Burping a Breastfed Newborn

By Michelle Skidgel
The over-the-shoulder burp is a common position for burping a newborn.
The over-the-shoulder burp is a common position for burping a newborn.

From diapering to sleeping, you have a lot of ground to cover as you learn the ropes of parenting a newborn. Burping your breastfed newborn is yet another task that might seem unnerving -- When do I do it? Why do I do it? Do I have to do it? Will it hurt him? -- but once you understand its purpose and effect on your newborn, the worry will quickly become a distant memory as you relish your little one's first months at home.

Why Burp?

To better determine whether your breastfed newborn needs to be burped, you first need to understand its purpose. "Burping" babies came about with the advent of bottle-feeding, according to the Ask Dr. Sears website. Milk flows more quickly from a bottle nipple, and babies tend to gulp a lot of air as they swallow. Bottle-fed babies also tend to eat more at a feeding than a breastfed baby, resulting in additional air being swallowed. The act of burping a newborn helps her to release the excess air and avoid having a painful, gassy tummy.

Breastfed Newborns

Breastfed newborns are far less likely to require burping than their bottle-fed counterparts. In fact, lactation expert Jan Barger at the KellyMom breastfeeding information website suggests allowing a newborn who falls asleep while nursing to stay asleep -- you don't need to disturb him to burp. As long as your newborn doesn't appear to experience discomfort, you might luck out and get to skip burping him completely.

My Newborn

Not all newborns are the same, of course, and yours just might need to be burped after feedings, even if she is exclusively nursed. The Ask Dr. Sears site advises that your breastfed infant is more likely to require a good burping if you have a strong milk ejection reflex or if she nurses quickly, taking in a lot of milk -- and air -- in a short period. Signs that you might need to burp your newborn include otherwise unexplained fussiness or spitting up a lot, according to child development experts at the Kids Health website. If burping your baby to alleviate fussiness, excessive spitting up or a gassy tummy doesn't solve the problem, you should touch base with her pediatrician for further advice.

Burping My Newborn

The Kids Health professionals recommend burping your baby when you switch breasts during a feeding and again after the feeding is over. One common burping position involves holding your newborn with his tummy against your shoulder. Place one arm across his upper back, angling your hand upward to cradle the back of his head. Firmly, yet gently, pat his back for five to 10 minutes or until he burps once or twice. An alternate burping position is to lay your newborn across your lap, with your leg providing gentle pressure on his tummy, and keep his head above the level of his stomach by carefully supporting it with one hand. Use your other hand to pat or rub his back until he burps. Not every newborn will burp at every feeding, so don't stress if your baby seems content and doesn't let out any excess gas during a burping session.

About the Author

Michelle Skidgel has worked as a writer and editor since 2001. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English at Oklahoma State University and is currently raising and homeschooling five children with her husband. Her articles for various websites specialize in parenting, green living, gardening, cooking and frugal living.