For years, doctors thought that burping a baby was essential, according to Tribeca Pediatrics, but modern research is discovering that it isn't quite as important as previously thought for breastfed babies. Generally, if you forget to burp your breastfed baby, it won't cause any problems, and some babies don't need to be burped at all.
Purpose of Burping
Burping releases air that is trapped in your baby's upper digestive tract, which includes his stomach and esophagus. Some babies swallow a lot of air while feeding, so a good burp can help keep these infants comfortable. Other babies don't swallow much air at all or develop an ability to burp on their own so parental help isn't needed. If your baby falls asleep while feeding, you don't have to wake her up to burp her. It's often better to let her sleep and only try to burp her if she wakes up and exhibits discomfort.
A breastfed baby forms a tight seal on his mother's breast when nursing, so very little air gets into his digestive tract. Breastfeeding babies also tend to regulate the flow of milk as they drink, so they swallow more slowly, further reducing the amount of air that gets in. However, if your breastfed baby tends to be a fast drinker or if you have a rapid milk ejection response, which causes you to produce a faster flow than your baby can handle at first, then your baby may occasionally need to be burped.
Formula-fed babies tend to burp more often than breastfed babies because bottle nipples tend to release milk more quickly. If your formula-fed baby is a vigorous drinker, this can leave her prone to air bubbles and discomfort. Try stopping your baby every 2 to 3 ounces and burping her mid-feeding to prevent the development of large air bubbles. Then, if you forget an after-meal burping session, she's more likely to work any remaining small bubbles out on her own.
Because achieving an actual belch isn't super-important when it comes to your baby's health and comfort, it's best to burp your baby gently and be willing to recognize when a burp just isn't going to happen. If your baby is content and happy, a burp isn't required, so you can skip the entire process and let her relax or cuddle instead. If your infant seems uncomfortable during or after a feeding, gently holding her upright and lightly patting her on the back can encourage a burp and ease any discomfort.
- Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images