After enjoying a good meal a little too quickly or drinking a soda, most people get that awkward bubble feeling in their chest or throat, and it can be super uncomfortable. Most adults know how to relieve this pressure on their own by producing a big burp. Babies on the other hand, need a little help. Most of what we’ve seen in movies and on TV are parents patting the child’s back repeatedly until that release of gas occurs. But what if it’s just not coming out? Can you burp a baby too hard? There has to be one best way to burp your baby, pain-free, and give them some relief.
Even though babies are way more resilient than we sometimes give them credit for, turns out, you can potentially burp them too hard. Dr. Eboni Hollier, who is board certified in both developmental and behavioral pediatrics, as well as general pediatrics, gives me some clues to look out for that indicate you may be patting your baby too hard while you burp him or her. They include your baby acting uncomfortable or crying while you’re patting, and then stopping crying and fussing when you stop patting his or her back. “It is recommended that you gently burp your baby … there should certainly be no residual redness in the area you are patting,” Hollier explains to Romper in an email interview.
As far as the best techniques for burping your infant, Hollier says, “Most people gently pat and rub baby's back when burping. Common positions for burping baby include sitting him or her on your lap, and leaning your baby slightly forward onto one hand, holding them while facing you over one shoulder, or laying baby with tummy down on your lap while softly patting and rubbing his or her back with the other hand.” Hollier also says it’s important to still support your baby’s head and back while burping them.
Other tips, according to the What To Expect website, include protecting your clothes with a burp cloth or bib, in case baby spits up, focusing on the left side of your baby’s back — which is where their stomach is located — and even potentially burping your baby in the middle of a feeding if they’re acting fussy. “Fussing in the middle of a feeding may be due to discomfort from swallowed air, and continued fussing causes her to swallow more air, leading to more crankiness and possibly spitting up. Instead, try burping baby right away to see if it’s an air bubble in her tummy that’s causing her to protest,” the website noted.
How long should you try to burp your baby if they just aren’t burping, especially to make sure you don’t do it too long and potentially burp them too hard? Hollier says it’s reasonable to try for five minutes before stopping. However, “If your baby seems uncomfortable, it is OK to continue attempting to burp, but if your baby seems comfortable and happy, it's OK to stop.” Remember, most young babies need to be burped to help release air they’ve swallowed until they’re about 6 months old and can sit up independently. The swallowed air will cause discomfort, and “this discomfort may be evident due to baby's fussiness or squirming. It is typically recommended to burp babies during and after feedings when infants are young, whether they burp each time or even if they do so infrequently,” Hollier explains.
While burping your baby, just be sure to take cues from his or her response to your patting. Does your baby look uncomfortable or begin to cry? That’s probably a sign you’re patting a little too hard. Never leave a red mark, and try for five minutes before giving up if they seem to be comfortable. Remember, in some countries, a big belch indicates they enjoyed the meal and appreciate the cook — your baby is just showing you some gratitude.
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