Since your baby was born, you probably feel like you’ve spent a never-ending cycle of feeding and burping your baby between naps (that sometimes don’t happen!), but does burping after feeding really help?
Despite the satisfaction and amusement that burping your baby brings, there’s actually very little scientific evidence to support that burping a baby after a meal is helpful at all to them.
Burping a baby is such an entrenched and universal practice – we’ve been doing it for hundreds, maybe thousands of years. You’ve probably tried many different techniques in the quest to bring comfort and relief to your baby. But, a study that looked into whether burping was effective in lowering colic and regurgitation (spit up) episodes found that burped babies didn’t cry less than non-burped babies, and that burped babies actually spit up more.
Many doctors, maternal and child health nurses, lactation consultants, and parenting websites advise parents on burping their babies, but it just might not be a necessary practice. Pediatrician Dr Clay Jones claims that there is no physiologic reason why babies would need burping, and that they’re capable of doing it themselves unassisted, just like adults do.
Dr Jones goes on to further state that there is no concrete evidence that reflux and fussiness in otherwise healthy babies is even related to gas. So, what are we doing when we burp our baby, if it’s not helping them? We could actually be making them spit up more, which is logical when you consider that we’re patting them firmly when they have a full belly.
Babies can look uncomfortable after a feed, with their faces scrunched and their fists clenched, and it’s intuitive to give them a back rub or a little jiggle over your shoulder, which is fine, but as these researchers claim, it doesn’t have to be a regular post-feeding ritual.
It’s important to note that this study was small, and perhaps a benefit of baby-burping wasn’t detected. It’s possible that it makes us simply feel better when we feel like we’re helping our baby. Getting a belch out of a baby is also amusing and highly satisfying for the caregiver.
Remember that every mum and bub is different, so if you believe that burping them is helping, there’s no need to stop doing it. But if you’re constantly covered in spit up (and you’re sick of the mountains of laundry!) maybe try forgoing the burping and see if it eases. On the other hand, if you’re burping your baby, and nothing happens, there’s no need to worry. If you never burp your baby, that’s absolutely fine as well.
While we wait for more rigorous trials of burping infants, it’s great to question why we do this and if it’s accomplishing what we hope to achieve. If you have any concerns about your baby’s digestive system, speak to your pediatrician.