You have enjoyed the benefits of Birthzang’s Amazing Fart Expulsion Technique for years and there is no surprise that it is the most read blog post on my website! But burping babies is just as much a challenge, and while Birthzang can’t really claim to have invented this burping technique, it is always helpful to have a good summary of all the different ways you can try to burp your baby.
I know someone who doesn’t believe in colic, just that the baby has trapped wind of the burping or farting variety and perseverance to expel said wind is the best cure for colic. I’m not sure I agree with this completely, but I do think that trapped wind can be much worse than we realise.
How do I know if it is a burp or a fart that needs to come out?
A general rule of thumb is that burps are usually required during or at the end of every feed, whether your baby is breast or bottle fed. Some may need more burping than others, but you can usually tell if a baby needs burping as their legs tend to curl up to their chest when they cry. Bottom wind tends to present as legs straightening and back slightly arching. In both cases their tummies tend to feel quite hard.
So here are my top tips for expelling baby’s burps. There are basically 3 elements to consider and it is usually a combination of mixing one of each element and see what works for you…Oh, and before I forget, it is a good idea to liberally drape yourself with a muslin square in case the baby has a little bit of vomit with their burp!
I am not trained in burping babies (is there even such a thing?). I did have two babies of my own which somewhat qualifies me but through my training as a yoga teacher, active birth teacher and reflexologist, I have a good understanding of anatomy and physiology. I give these tips and techniques to you on the understanding you are a sensible human who understands that newborn babies should be handled with care, with delicacy and gentle hands. I have indicated if some positions are not suitable for newborns so please take responsibility for ensuring you read this article properly before attempting anything. If you are unsure or something seems wrong then DON’T DO IT! Feel free to contact me for clarification of any technique.
1. Baby’s Body Position
Different positions work for different babies. Sometimes you need to use a combination and this may well change as your baby’s body gets stronger and more able to hold themselves up. Overall, burps are just trapped air, and air is lighter than the body so wants to travel up. Therefore upright positions are usually better at helping the air gather together to come out. If you use more horizontal positions keep bringing baby upright from time to time to encourage the air to rise.
Baby over shoulder
Hold your baby so their head is facing over your shoulder. You can vary the position higher and lower but I think the best height is where the baby’s stomach is pressed against your shoulder. This can sometimes feel like the baby is too high but don’t worry they will just flop over and have a look over at what is going on behind you.
Baby across knees
Sit on a chair or bed, with your knees together at right angles to your body. Place the baby facing down across your legs so their body is perpendicular to yours, and their tummy is resting on your legs. Their head and feet should hang over the edge (you may not want to do this with really tiny babies with very floppy necks). In this position you can try the massage techniques listed.
Another movement to add for this position is to gently rock your knees from side-to-side, ensuring you have a good hold of your baby. This gives their tummy a good massage and can help get the burps out. If you are feeling really confident you can try rolling their body up and down your legs – this is best done sat on the floor with your legs straight in front of you. Again, one to avoid for very new babies.
Baby sitting on your lap – facing away
Quite little babies will need their heads supported under their chin in this position. With stronger ones you can lift up their arms to get a good stretch in their abdomen, and then lower their arms down.
Another movement in this position is rocking them backwards and forwards, so they are leaning over their legs and then back, rotation and also body twist.
Baby sitting on your lap – facing to side
Sit baby facing sideways over one or both knees. With one hand hold under their chin (to support their head) and with the other hold their lower back.
Good movements here are rotation, forwards/backwards rocking and stretching the chest by lifting the arms. Take care with patting and massage to ensure you have a good hold of your baby with the other hand.
Baby sitting on your hip – facing away
You can do this standing up resting the baby’s bum on your hip, with them facing away from you with one arm supporting under their tummy. Smaller babies with weak necks might find this uncomfortable to use judgement with newborns.
Tiger in the Tree position
This can be done most comfortably whilst standing, but could be done sitting with a small baby. Standing holding the baby face down with their body across to yours, resting over your arm, with their head supported by the crook of your elbow (if very tiny) or chest resting over your forearm. The other hand comes up through their legs and meets the other hand so they are cradled in your arms. This can be readily adjusted to suit the size of your baby.
Make sure their tummy rests on your forearm as it is the pressure that feels nice. You can sway them, bounce them or just rock gently. I wouldn’t recommend massage in this position as you do need both arms to support the baby.
Lay them on their tummy
You can just lay them flat on their tummy on the floor or bed (no bedding). This naturally puts pressure on their belly, and this position also stretches out the abdomen. Often burps can come out of their own accord here. Of course, some babies loathe tummy time (Babyzang 1 would scream the moment I put him on his tummy!).
2. Baby’s Movements in a Position
Some movement can be done in certain positions but not others so just try and see what works.What we really want to aim for is some kind of movement in their body to encourage air bubbles to come together to form bigger air bubbles and travel up to the mouth.
Stretch their body
Best done by putting one hand under their chin and the other on the small of their back. gently lift the chin and with the other hand keep their back nice and straight.
Lift arms above head
This also stretches the body but should only be done with babies who can support their own necks. Lift the arms by their upper arms if quite small, or wrists if a bit bigger. The aim is to get a straight back here.
Rocking forwards & backwards
This is really a movement for the sitting positions. Holding the baby with a stretched body also helps. Bend them at the hips forwards over their legs, then lean them back – about 45 deg each way should be fine.
Rotate their body
Again one for sitting positions, rotate their bodies gently in a circular motion. You can change directions but do a good few rounds one way before swapping over. Hold their shoulders or torso and rotate their head and shoulders in a clockwise position.
Twist their body
To be done from sitting, best facing out. Hold their shoulders under their arms and gently twist their upper body to one side, then the other, keeping their hips and legs facing forwards. Be very gentle here and this is probably not a good idea for newborn or floppy babies who can’t support their heads.
Jiggle their body
Sometimes a gentle jiggle can help get the burps moving. BE VERY CAFEFUL not to shake the baby here – we are talking about micro-movements.
3. Massaging the Baby
While your baby is in any of the positions above, you can try using these massage techniques.
Pat the back
I would say this is going to be most effective as it helps to jolt any trapped air up the oesophagus. You can pat anywhere on the torso and can he helpful to pat in a circular motion, or from the bottom to the shoulders – again encouraging the air to travel up. Make sure you are gentle here, and a rhythmic pat is soothing for the babies. Pat with the whole hand and fingers to get a good distribution of weight.
Rubbing the back
You can rub in a circular motion, or up and down. This can be quite gentle or quite vigorous depending on what your baby likes – don’t worry, they will let you know if they don’t like it!
Rubbing tummy clockwise
It is a good idea to go clockwise as the large intestine is positioned in a circle in the abdomen and moves food along in a clockwise position. If we can stimulate the large intestine to pass any food or gas, then whatever is in the small intestine will come down more quickly. Nothing to get stressed about though – no harm in trying anticlockwise!
Think about your diet (if you are breastfeeding)
Some women find that babies can digest breastmilk better if they avoid certain foods, such as spicy food or dairy. You can also drink fennel tea and that is supposed to help aid your baby’s digestion
If all else fails…
There are medicines and remedies you can get to help babies bring up wind. Some have age restrictions and really should be used only as a last resort. Many of them are given to baby just before a feed and help to encourage the tiny air bubbles to join into bigger ones which are easier to burp. Most of these medicines have a lot of sugar or flavour in though and can affect the way your baby feeds and so are best avoided if you can manage without.
Here are a list of some to try
- Cold fennel tea
- Gripe water (after 4 weeks old)
- Colief (for lactose intolerance – and good for farts too)
Remember if your baby is really suffering with colic and trapped burps then there could be something else going on, such as silent reflux or lactose intolerance. If you are concerned go to your GP – follow your instincts here: you know if there is something wrong.
Oh and if you want to see how to get rid of farts then pop over and read Birthzang’s Amazing Fart Expulsion Technique (for babies).