Updated: May 31, 2020
As infants eat, they no doubt get some air during feeds. This is why burping them is so important. Early on it’s necessary to stop during a feed and burp before continuing. Typically with breastfed babies this is done between switching from one side to the other. For bottle fed babies, generally after 2-3 ounces or as you notice them becoming squirmy. There are a few positions that work best, but it can be individual for each child and caregiver as to which works best. The two main positions I have found to be favorites and very effective are upright at your shoulder. Position one arm under their bum while using your other hand to gently but firmly pat on their back. Younger infants without head and neck control can be placed slightly lower to allow the head to be supported by your shoulder. Burps should happen within a few minutes. Typically one good burp or two will suffice. The other position that works well is to sit them on your lap and support their head and neck with your hand while resting their jaw line between your thumb and fingers. Now you can pat their back with your other hand. Sometimes a gentle rubbing motion with pressure works well too. While in this sitting position you can also gently rock them front to back which puts gentle pressure on their bellies to also encourage those air bubbles to come out. In either of these positions, your little one should get those burps out within a few minutes. They don’t need much, just a burp or two is generally enough.
As babies grow and their digestive system develops, burping becomes less of a necessity. This shift is generally around 4-6 months of age as their core strengthens and solids are introduced. As their core strengthens, burps will occur naturally. Breast and bottle feeds can be completed start to finish unless they are showing signs of discomfort.
One important reminder with burping, always have a burp cloth on hand. Either over your shoulder or in your hand with your chosen position. Burping can lead to spitting up with some babies. This is normal and some will spit up more than others, just be prepared!