How to burp a baby

Winding (burping) your baby is a key part of your baby's feeding routine as it can help release any trapped air in your baby’s tummy. Find out when and how to burp your baby, and discover some tried and tested burping positions.

Why Burp Your Baby?

Burping, also known as winding your baby, is an important part of your feeding routine. This is because when feeding – in addition to the breast milk or baby formula – your little one may also swallow some bubbles of air.

These air bubbles get trapped in your baby’s tummy, which can be very uncomfortable for him or her. Winding your baby during or after feeds helps relieve the discomfort by releasing this trapped ‘wind’.

How to Burp Your Baby: Positions to Try

Here are three burping positions that have stood the test of time. After trying each of them out, you’ll probably settle on one that works best for you and your baby:

  1. Hold your baby upright against your chest with his or her chin on your shoulder, all the while supporting the head and shoulder area with one hand as you gently rub your baby’s back with your other hand.

  2. Lay your baby on your lap face down. Support his or her chin (being careful to avoid putting pressure on the throat) and gently rub or pat your baby’s back with your free hand.

  3. Sit your baby on your lap facing away from you, with the palm of one hand supporting his or her chest, chin and jaw (without putting any pressure on the throat). Then, lean your baby forwards slightly as you softly rub or pat his or her back with your other hand.

Burping positions for newborns and babies

When burping your newborn or older baby it’s a good idea to place a clean muslin square or bib under his or her mouth for covering your clothes, in case your baby brings up a little milk or formula. (Don’t worry if this happens, it’s perfectly normal!)

When to Burp Your Baby

Every baby is different, and this is also true when it comes to relieving trapped wind. Some babies might need burping once or several times during each feed, while others may only need winding afterwards.

As a general rule, if your little one seems unsettled or restless during a feed, it might be time for a little burping break. If your baby seems happy to keep on feeding, it’s usually OK to wait until after the feed is over before winding him or her.

Signs of trapped wind can include:

  • Crying

  • Arching of the back

  • Pulling legs up towards the tummy

  • Clenching fists.

Before long you’ll probably get a good idea of when and how often your baby needs winding, so you won’t even have to wait for signs of trapped wind as it will become second nature.

If your baby is prone to reflux or has gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), burping your baby more frequently during feeds may help ease the symptoms.

It can also help to feed and wind your baby in an upright position and keep him or her upright for as long as you can after feeding.

Symptoms of reflux may include:

  • Often bringing up milk during or just after feeds

  • Coughing or hiccupping during feeds

  • Gulping or swallowing after burping or feeding.

Colicky babies – who may cry for three or more hours a day for no obvious reason and can also have trouble sleeping – might also benefit from more frequent burping breaks.

What if Your Baby Doesn’t Burp?

Not all babies burp every time they’re winded, and some find it easier than others to let out all that trapped air.

If you’ve tried winding your baby but he or she is still showing signs of uncomfortable wind you could try laying your baby down on a safe, comfortable surface and gently massaging his or her tummy. If this doesn’t work, moving your little one’s legs in a bicycling motion can also help release some of the trapped air.

If none of these techniques seem to make any difference, ask your health visitor for advice.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

  • Experimenting with different burping positions might help – for example, placing your baby over your shoulder or sitting or lying him or her on your lap as you gently rub the back.
    Keep in mind, some babies find it easier than others to burp though, so you may just have to be patient.
  • If your baby doesn’t burp but shows signs of trapped wind (crying, arched back, clenched fists and/or legs pulled up to the tummy), try laying him or her down (face up) and gently massaging the tummy or moving the legs in a bicycling motion. If this doesn’t help, ask your health visitor for advice.
  • There is no specific length of time for which you should burp your baby. Instead, learn to read your baby’s cues. If your little one still seems uncomfortable or windy during or after a feed, he or she may need to burp a little more to relieve the discomfort.

The Bottom Line

It may take you a little time to get the hang of winding your newborn baby, but you’ll soon settle into the feeding (and burping) routine that works best for your baby and you.

Before you know it, those burp breaks will become second nature – and that could mean fewer tummy aches for your little one and more contented smiles all round.

How we wrote this article The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the National Health Service (NHS). You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.