When your baby is screaming from trapped gas, time seems to slow down. You know she needs to burp. Her little body is rigid, back arched, face beet-red, and her fists are clenched in unbearable pain. You would give anything–anything–to ease her pain.
You’ve tried throwing her onto your shoulder and patting her back but still that trapped gas will not escape.
Both of my daughters were super gassy. Each baby was hard to burp. This kind of nightmare scenario led to lots of tears and frustration for both of us. It tore at my mama heart to see them in so much pain! Learning effective burping tips was an absolute necessity. I’m glad I get to share these tips with you and hopefully help you and your baby get through this as well.
Without further ado, here are my best tips to help when your baby won’t burp.
RELATED POSTS TO TIPS WHEN YOUR BABY WON’T BURP:
- Why Won’t My Baby Burp?
- What to Do When Your Baby Won’t Burp: 10 Burping Tips to Try
- And…What if Baby Still Won’t Burp?
- Preventing Infant Gas in the Future
- Change Bottle Nipples – Anti-Colic/Slow-Flow Nipple
- Ensure a Good Latch
- Change Positions
- Burp More Frequently
- Fix Overactive Letdown
- Give Baby Gripe Water Before a Feeding
- Switch up Formula
- Watch Your Diet
- Try Bottle-Feeding
- How Long Does it Take to Burp a Baby?
- Should I Burp for a Dream Feed or Night Feed?
- When to Stop Burping Your Baby
- Talk to Your Doctor if Your Baby Won’t Burp and Needs to
Why Won’t My Baby Burp?
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Remember why you need to burp your baby: Burping helps your little one release any excess gas from his stomach.
Some babies need to be burped after every feeding. But, some babies simply don’t need to be burped.
If your baby isn’t burping, keep in mind that he might not actually need to be burped. In fact, sometimes burping your baby excessively can cause more harm than good ( in the form of spit up and discomfort).
We’re briefly going over the signs of trapped gas and what causes it. Then, if you’re still sure your baby needs to pass gas, we’ll move on to the burping tips I swear by.
Signs of Trapped Gas
Is your baby screaming from trapped gas or is it something else? Let’s check those symptoms real quick to make sure we’re actually dealing with a gassy baby.
Most common signs of trapped gas in babies:
- Arching Back
- Lifting Legs to Stomach
- Clenching Fist
- High-pitched scream (usually very sudden, can even happen while nursing)
- Bloated stomach
- Actually passing gas
Causes of Trapped Gas
Okay, now you’re sure your baby is, indeed, gassy. But WHY? This is the million dollar question, isn’t it? The thing is, doctor’s aren’t 100% why some babies are gassy and why others aren’t.
Having said that, if your baby is constantly gassy, there could be something else going on. Burping him is only slapping a bandaid on a bigger wound. Please look through this list and ask yourself if one of these might apply to you.
What Causes of Gas in Babies:
- Crying: Was your baby crying just before a feeding? This can cause trapped air.
- Tongue Tie: Your baby isn’t able to latch properly so he is taking in lots of air.
- Overactive Letdown: Sometimes your letdown can be a massive stream of milk that’s too much for him to handle. So, he slips off your nipple, capturing air.
- Wrong Bottle Nipple: Same concept here, too much flow.
- Underdeveloped digestive systems
- Reaction to mother’s diet or formula
- Reaction to baby’s diet (if starting solids)
What to Do When Your Baby Won’t Burp: 10 Burping Tips to Try
1 Know When to Burp Your Baby
A lot of times the success of burping your baby rides on when you do it.
Some babies need to be burped multiple times during a feeding. Others need to be burped once afterwards. Honestly, it depends on you and your baby.
For example, both of my daughters suffered from tongue ties while I had an overactive letdown. Basically, my girls swallowed A LOT of air and multiple burpings per nursing session. Most of the time, we burped after they switched sides. But sometimes, we needed to stop nursing and burp because they swallowed a big ol’ air bubble.
My official stance is this: if you think your baby has trapped gas, burp them. You’ll develop a six-sense about this. Eventually, you might even hear or feel the air travel into his digestive tract.
In the meantime, here’s a quick reminder for the most common times to burp your baby:
- Before Feeding: My doctor said this allows them to take in more milk
- During Feeding: As needed or after switching breasts. If bottle feeding, ever 2-3 ounces.
- After Feeding: If your baby is really gassy, you might want to try nursing one more time.
2 Try Different Positions
When the most common burping position (over the shoulder) doesn’t do it, it might be time to get creative. Let’s look at a few more positions you can try!
- Over shoulder: Okay, this is more of a reminder to double-check your positioning. Make sure your baby’s head is above your shoulder level and his stomach/chest region should be lightly pressed against you. Support his neck and upper back with one hand, patting with the other. I also liked to move my baby upward until her stomach was pressed against my collarbone (just make sure you’re still supporting her head)
- Face down on lap: Lay your baby face-down on your lap with one leg lightly pressing into his stomach and the other under his head. His head should be supported by your hand and turned sideways. Pat or massage his back with the other.
- Sit on lap: If your baby won’t burp, this position can work like a dream. It was certainly the most successful position for us! Something about sitting upright seemed to help even the biggest bubbles escape. Face your baby away from you, lean him forward slightly, support his neck/chin with your hand (minding his airway, of course!). I didn’t apply pressure in this position because it seemed like her tummy was already compressed and didn’t need extra pressure. I liked to double-down sometimes by lifting my baby into a stand and then repositioning. Movement=escaped gas!
- Sling/Over the Arm: This position made me a little nervous once my baby grew, but as a newborn it was handy if she needed additional pressure on her stomach. Basically, you sling baby over your arm, supporting his chin and hand with your hand. Your arm serves as pressure on his stomach will you gently pat his tummy with your other hand.
3 Change Your Hand Positions
I’ve found that your hand position definitely matters when you’re trying to burp a baby.
We’ve already talked about applying pressure to your baby’s stomach quite a bit. The right pressure can be just the thing when baby won’t burp. Having said that, too much pressure can cause them to spit up. So, press very gently into your baby’s stomach with the whole palm of your hand. Sometimes closer to the chest is more effective, sometimes the belly button works better.
Also, experiment with patting on the back. You can pat the same spot right around her shoulder blades, or you can work your way up and down baby’s back.
4 Massage Upward on Back
Sometimes patting your baby’s back is too much. It causes discomfort (which causes crying and more trapped air) or even reflux.
If this is the case with your baby, try gently massaging your baby’s back instead. Pressing firmly, swirl the palm of your hand upward on your baby’s back. Imagine gently coaxing the air bubble up your baby’s digestive tract.
5 Stand Up, Sit Down
I loved using this trick! While your baby is sitting on your lap, trying lifting them to a standing position for a moment, then sitting them back down. Then resume patting. I’m not a doctor, but I did notice that this position change seemed to help the air travel through my baby’s stomach.
6 Bicycle Legs
If your baby is hard to burp even with these handy positions, it might be time to try a few exercises.
Lay your baby flat on his back. Gently rotate his legs upward, one at a time, toward his stomach. Exactly like you would imagine him peddling on a bike. This position should straighten his posture and alternately apply gentle pressure to his stomach.
While you’re doing this exercise, try to make a game of it! Sometimes adding a little fun can help your baby stop crying and distract him from the pain.
7 Elbow to Knee
This exercise is very similar to bicycle legs, except instead of rotating his legs, we’re simply bringing one leg up to his opposite elbow. His elbow and knee don’t need to touch (his round tummy will probably be in the way), but you want to try to move his knee up until you feel some resistance.
8 Take a Break
Give yourself 5 minutes. If your baby won’t burp by then, it’s time to get up and take a break. Hold him, put him in a sling, or walk around. This little break serves a couple purposes: it gives your baby the time he needs to burp (sometimes air needs a minute to travel) and the movement can jostle trapped gas out of him.
9 Bounce Baby
On that note, bouncing with your baby could be just what the doctor ordered! Try holding your baby or placing him in a baby carrier and bounce around the room with him.
Once again, this burping tip serves multiple purposes.
For one, you’re calming your baby. If he’s experiencing pain from trapped gas, sometimes the best thing you can do is comfort him. Secondly, you’re applying gentle pressure to your baby’s stomach while you’re bouncing. And finally, you’re using rhythmic motion to gradually ease that air bubble up and out of his stomach.
10 Burp While They’re Asleep
What if your baby doesn’t burp and falls asleep? Well, sometimes this scenario can be a solution in itself. Remember, not all babies need to burp! If your baby falls asleep without burping, that’s okay! The air may ease its way out of him without any effort on your part. This is especially the case for dream feeds or night feeds when your baby is already drowsy and relaxed.
However, if you notice that he has a habit of waking up soon after with obvious discomfort, you may want to try burping your baby while he’s asleep.
I know what you’re thinking. How in the world can I burp a sleeping baby? Burping a sleeping baby is actually easy and you might find yourself in this position more often than you’d expect….
In the crib: Try rubbing or patting gently your baby’s back while he’s stomach down. Make sure his face is turned sideways. Sometimes the pressure from the mattress gets the bubble out. Make sure you move him onto his back afterwards.
You can also try the over the shoulder technique as well. If patting wakes him up too much, try firm swirling motions instead.
Bonus Tip: Track Your Burping Habits With a Baby Feeding Journal or Baby Care App
I find it difficult to write in notebooks, but I liked to record my baby’s feeding times with a baby care app. Some of them also allow you the option of recording occurrences in the notes or even burps. Keep track of the techniques that you tried when your baby won’t burp.
Alternatively, you can also track your baby’s crying and sleep habits with these free baby sleep printables.
And…What if Baby Still Won’t Burp?
Calm Him Down
If you’ve tried all of these handy tricks and your baby is hard to burp STILL…it’s time to use comfort techniques instead. As your baby cries, he’s taking in a lot of air, making the problem even worse. Distracting him from the pain you may get rid of the trapped air naturally.
But what if you don’t know how to calm a crying baby?
Let me share this A-Mazing resource with you!
During the worst of my baby’s colic phase, I took a newborn sleep class called “Will I Ever Sleep Again?” by Taking Cara Babies. This class was worth it’s weight in gold because it not only taught me how to get my highly sensitive baby to sleep more, but it taught me how to calm her down. Cara’s CRIES method is pure magic (it’s a version of Harvey Karp’s 5 S’s). If you’re really struggling with how to calm your baby and improve her sleep life, I highly recommend checking it out.
Note to Moms of Colicky Babies:
Sometimes CRIES didn’t calm my baby down. Sometimes NOTHING calmed my baby down. I held her, rocked her, and cried with her and still had to watch as she cried so hard that her face turned purple. In the end, I had to lay her in her crib and take a minute to gather myself.
Listening to your baby cry endlessly is frustrating and heartbreaking. It’s okay if you can’t comfort your baby sometimes. It’s not a reflection of you or your mothering skill. I promise, your baby will not hate you later. Some babies, especially colicky babies, are born with underdeveloped nervous and digestive systems.
If you’re struggling with this, check out The Fussy Baby Site Support Group to connect with other moms that are going through the SAME THING. You don’t have to do this alone!
Use Gas Drops
If your baby won’t burp, using gas drops can be a surprisingly quick remedy!
I loved using the Little Remedies Gas Drops on my second daughter when her gas build-up just would not go away. I was always amazed at how quickly the gas drops worked (though sometimes, they didn’t work).
Gas drops is mostly comprised of a medication called simethecone, which typically breaks up gas bubbles in your baby’s stomach. Gas drops are considered safe for newborns, though you should talk to your pediatrician before using.
Preventing Infant Gas in the Future
These techniques are great, but honestly, prevention is always the best treatment for infant gas! It’s impossible to prevent baby gas altogether, but there’s a couple things you can do to at least lessen its impact or occurrence.
Change Bottle Nipples – Anti-Colic/Slow-Flow Nipple
When your baby is using the wrong type of nipple, he’s sucking in excess air. If you’re seeing baby gas pain during feedings, try an anti-colic bottle. Anti-colic bottles make use of slow-flow nipples and valve systems to serve two purposes: slowing the flow of milk to the speed that your baby needs and reducing air in the nipple. I used the MAM Easy Start Anti-Colic Bottle with great success.
Ensure a Good Latch
I can’t stress this enough. I’m convinced this is the main reason behind both of my daughters’ gassiness. If your baby isn’t latched on properly, he will suck in air during nursing. If you’re struggling to get a good latch, check out this tutorial!
Perhaps your baby isn’t able to latch properly in his current position. During the worst of our gas issues, my second daughter seemed to enjoy the football hold the most.
Burp More Frequently
We’ve already covered this, but just a reminder…If you’ve noticed that your baby is gassy, try burping every 2-3 ounces or after switching breasts.
Fix Overactive Letdown
An overactive letdown can mess with your hindmilk/foremilk balance and also cause your baby to release your breast because of too much milk flow. Both of which can cause gassiness.
Give Baby Gripe Water Before a Feeding
My pediatrician shared this trick and I really think it helped! Before every feeding, I gave my baby a couple drops of Gripe Water (if you don’t know what Gripe Water is, let me tell you, it’s basically miracle serum for babies. We had such great success with it!)
She explained that gripe water coats your baby’s stomach, somewhat preventing more reflux and gas. Unfortunately, gripe water isn’t a cure-all or guaranteed to work, but I definitely noticed a difference when I used it.
Switch up Formula
While all formulas sold in the United States have to meet the same standards and are healthy for your baby, some ingredients can cause infant gas and reflux. Namely dairy bases…
Check out your baby’s formula. If your baby won’t burp, suffers from gas pain, shows signs of reflux, or produces green stool, consider trying a line for sensitive stomachs, like Enfamil Gentlease.
It can be difficult (and expensive) experimenting with different formulas. That’s why many manufacturers often offer sample boxes. If you want to get a free sample of Enfamil’s Gentlease (plus up to $400 in coupons), sign up for their free Family Beginnings Box.
Watch Your Diet
Dark green veggies (like broccoli and Kale) and dairy products seem to be the main culprit for gas pain in babies. While most babies can tolerate these foods reasonably well, it might be worth experimenting with if your baby is consistently gassy.
If you’re nursing, sometimes trapped gas can actually make your baby go on nursing strike. At the height of my daughter’s gas and colic symptoms, we had to use a bottle for almost every meal. It was terribly inconvenient and we also had to work with nipple confusion, but in the end, it helped us overcome her gas issues and nursing strike.
My pediatrician put it this way: baby gas pain is no joke. When he experiences pain every time he nurses, this can actively make him avoid the boob.
If the reason behind your baby’s gassiness is from an overactive letdown or tongue tie, a bottle can reduce infant gas dramatically, and help your baby enjoy a peaceful, painless feeding. Give it a try and see if it helps!
RELATED POST: 10 SIGNS YOUR BABY HAS A TONGUE TIE
How Long Does it Take to Burp a Baby?
Okay. You have some handy techniques to try when your baby won’t burp. By now you’re probably wondering, “How long should I burp baby?”
Some babies burp almost instantaneously, others might take a while. My daughter always took at least a couple minutes of gentle pats and maneuvering to release her gas. Having said that, I would give yourself a time limit of about 5 minutes before you take a break and do something else.
Should I Burp for a Dream Feed or Night Feed?
To burp or not to burp, that’s the question…
Every mom debates with herself about this at some time or another.
First, let’s clarify. Sometimes the terms “dream feed” and night feed can be used interchangeably. These are really two different feelings though. Typically, a dream feed is pre-planned (between 9-11pm) and done while your baby is asleep. A night feed is simply a hunger feed in the middle of the night.
For the dream feed, your baby may be so relaxed that he won’t gulp down excess air. Plus, burping him may wake him up, which defeats the purpose. Ultimately, it’s up to you though. Some babies can be burped very easily without waking.
For the night feed, your baby tends to wake you up with his hunger cries. During which time, he probably swallowed air. He’s also probably ravenous, so he may be gulping down air while feeding. Therefore, I think burping after a night feed is important.
During the newborn phase, I always burped my babies multiple times a feed, even at night. If I didn’t, they would almost always wake up later with reflux or just screaming. I did, however, use less vigorous pats. If your baby is hard to burp during the night as well, don’t sweat it. She may pass gas while she’s sleeping!
When to Stop Burping Your Baby
Around 4-6 months you’ll hit this glorious period where your baby no longer needs to be burped. Indeed, you’ll find that he takes great joy in passing gas (from the top and bottom) all by himself.
Don’t worry, Mama. Your time of dealing with infant gas pain is very, very short. You will get through it!
Last Note: Colic
If your baby has colic, you should know that some colicky babies may grow more upset if you try to burp them. One study in 2014 found no difference in colic babies that were burped and those that weren’t.
I’ve experienced this as well from time to time. My baby displayed many colic symptoms. Sometimes burping did help and we were able to continue eating. Other times, comforting techniques were more effective.
Trust your mama gut here.
Talk to Your Doctor if Your Baby Won’t Burp and Needs to
Hands-down, the worst part of the newborn phase can be listening to your baby scream because of gas pain. When your baby won’t burp, it pulls on your mama heart strings.
I can’t tell you how many times I cried, prayed, and begged during my second daughters screaming sessions.
If you’re stuck in this situation, first let me encourage you. Your baby is hard to burp, but that’s not his fault or yours. You’re a good mom and you’re not doing anything wrong. Right now these minutes–even hours–probably feel endless, but I promise this phase does pass.
Give all of these burping tips a try and keep in mind that it can be multiple things.
For example, I suffered from an overactive letdown, both of my daughters were mildly tongue-tied, and my second daughter (still) suffers from dairy sensitivities. That’s a lot of small issues compounding. Babies often have a lot of small issues going on! It took A LOT of experimenting to get this all figured out. For a while, we had to switch to pumping and bottle feeding until my letdown figured itself out and her tongue tie exercises strengthened her suckling capabilities.
If you’re breastfeeding, talk to your pediatrician AND a lactation consultant. Your pediatrician can help you figure out a lot, but a lactation consultant is trained to look for these minor details, like a good latch and letdown issues.
My heart goes out to you. I know this phase isn’t easy. Hopefully these tips help! If you have any questions or additional tips for when your baby won’t burp, let me know in the comments below.
RELATED POSTS TO TIPS WHEN YOUR BABY WON’T BURP:
I love giving new and expecting moms the tips they need to rock their pregnancy and raise their babies confidently.