How to: burp a baby

With poo a close second, I have found that wind is our number one obsession when it comes to Elphie – specifically how much we can get out of her through burps (we can’t influence the farts so much). The reason for the obsession is that I am convinced that when she decides to cry inconsolably for hours some evenings (unless baby whisperer Hester is around) that this is due to tummy ache caused by excessive wind that has built up during the day as a result of the significant and noisy guzzling that has gone on.

Wind should be less of a problem for a breastfed baby as the worst culprit for causing wind is the bottle as the fast flow of the teat means the baby has to gulp in air in between sucking and hence gets bubbles of air alongside its food. Apparently the obsession with burping is a very first world problem and a lot of the rest of the world don’t bother! In theory this is because they breastfeed more and do so in a more upright position and hence less air is taken in.

Why does burping work?

The internetz are surprisingly quiet on the science behind burping, so my theory is that putting pressure on the stomach and intestines and tapping or rubbing pushes the air inside it and forces it up and out as a belch. This theory is based on the idea that you can remove air from cake mixes by tapping the cake tin filled with the cake mix on a surface, bringing the air bubbles in the mixture to the surface. I am not sure babies are exactly the same as cake tins and their contents the same as cake mix, but that’s as close to a science bit as I can get.

How to do it

There are three standard techniques for burping a baby:

  • Against your shoulder
  • Sitting up
  • Across your knees
  • Once in one of these positions, some gentle but firm patting and rubbing should get you your satisfying belch.

    Having a muslin underneath the burping mouth is a recommended addition to any burping session since sometimes it ain’t just air that comes out!

    Against your shoulder

    Sitting up

    Across your knees


    My personal favourite burping technique is one where I sit Elphie up on my lap with her back to me leaning against me and hold her with my arm across her front. Then I leave her there and often she burps! I refer to this technique as the “self-burp” and really I should trademark it. Sometimes this is also achieved when I lay her front-ways on my chest while lying down.

    If those don’t work, Dr Sears has a whole range of other methods – a little more active than the fabulous self-burp method!

    Apparently burping becomes less necessary as babies are able to sit up (and hence perform the self-burp method themselves), so as they get more active you can burp them less and by six months you probably won’t need to at all.

    Of course all this applies if you happen to be hand-rearing a tiger too…
    “Just like with a Human Child, after Bottle Feeding a Tiger or Leopard Cub, I have to “burp” the baby. Then to simulate the Mother’s Behavior of using her tongue to stimulate the baby to urinate and defecate I utilize a warm “Wet Wipe” napkin. All I can say is “thank G-d for the Wet Wipe” ;-)! I love each and every infant beyond words; but using my tongue is where I draw the line”

    Good to know.

    One thought on “How to: burp a baby

    1. Hester

      Great! I did ask a paediatrician friend how rubbing a baby’s back helped in the process, and got the disappointing answer ‘Nothing; it just helps to soothe the baby’. I prefer your cake-baking analogy!


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