Can Good Burping Help with Colic?

Burping Secrets, including a Great Trick for the REALLY Stubborn Burp

I’m going to use a word that my mother hates – but its really the only word you can use to describe what happened with Oliver.  We could call it ‘windy-pops’ or some other cute baby euphemism, but there’s really no glossing over it.  He used to fart like a trooper as a newborn.  Explosive, loud farts like a grown man trying to be funny.  It amazed me that a noise like that could come out of an innocent little baby.

The Lowdown on Burping

Parents of babies with colic will often report that their baby’s crying stops or lessens after passing wind.  This leads people to wonder whether a colicky baby’s discomfort relates to swallowed air that isn’t burped back up, then moves through the digestive system and causes the baby discomfort.

Generally doctors think that swallowed air is unlikely to be the real cause of colic, however most people agree that when you don’t manage to get that burp out of your colicky baby it makes life worse by compounding an existing problem.  Now many people know the basics of burping, but I’m going to share a few mothercraft secrets here that are not commonly known.

For information about the causes of colic, see my recent post: So What IS Colic Anyway?

Burping Techniques

Lets start with the basics: The key to any good burping method is having your baby’s back as straight as possible.  This gives any air bubbles the clearest path upwards.

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Technique #1: Chin Support

This position works really well for very young babies. 

Hold the baby on your lap with one hand cradling her chin (make sure it is her chin and not her throat!) and your palm against her chest and the other rubbing her back. Remember to keep her back as straight as possible.

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Technique #2: Over the Shoulder

An old favourite for many parents.  

Rest your baby’s head over your shoulder, holding him with the closest arm and use your free hand to rub or pat his back.

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Technique #3: Sitting Between your Legs

This position works well for babies that are old enough to have some head control. 

Sit her on the edge of your seat, between your legs.  Then interlace your hands in front of her, with your wrists under her arms, holding her up nice and straight.  Then just wait patiently.

A Trick for the REALLY Stubborn Burp:

There is a great trick for getting up that stubborn burp that just won’t come! 

  1. Lie your baby on the floor (or your lap) on its back and wait. 
  2. After a minute or so, you will see him start to squirm and wriggle (he may even grizzle little).  This means the gas has moved around in his stomach.
  3. Sit the baby upright again into one of the burping positions above and wait - the burp should come.

This technique seems to help the air all come together and come up at once, so it can result in a BIG burp that will bring up some milk with it. My suggestion is to start with the other options first (as they’re a little gentler) and keep this one in reserve for the really stubborn burps.

Other Burping Secrets

  1. It took me some time to discover that a big secret to burping is that the baby needs to relax – a crying baby will rarely be able to burp.  So if your little bundle of joy is not so happy, there’s some great advanced settling techniques in my book that you can use to get your baby to relax first.
  2.  Another little tip that it took me a while to learn is that patience is critical when it comes to burping.  It can take ten to fifteen minutes for a burp to come up, particularly for a younger baby.  The real secret is to just wait it out. 
  3. Many people will try to pound their baby on the back quite hard, in the hope that this will ‘dislodge’ the burp.  This is often counter-productive, when you think about it, its very hard to relax (see tip 1 above) when you’re being pounded on the back.  If the burp just isn’t coming – try the trick for the stubborn burp above instead.

I have to thank Melbourne’s baby whisperer Angela Macpherson for some of the fabulous information in this post – she is an amazing wealth of knowledge about babies.  If you’d like a consultation with Angela please drop me a line and I’ll send you her contact details.

I remember from Oliver’s colic days that it can be surprisingly difficult to find good information about burping.  So please feel free to share this post with your friends, mother’s group or anyone else you think might find it helpful.

Take care out there,