Some babies are gassier than others, but most babies will need to be burped at some point. Babies need to burp a lot more often than older kids and adults. They drink all of their calories, which means they can gulp a lot of air.
Burping a baby can be important day and night. Sometimes babies fall asleep while eating and you may need to find a way to burp them while they’re still asleep. It’s remarkable how much a newborn can sleep through.
Even if your baby falls asleep, try burping them for a few minutes before placing them back down to sleep. Otherwise, they make wake up in pain with trapped gas.
Not all babies burp, though, no matter if it’s on their own or with your help. If your baby is one that needs to be burped, read on for ways to do so even when they’re asleep.
It’s common for babies to fall asleep while eating, whether nursing or bottle-feeding. As their tummy fills and they start soothing sucking motions, they often become happy and relaxed and tend to drift off.
This is especially likely to happen at night when their sleep drive is strong. But even if your little one looks content and totally asleep, for some babies it’s important you try to get a burp out of them before lying them back down.
Burping a sleeping baby is basically the same as burping a baby who’s awake. You might move slower to help them stay asleep. Some burping positions are a bit easier to maneuver with a sleeping baby.
For example, many people sit a baby upright on their knee while supporting the baby’s head by cradling their chin. This position uses gravity and the baby’s own weight to get air up and out. However, this position is more likely to wake a baby, so you might not want to try it if your aim is to keep the baby asleep.
To burp a baby, they should be in a slightly upright position so you can put pressure on their tummy. If your baby doesn’t poop right after eating, you may want to change their diaper before feeding them at night so you don’t have to wake them up if they fall back to sleep while eating.
Here are some positions for burping a sleeping baby:
Burp between changing sides, or mid-bottle
A sleepy baby may enjoy their feeding so much that they overeat and don’t realize they need a pause to burp. Help your baby have a gentler burp and avoid any major gas pain by slowing down the feed.
Burp your baby between switching sides at the breast or before they finish their bottle. This will also help your baby make room for more milk instead of burping and spitting up any of their food.
Hold on your shoulder
If you feed your baby in a semi-upright position, you can gently move them all the way upright and onto your shoulder. Babies can keep sleeping in this cozy position while the pressure from your shoulder pushes on their tummy to release gas. Keep a burp rag over your shoulder if your baby tends to spit up.
Hold lower on your chest
Similar to the previous position, you can lift your baby from semi-upright to fully upright and keep them on your chest or sternum area. This may be most comfortable if you’re on a couch. Babies like to curl up with their legs in a frog position (a bonus move to release more gas from their bottoms) and you can support their head and wait for the burp to come.
Rock on your arm (“sloth hold”)
After feeding, you can slowly turn them away from you at 45 degrees so their tummy rests on your forearm. Support their head in the crook of your elbow. Their legs may dangle on either side of your arm. This position puts pressure on their belly and you can gently pat their back until they burp. You can do this position while sitting or standing.
Lay on your knees
If you’re sitting in a chair, simply move your baby to a laying position on their tummy on your knees. You can move your legs side to side to rock them and gently pat or rub their back until a burp comes. A baby can remain asleep here as long as you want to stay sitting.
Burping is one of the many tasks parents have until their child grows into being more self-sufficient. Kids and adults can easily release their own gas, but many babies need help because they have so little control over how their bodies are positioned.
You’ll figure out pretty quickly if your baby is the type who can eat without burping or if they need to be burped every time. If your baby has a lot of gas or spit-up, you should talk to your doctor about reflux.
If you do have a colicky baby but you can’t seem to get them to burp, focus on any comfort measures that work and don’t worry too much about getting burps out.
Whether your baby burps a lot during the day, it may be worth it to burp them after every nighttime feeding. Since you’re already up feeding the baby, make the most of your time by giving a solid attempt at burping. This may get everyone a long stretch of sleep after the feeding.
Gas drops and gripe water are readily available at pharmacies but ask your doctor first before using any of them. These supplements aren’t regulated for safety and may contain dangerous ingredients. If you have a very fussy and gassy baby — whether or not they spit up often — ask a doctor for coping skills. Most babies grow out of this after a few months.
Risk of choking on spit-up is very rare. It’s still important not to overfeed your baby and to try to burp them after every feeding if they seem to benefit from it.
Burping usually only takes a minute or two. Sometimes a burp will come up as soon as you move your baby upright, and sometimes you have to wait a little while and help things with a gentle pat or tummy pressure.
Another helpful strategy is to get your baby in the habit of falling asleep in their crib rather than while feeding. When you notice them getting sleepy at the breast or bottle, stop the feeding, burp them for a minute or so, and then put them down to sleep. The younger you start this, the easier it is to do.
If your baby is often stiff and uncomfortable, talk with their doctor about more help for relieving gas. Some babies with bad reflux may need to stay upright for 30 minutes after eating, day or night.
If your baby is asleep, try burping them for a minute before you lay them back down. Sometimes babies don’t need to burp as much at nighttime because they eat slower and don’t get as much air while feeding.
If they wake up crying, soothe them, check to see if they need a clean diaper, feed them again if it’s time, and try to burp them after that feeding.
Some people believe that bottle-fed babies are more likely to get gassy, but evidence of this is only anecdotal. Bottles may expose babies to more air as they gulp and may make it easier to overfeed your baby. But every baby is different and even breastfed babies can be very gassy — sometimes because they’re sensitive to food in their mother’s diet.
Though uncommon, a breastfeeding mother may have to experiment a lot before figuring out exactly what they ate to cause their baby’s upset stomach. There’s no solid research to tell a mother what exactly causes her baby’s excess gas. Also, many babies with gas aren’t bothered by it.
Burping is a basic but important way you can take care of your baby and keep them comfortable. Even if your baby is asleep, burping may be helpful to allow them to relieve gas so they don’t get uncomfortable or wake up too soon.