Tiny babies need help with just about every bodily function, including burping. But sometimes, that bubble just won't come up. Knowing what to do if your baby won't burp can save you both a lot of discomfort and stress. After all, your baby will most likely let you know if a burp is stuck with loud and distressed crying, and sometimes, the usual shoulder-pat method does not quite work.
If your go-to burp techniques aren't working, then some advanced burping solutions may be in order. "Parents can help by giving infant massage or pushing the legs back and forth when the baby lies on her back — bicycling," said pediatrician Dr. Erika Landau in Parents. Infant massage is a whole topic on its own, but there are some specific moves that are designed to help gassy babies. In one method, you place a hand gently but firmly on your baby's tummy and massage in a clockwise direction, as explained in Essential Parent. This motion may help release those trapped gas bubbles. In another technique, you can hold your baby's knees together and gently press them toward the abdomen, as explained in Massage Magazine. It's a different way to help your little one get things moving.
For more in-depth demonstrations, YouTube videos are always helpful. In particular, this video from Lucy Jones, a baby massage and children's reflexology specialist, demonstrates several easy massage techniques for gas relief.
In addition to massage, sometimes a simple change in position is all the baby needs to bring up the burps. Generally, making sure your baby is sitting up straight, and then applying slight pressure to the tummy, is all that's needed for some gas relief, according to the website for Dr. Sears. In fact, simply wearing your baby upright in a sling may free the trapped air.
For some families, nothing cures gas faster than gripe water. Gripe water is a liquid supplement used to soothe babies, but you may want to use some caution with the stuff. As noted in What to Expect, some brands of gripe water contain alcohol or sucrose, ingredients that aren't suitable for tiny babies. If you want to use gripe water for gas relief, then review your brand's ingredients carefully, and get your pediatrician's take on it.
In addition, plenty of parents rely on gas drops to soothe fussy babies. A type of medical treatment, gas drops rely on the ingredient simethicone to break up gas bubbles, according to Healthline. They are generally considered safe, although gas drops may interact negatively with certain thyroid medications, as further noted by Healthline. It's another product that you should talk to your pediatrician about before giving some to your baby.
But what causes gas in babies in the first place? Plenty of factors can affect your baby's individual need to be burped. According to many experts, breastfed babies typically do not need burping as much as bottle-fed babies, because they do not gulp down as much air while feeding, according to Baby Center — that doesn't mean that breastfed babies don't ever need to be burped. That said, moms of bottle-fed kids aren't out of luck. Many bottles are now designed to prevent gassiness, as noted in Romper. By feeding your baby in a more upright position, and even using bottles that slow the flow of milk, your baby may be less likely to get gassy in the first place.
It's also worth remembering that not every infant will need burping after each meal. Every baby is a bit different. If your little one seems to be comfortable and happy following these feedings, then you might just have a non-gassy kid.
In fact, some experts think burping babies in general may not be all that necessary. "The theory is that babies swallow air during feedings and the air in their tummies makes them uncomfortable and gassy — hence the ritual of burping," said lactation consultant and nurse Jan Barger in Today's Parent. But in some cases, the baby just does not need to burp. This can cause stress and waste time for everyone involved. "I heard stories of many more exhausted mothers and other caregivers spending hours patting their babies in the middle of the night, trying to wait for the elusive sound of the burp,” said researcher and mother Bhavneet Bhart in ScienceNews. Sometimes, though, the belch just isn't there, and trying to make the baby burp is fruitless.
As always, have a chat with your pediatrician if anything about your baby's digestion seems off. Persistent problems with trapped gas probably warrant a doctor's check-up. But keep in mind that sometimes a baby won't burp because he straight-up doesn't need to, and that's perfectly OK.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.