Burping Tips & Tricks

Believe it or not, there is an art to burping a baby. I always thought it was simple: throw him/her over your shoulder, pat their back, and out would come a burp. Simple enough, right? Wrong! Burping is a technique that must be learned; otherwise a frustrated parent could spend all day working up that one little burp. With such a small belly, one little air bubble can cause intense discomfort.

My first child was labeled "colicky" while my second was dubbed "hard to burp" by the hospital staff. Between these two, I have learned a few tricks of the trade that I would like to share with other new parents and hopefully prevent some tear-shed (on the parents' part, that is).

The Classic Over The Shoulder Position

This is probably the most common method, but can also be the most difficult to produce results. I recently discovered the trick to this position. Place your baby so that his upper belly is against your collarbone. Apply slight pressure with your collarbone while patting his back, or use the heel of your hand to gently rub circles on his back. Be sure to throw a burp cloth over your shoulder to catch any spills!

The Lap Method

Although awkward at first, it is easier to position baby correctly with this method. Sit baby up on your lap. Holding him with one hand against the front of his body, lean him forward slightly. Place the heel of your hand under his ribcage and apply slight pressure. If he is still too young to hold his head up on his own, you will need to support his chin with your fingers. Again, pat his back or rub circles with your free hand. This position is very good for babies that spit-up frequently. Simply place a burp cloth between your hand and baby's chest, then flip the cloth over the back of your hand.

The "Old-School" Method

My aunt recently showed me this method, which I had never seen before. Hold baby in your lap just as you would for the previous method, but bend him further forward at the waist. As you pat or rub your baby's back, slowly and gently rotate his body 360 degrees from the waist, much like he was doing a stretching exercise. Try to imagine doing a pre-aerobic warm-up: bend at the waist and stretch forward, then roll around to the right, continue rolling until you are leaning backwards, then roll to the left and front again. Repeat. If he shows any resistance, try another method. This is definitely the trickiest to maneuver, especially if baby is not yet holding his head up on his own, but has amazing results.

Watching my aunt's demonstration, I chuckled under my breath, not being able to envision how this could possibly cause my son to burp. After only a few seconds, he let out a belch that would have made his ex-Marine father proud. Never underestimate your elders!

If All Else Fails

This particular method may not actually produce a burp, but, if none of the other positions do the trick and baby is still fussy, try laying him/her on your lap and gently rub circles on baby's back with the heel of your hand. This seems to relieve some of the pressure off his belly and is recommended particularly for colicky babies. Many parents also use this method to relax baby and help him fall asleep.

Some babies can only be burped in a specific position; others can be easily burped with any method. If you do not have success with a particular position, try another one. Sometimes just moving them from one position to another seems to work out that burp. I can spend half an hour trying to burp my son with no success, then simply lift him up high into the air, and he'll burp all by himself.