Lay your baby across your lap: In a sitting position, place your baby tummy-side down across your lap and then stroke his back firmly. Sometimes, light pats are inefficient.
- Pat your baby’s bottom: This may sound strange but it seems to work. Many times, this is the only way your baby will burp. If patting doesn’t work, see if rubbing his back does the trick. Move your hand gently but with enough pressure from the bottom to the top of his back (upwards).
Baby Colic Massage
Newborns are helpless in every way. They cannot help themselves in any way least of all, move the wind trapped in their tummies. Do watch this Baby Colic Massage video which will teach you three specific moves to massage baby’s stomach.
For more babycare tips and techniques, visit Motherhood.com.my