Why do babies need to burp? And is burping after feeding really important? Our baby burping primer answers these questions and explains what causes gas in Baby’s belly — and how to prevent it.
Along with changing diapers, mastering the swaddle, and figuring out how to get your wiggly newborn into a romper, one of the first new parent skills you’ll get lots of practice at is burping. “Gas is air that gets trapped in the gastrointestinal system and needs to be released,” says Shalini Forbis, M.D., a pediatrician and a Dr. Mom Squad blogger for Dayton Children’s Hospital in Ohio. Burping is one way parents can help their baby get rid of that gas. Whether your baby is a big belcher or an infrequent burper, we’ve put together a primer for all your burning questions about burping.
What is a burp?
A burp is the release of gas bubbles up the esophagus and out of the mouth. These gas bubbles can also be released out the other end of your little bundle, resulting in a different noise — and smell. Some burps, called wet burps or erps, bring up some of the stomach contents, too, hence the reason to always use a burp cloth when burping a baby.
Why Babies Need to Burp?
When gas bubbles get stuck in your baby’s stomach, they can cause a feeling of fullness and discomfort, which often causes babies to squirm or cry. Babies use crying as a signal to announce almost every feeling, whether they are tired, hungry, wet, or bored, so it can be hard to know if crying is due to gas discomfort. That’s why the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends burping your baby regularly, even if your baby doesn’t show discomfort or release any gas when you burp her. “We do not know how much air gets in their little stomachs, so it is a good idea to burp the babies even if they do not get to the fussy stage,” recommends Erika Landau, M.D., a pediatrician in New York City and coauthor of The Essential Guide to Baby’s First Year.
These are three main ways babies get gas in their bellies.
Swallowing air — When babies nurse or drink from a bottle, they inevitably swallow some air, which goes down into their stomach along with the milk or formula. “This happens more often with bottle-fed babies, who tend to eat faster,” says Dr. Landau. “But breastfed babies swallow some air as well, especially if the mother has a lot of milk or has a fast letdown, or if the baby is very hungry and wants to eat fast.”
Digestion — The breakdown of certain foods in the large intestine by bacteria can naturally create gas. This includes both the food that the baby consumes as well as those the mother consumes and passes on in her breast milk. According to the National Institutes of Health, foods that contain carbohydrates are more likely to cause gas. Some of the most common offenders are beans, vegetables (such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and brussels sprouts), sugar-free candies and gum, and soda and fruit drinks.
Allergic reaction or food intolerance — If Baby is breastfeeding and has an intolerance to certain foods from Mom’s diet or to a type of formula, his body may react by creating more gas. Dairy intolerance is the most common culprit here, says Dr. Forbis.