How to burp a newborn baby that won’t burp (5 tips for your hard-to-burp baby)

Got a baby that won’t burp and has gas?  This post is for you!  Tips and tricks for your hard to burp baby.

Newborns need to sleep, eat and burp. That’s about it.  Sounds soooooo simple, but each one of those can be soooooooooo challenging, right?  For baby and therefore for you.  Getting those air bubbles up and out is on the long list of things you need to become skilled at if you want a content little babba.  And sometimes those gas bubbles do just pop right out with virtually no effort. Other times, you can be left patting and bouncing for an eternity while your newborn squirms and wriggles and cries in discomfort. You need to learn how to burp a newborn that won’t burp.

Why do babies need to be burped?

Newborns tend to swallow lots of air when feeding, it’s almost impossible to avoid.  As they grow and develop they become more efficient feeders and gradually learn to eat without taking in quite as much.  But for several months after birth, it’s likely that your baby will be a little gassy after eating.

Some babies are gassier than others – there are lots of factors that affect how much gas your baby ingests.  The method of feeding probably makes the most difference: bottle feeders tend to swallow more air than breastfed babies.  

Related post: Got a gassy baby? 16 Common causes & remedies to fix them for good

Even if your baby doesn’t appear to be uncomfortable due to trapped wind, you should at least give her the chance to burp, both during and after every feed.

how to burp a baby that's hard to burp

What happens if your hard to burp baby really won’t burp?

First off, it’s important to note that there are no catastrophic consequences if you fail to get your hard to burp baby to bring up trapped wind.  If your newborn doesn’t burp there are a few likely scenarios:

  • Baby will be absolutely fine, and burp after a nap, at the next feed or at another time when you’ve forgotten all about it
  • Baby is comfortable and content, but that air bubble pops out when you’re least expecting it, along with half or even all the milk your little one took so long eating… This often happened often in the early days with my extremely hard to burp boy twin.

The next two are more problematic:

  1. Baby is gassy and uncomfortable, fussy and irritable and gives you all the signs they need to burp. 
  2. The least desirable possibility if your newborn doesn’t burp is that any trapped wind will be forced down into the gut.  Even if your baby wasn’t uncomfortable before, these air bubbles will probably aggravate lower down and the only way out is via the other end.  Explosive poop alert!

Gas bubbles in the stomach and lower down in the abdomen can be one of the causes of colic and evening fussiness, aka The Witching Hour .  As I found out with my daughter, excess gas due to lack of burping also made the symptoms of her reflux worse.  In fact, for all 4 of mine, I found it necessary to burp them at each feed as newborns.

Can baby choke if not burped?

You may be worried what will happen if your newborn won’t burp before sleeping, and then spits up while alseep, lying down.  Can your baby choke if not burped?  Thankfully no, there’s no risk that spitting up or vomiting while baby is lying flat on the back can cause choking. Back sleeping is the most important of the safe sleep recommendations to minimize the risk of SIDS.  If your baby doesn’t burp and spits up or vomits while asleep, any fluid will either be swallowed or find its way onto the sheets.

In any case, burping your baby doesn’t necessarily avoid spit-up.  

When should I burp my newborn?

If you’re feeding, your baby will generally tell you when they need to burp by stopping and refusing to eat anymore.  That’s your cue to burp your baby. 

This refusal to feed may be accompanied by other signs.

Signs baby needs to burp:

  • red, grimacing face
  • crying, fussiness and general irritability
  • clenched fists, flailing arms and legs
  • drawing knees to chest
  • stiff and tense in the body 
  • high-pitched crying

Related post: 6 newborn baby cues you need to know: understanding baby cues

Signs that baby has gas and won't burp are similar to when baby is overtired
The signs that baby needs to burp are similar to the those that indicate baby is overtired

Is your hard to burp baby gassy or simply overtired?

When babies are tired they tend to lose interest in their surroundings, stare into space and want to suck (if 6 weeks or older).  As they start becoming overtired they can become tense and irritable.  

Signs that your baby is overtired include:

  • frantic, jerky movements and general discomfort and irritability
  • wriggling and squirming
  • arching back and neck
  • spitting-up
  • grimacing, red-faced
  • screwing up face

See how similar these are to the signs that baby needs to burp?

It can be quite difficult to tell if tiredness is the issue or your baby has gas and needs to burp, but keeping an eye on when your baby last napped and knowing their “awake time”, the time your baby can happily stay awake before needing to sleep, can really help.

Check out this post to figure out your baby’s awake times and avoid overtiredness.

If your baby has been awake a long time (as a guide, babies younger than 3 months can very rarely stay awake for longer than 2 hours without becoming overtired) and won’t burp, try settling her to sleep. 

Or if the environment is very stimulating (lots of bright lights, unfamiliar faces, loud unfamiliar noises) take her somewhere quiet.  You can also try holding her in a comfortable position which will also encourage a burp (e.g. the colic carry, see below) rather than frantically trying to wind your baby, which may only stimulate and irritate further.

Do you burp infants after breastfeeding?

Some say that if you’re breastfeeding you don’t need to burp your baby.  However, I always found it necessary to burp at least once during a feed as well as at the end; it’s a very individual thing.  If you have a fast let-down, as I did, you’ll probably find your baby swallows quite a bit of air and will therefore need burping.

Likewise, a poor latch and hungry, frantic gulping down of milk can mean your newborn will swallow more air than necessary.  

If in doubt, burp your baby.  

Do you burp infants after breastfeeding?
If in doubt, burp your baby after breastfeeding

How long does burping a newborn take & how often should you burp them?

How much time should you spend trying to “burp” a baby?

Well, how long’s a piece of string?!  Some babies are quick to burp, others slower. Or you may find that sometimes you get a load of burps up in a matter of minutes and other times you battle for a good half an hour or longer. Or maybe your baby is always hard to burp.  

There’s also a possibility that you can’t get a single burp up.  That’s ok too.  In the meantime, hold your baby upright or in a comfortable position for the both of you, or settle them to sleep if needed. (It is ok to put your baby to sleep without burping, more on that later.)

How often should you burp a newborn each feeding?

If your baby is a greedy guzzler and shows no signs of stopping for a break, then she may not need to burp until finished.  But I’d always err on the side of caution and stop at least once for a burp break just in case.  If you’re bottle-feeding, it’s highly likely that enough air has been swallowed to warrant a few burps.

Then, once you’ve burped your baby, continue feeding and burp baby again at the end, or earlier as necessary.

Of course, as your baby gets older and better at feeding, you might find they need to burp less frequently.  Like everything baby, the best method is to follow their lead.

So, as a general rule, burp your newborn midway through the feed and again at the end or whenever your baby needs. 

How much should a newborn burp?  (Is one burp enough for a newborn?)

One burp probably isn’t enough, but of course, every baby is different and it also depends on just how gassy your newborn is when feeding.  Plus, not all burps are equal. 

While my girl twin tends to have lots of little burps, at least 8, sometimes 15, in total (both during and after a feed), her brother normally has just a few (3 or 4).  However, at least 1 of those is one huge belch  – “burp” certainly doesn’t cover the kind of noise he makes!

According to one expert, Philippa Murphy of BabyCues who studies the digestive biology of infants, 10 burps per feed is the absolute minimum.  While Dr Gellner from The University of Utah, is firmly on the other end of the spectrum, saying that some babies just don’t need to burp and not to worry about it.

So my advice would be to give your baby the opportunity to burp but be led by your baby.  If you manage 3 burps and your baby is content, then leave it at that. You can always keep her in an upright position to see if any more come up.  Or you may find after 10 burps your newborn still seems gassy and uncomfortable.  In which case carry on.   

Does spit up count as a burp?

Your baby may spit up due to some trapped wind, so as a gas bubble is expelled, a bit of milk comes too.  But newborns can spit up simply because the valve between the stomach and esophagus is underdeveloped – instead of only allowing food to pass into the stomach, it opens when it shouldn’t.  This is why you want to keep your baby upright after feeding – lying down puts extra pressure on the valve which can force it to open. 

So sometimes spit up will count as a burp, but you could get lots of wind up and baby still continues to spit up.  

Why won’t my baby burp?

It’s possible that your baby won’t burp because she simply doesn’t need to.  If over the age of 6 months, this could well be the case.

However, newborns will almost for certain have taken some air in when feeding, it’s almost unavoidable, so will probably need help burping.   If your baby is hard to burp, it means those air bubbles have just got a little stuck.  So the positions you normally use to burp your baby just don’t do the job, leaving you stuck with a baby that won’t burp and has gas or even with a baby that can’t burp and in pain

How to burp a baby that won’t burp

Here are some tips on the best ways to burp a gassy newborn, specifically for the hard to burp baby.

#1 Whichever burping position you try, make sure you’re putting pressure on the abdomen

The classic burping position is to hold baby facing your chest with their head over your shoulder.  All you’re really achieving by doing that is holding baby upright. 

What you actually want to do is put firm pressure on the lower abdomen, just below the ribcage.  So for this particular burping position, make sure baby is really high up, almost over your shoulder.  This creates a lot of pressure on the lower abdomen and help expel gas in a hard to burp baby.

#2 Rub and squeeze, don’t pat

Light patting on the back won’t cut it with a hard to burp baby.  Some even say this may be counterproductive; that all it does is break down big gas bubbles into smaller ones.  What you want to do instead is firmly rub your baby’s back right from the base, all the way to the base of their neck.  You want to try and push and squeeze that trapped wind up and out of your baby.   

#3 If you haven’t already, try these baby burping positions

In my experience, I’ve found the following burping positions the most effective when trying to burp a hard to burp baby:

for a hard to burp baby, hold them high up, almost over the shoulder
for a hard to burp baby, hold them high up, almost over the shoulder to put pressure on the abdomen

A – The over-the-shoulder hold

As long as baby is way up and almost over, putting that all important pressure on right where it’s needed.

Hard to burp baby sitting and tipping forward
If your baby won’t burp, try them in a sitting position, slightly tipping forwards

B – In a sitting position, while you’re sitting

So have baby sitting on one of your legs while you’re sitting comfortably, facing right or left, slightly tipping forwards while your hand supports the head and neck.  It’s the tipping forwards that will create that firm pressure on the lower abdomen.  You can also rub baby’s back with your other hand.

If your newborn won't burp, try some tummy time while baby on lap
Lying baby across your lap and putting pressure on the lower abdomen can help shift stubborn gas

C – Lying on their front across your lap

Think tummy time, just on your lap, while supporting baby’s head with one hand.  Position baby so the lower abdomen is over one of your legs, providing pressure to help shift that stubborn burp.

colic carry can help a newborn that won't burp
The “colic carry” can help a newborn that won’t burp stay comfortable

D – The colic carry

Lie baby over your forearm, cupping their crotch with your hand, so the head is towards your elbow.  This burping position naturally provides pressure, encouraging a burp and will also be comfortable if your hard to burp baby is in pain.  You can also rub their back from bottom to top with your free hand.

#4 Add in gentle movement 

Whatever position you have your hard to burp baby in, add in some movement to help dislodge those stubborn air bubbles.  This is easier in some positions than others; positions 2 and 4 above work the best.

  • In #2 above, you can simply bounce your baby while she’s sitting by moving your leg up and down.   You can also try rotating your baby’s upper body in a circle using both hands to support the head and neck, while they’re sitting. 
  • In #4 you can gently and slowly swing the arm your baby is lying over.

 

  • leg pushes can help a newborn that won't burp
    A strategic leg push can help a baby that won’t burp and has gas

If your baby is content to lie on her back (many won’t be if they have trapped wind) you can also try:

  • BICYCLE LEGS – take a foot in each hand and move your baby’s legs as if pedaling a bike.
  • LEG PUSHES – again, take a foot in each hand and push baby’s legs up towards her belly button, hold, release and repeat.

#5 Keep switching baby burping positions

This also works on the basis of movement – the motion of moving your baby from one position to another may be all that is needed to bring that gas bubble up.

What to do if your baby won’t burp 

Definitely don’t panic! If you’ve tried everything mentioned above with your hard to burp baby and you’re still not winning, here are a few options:

#1 Wait

Give it time.  Patience may be all that you need.  

#2 Hold baby upright

Hold your newborn upright so that if and when baby does burp, spit-up is minimized.  A baby bouncer can also do this job effectively once your newborn is a little older and stronger. 

#3 Put baby in a position that alleviates any gas pains while encouraging a burp

This normally means putting baby on their front – the colic carry is ideal as it leaves you with a free hand.  You could also try a little tummy time if you need both hands free, but a few minutes will probably all a tiny baby can manage.

#4 Try some gassy newborn massage

Baby massage can both soothe your gassy baby and help move any trapped wind from lower parts of the abdomen to higher parts.  It may even bring up a burp.

It’s not for when baby is crying, baby needs to be calm and relaxed enough to do the massage.

This video has a great demonstration of 6 different massage techniques: ‘around the clock’, ‘baby bicycles’, ‘scooping the sand’, ‘I love you’, ‘the sun and the moon’ and ‘the colic carry’ or ‘tiger in the tree’.

 

 

Here are some other ways to calm and soothe an agitated baby: Baby won’t stop fussing or crying? 7 winning strategies to calm and soothe

#5 Settle your newborn to sleep

If your baby is starting to get tired and showing you those sleepy cues, a nap is probably going to be the best option.  All about sleeping and burping up next.  

Is it ok to put baby to sleep without burping?

If your baby is hard to burp, you might not get any wind up before they need to sleep.  So you may be wondering, what if baby doesn’t burp and falls asleep?  It is ok to put your newborn to sleep without burping and it may be the best thing for them.  Again, there are three possibilities:

  1. Baby settles to sleep well and sleeps as normal and may or may not burp on waking 
  2. Baby settles to sleep well, but wakes earlier than usual due to trapped wind 
  3. The trapped wind is forced down into the gut, causing discomfort or pain that will only be relieved after farting or pooping

Baby wakes up crying?

If your baby wakes crying, trapped wind could be the cause.  You may find that after burping she’ll settle back to sleep, so it’s definitely worth a try.

A high pitch cry normally signals gas pain in the gut, but could also indicate reflux.

Related post: The scoop on REFLUX REMEDIES: natural remedies, over-the-counter ones & prescribed medications

How to burp a sleeping baby?

So your baby falls asleep without burping.  What to do next?  Well, you can simply leave your baby asleep, but babies can burp while sleeping.  You don’t need or want to wake them first; it’s perfectly possible to burp a sleeping baby.  

Burping baby at night (after night feeds)

It’s during and after night feeds you’re most likely going to be faced with the task of burping your sleeping newborn.  One benefit to night feeds is that babies normally feed slower, swallowing less air.  Which probably means they won’t need to burp as much.  (The exception being if your baby has day night confusion and is more active at night.)  

Tips to burp a sleeping baby 

Just like when you’re burping your hard to burp baby, try and stick to these two key principles:

  1. hold baby in a position that puts pressure on the lower abdomen
  2. rub baby’s back, rather than pat: rub firmly from the base of the spine all the way up to the neck

My favorite burping positions for a sleeping baby

I’d always go for the newborn shoulder hold, with baby up and over the shoulder, while I was sitting down.  Because it’s easy and requires very little energy.

For an even more comfortable position, you can lean back a little with baby on your chest and rub their back.  It’s not as effective but if your baby is content and asleep, being on an incline may be enough to allow those bubbles to resurface.

If you do nothing else, simply hold your baby upright

It can often be harder to get your baby to burp if they’re asleep and if it’s the middle of the night, if you’re anything like me, your motivation to burp might be on the low side… Simply holding your baby upright for a set time will give your baby chance to burp, at the same time allow their stomach to settle and reducing the chance of spit-up when you lie them down again.

When to stop burping a baby

Again, take the lead from your baby.  If they’ve brought up a few burps and are still hungry, continue feeding.  Or if baby is showing tiredness cues, settle them to sleep; if particularly gassy, carry on.  And so on.

In terms of age, by 6 months or when your baby starts sitting unaided, your baby will probably need a lot less help burping.  In addition, by this age they’re more efficient and effective at eating and don’t swallow as much gas.  Watch for the signs that baby has gas, and burp as and when necessary, being careful to avoid confusing gassiness with overtiredness.

Some Newborns Take Longer To Burp Than Others! Don’t Get Discouraged!

If you have a hard to burp baby, I feel you, it can be frustrating.  It’s particularly tough when you see your baby is in pain but won’t burp.  Try the tips above and if you still can’t get any wind up, keep baby comfortable and settle them to sleep if necessary.

 

 

If you found this post useful, these ones may also be worth a read:

Need help getting your baby to sleep? Try these:

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Mum of two outrageously gorgeous and ridiculously energetic toddlers – A.K.A. not so little, Littllees.  I’m determined to give them the best without losing my mind.  I reckon it’s possible.  Most days.  

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