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To Burp or Not to Burp?

By Doula Jen

Late one night, I was sitting with a new mom and dad during a breastfeeding session. I was observing the latch, answering questions, fetching snacks — you know, the doula standard. At the time the couple was also temporarily supplementing a little bit of formula with a syringe and a simultaneous “pinky pacifier.”

During this particular feeding session, Baby got sleepy during breastfeeding — like they do — and conked out completely during the pinky-syringe top off.

Dad saw this as a learning opportunity. “OK Jen,” he said. “He’s fast asleep. Do we burp him and risk waking him up? Or let it go?”

This is like chicken or egg question of baby care. I told Dad as much.

There are two options with a baby who has fallen asleep during a feeding.

Burp now and hope they sleep better without that extra gas OR put them down without a burp and take the chance of waking up thirty minutes later to deal with a fussy baby.

Other factors to consider…

Some say that breastfed babies don’t need as much burping and that some babies tend gassy while others…not at all. But then, some mamas have a high milk velocity, leaving the breastfed baby gulping down air as they juggle breathing with taking in that powerful flow of milk. Formula brands vary in gas production and digestibility. Preemies are different. Colic comes into play. Every baby is unique!

So, what’s the doula rule?

What do we recommend? As with all things, we advise you to — above all — follow your own parenting instincts. You know best. In time, you will understand your baby’s particular temperament and biology. You’ll know when they need a burp and when you can skip it and let them sleep. That being said, here are a few doula-wisdom nuggets on babies and gas relief:

  1. It comes out both ends! The focus is always on BURPING baby, but soft pressure and massage at the lower abdomen can help the gas come out the other end. Additionally, if you hear (and smell) it coming out the other end throughout the feeding, you might decide that a burping session is redundant.
  2. For an alert baby, a warm bath can help loosen the gas blockage. Burp in the tub!
  3. Try different positions and different motions (patting, rubbing, sliding) for stubborn, stuck gas.
  4. Feel the belly for WHERE the air bubble is and target that area on the back.

Happy burping! Or not…

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