Burping a baby is truly an art.
There’s no one way to do it, no one technique that always work.
Every baby is different and has different needs. And every parent will have a slightly different touch.
(In your household there’s probably one parent who just seems to be awesome at it for whatever reason).
But regardless, burping your baby can sometimes be a time consuming and frustrating task. So it’s fair to ask when you can stop burping your baby, or around what age to stop burping your baby.
Most parents can stop burping their baby when it’s around 4-9 months old, but it’s really more about development than age. When your baby can sit up and move well on its own and handle some solid foods without issue, there’s a good chance you don’t need to manually burp anymore.
But there are many other factors to consider.
Let’s dive in a little deeper to what those are and what goes into this decision.
Why do babies need to burp, anyway?
We know from the get-go that learning to burp your baby is a crucial skill, up there with swaddling and changing a diaper, but we’re never really taught why it matters.
So why do we need to burp our babies?
The simple answer: When babies eat, gas builds up in their tummies and needs to come out in the form of a burp to prevent discomfort and gas pains.
The gas comes from a handful of different sources, but the main ones are:
- Natural gas created by digestion
- Air swallowed during feeding
This gas or air can built up inside a baby’s stomach and make them feel full, or even cause them a bit of discomfort. If you know anything about babies, you’ll know that crying is pretty much their only way of communicating early on, so any kind of fullness or ache is going to potential cause a lot of wailing.
For that reason, it’s been recommended for decades that you burp your baby during and after feedings.
(Breastfeeding moms are typically told to burp while switching breasts, and formula-fed babies should usually be burped after every couple of ounces they drink.)
That’s pretty much it. Usually, nothing too terrible is going to happen if you forget to burp your baby or if he or she won’t burp, though they may be a little uncomfortable until the gas works itself out.
If my baby isn’t upset, do I still need to burp them? (New research)
Traditionally, all parents have been taught to burp babies frequently to prevent gas pains, but newer research is starting to indicate that it may not be all that necessary.
Every baby is different, so take this all with a grain of salt!
It’s very possible that your baby just doesn’t or won’t have much of an issue with gas build up, won’t experience any pain or discomfort, and will work gas bubbles out on his own in due time.
Other babies may get fussy, may have digestive issues that cause excess gas, and might need a little help getting the gas out.
(A pro lactation consultant told Romper that she frequently sees babies in her practice who need to be burped and some who don’t.)
The tide is definitely shifting these days towards burping as an optional endeavor. In fact, most experts say not to wake a baby to burp him or her unless they’re exhibiting obvious signs of discomfort.
Burping breastfed babies vs formula-fed babies
I wrote above that swallowing air during feeding is one of the biggest reasons babies need to burp.
A little bit of air swallowed with every gulp can really snowball over the course of a feeding and turn into a sizable gas bubble.
(You’ve probably experienced this if you’ve ever had a protein shake or fruit smoothie with lots of air whipped into it, or even a highly carbonated drink like a soda or beer. It’s almost impossible not to burp after one of those!)
There’s a key difference in the way breastfed and formula-fed babies feed, though, that plays an important role in gas build-up.
Babies who breastfeed typically form a tighter latch/seal on the breast, which introduces very little air. Breastmilk flow is also regulated and slower, overall, to prevent feeding too fast, and it has less air in it from mixing than formula does.
For all of those reasons, breastfed babies often need to burp less than their formula-fed counterparts, and can be weaned off of burping entirely at a younger age, most likely.
(Again, all babies are different, and your own baby’s unique digestive system plays a big role in how often he or she experiences gas pain.)
There’s nothing wrong with a formula-fed baby burping more often, by the way. We’ve already established there’s nothing much harmful about gas bubbles other than the slight discomfort that comes before burping them out.
What changes as babies get older?
The basic bio-mechanics of breaking down food don’t really change we get older. Digestion will always form gas, as will drinking out of a bottle.
But two key things do change as your baby graduates from newborn to just regular ol’ baby, that may indicate it’s time to stop burping.
(Stop is a strong word, but you can choose to stop burping your baby if you feel like it’s no longer necessary)
- Your baby begins to move around better on his or her own and sit up
- HIs/her digestive system matures and becomes less sensitive
Having more and better motor control plays a big role in when your baby will be ready to stop being burped.
After all, YOU don’t need to be burped because you’re able to contort your body as needed to find a comfortable position, weather short-lived gas bubbles, or even burp yourself if needed!
Something similar happens to babies on a smaller scale.
Usually by the 4-6 month mark your baby will be sitting up on his own, which will give him a lot more ability to get comfortable after gas bubbles form during feeding.
Moving around on his own will also help work those bubbles out much faster than he could when he was more static.
Simply put, in baby’s earliest days, anything but breastmilk or perfectly mixed formula is dangerous for his extremely sensitive stomach and digestive system.
As he grows older, his stomach gets a little tougher and able to handle more.
For example, somewhere around the 6 month mark your baby will be ready for some solid foods.
When his stomach is ready for purees, apple sauce, yogurt, and the like, he’ll be a lot less prone to uncomfortable gas bubbles during milk feedings.
So… when can I stop burping my baby?
The answer… it depends!
The catch-all response is that your baby should be ready to stop burping (or burp naturally on his own) in that 4-9 month range.
When you actually stop manually burping your baby is up to you and depends on a number of factors:
- If your baby is breastfed, you can probably stop burping sooner.
- If your baby is bottle-fed, you might need to burp longer.
- If your baby is a happy eater with little fussiness after, you can probably stop burping sooner.
- If your baby gets easily fussy with gas pains, you might need to burp longer.
- If your baby has excellent motor control and sits up, you can probably stop burping sooner.
- If your baby is less mobile, you might need to burp longer.
See… it all sort of depends.
Probably the best thing to do, if you think you’re ready, is to try a few test feedings where you don’t burp your baby, and observe his behavior.
In all likelihood, this won’t cause any problems for you or baby other than some minor gas discomfort. If you notice fussiness, you can burp him and make a note that you might not be ready to go burpless.
When to stop burping a baby at night
For a long time, it’s been common practice to burp your baby during and after feedings.
In a similar vein, it’s been SUPER common for parents to make sure they burped their baby before putting them down for a nap or putting them to bed at night.
After all, that makes sense: If feeding can cause gas pains, you sure don’t want your baby going to bed with a belly full of air that’s going to wake them up in short order.
On the other hand, sleepy time is an extremely delicate time of day (as are night-feedings), so a lot of intense burping maneuvers run the risk of waking baby up for good.
So what do you do?
As I noted above, most of the research suggests that this is something you’ll have to test out on your own.
If your baby is over 4 months and showing some of the signs above (trying solid food, sitting up on his own), you may want to experiment with not burping before bed or not burping during night feedings.
If it goes poorly and you get a cranky baby with gas pains wailing into the baby monitor, well, there’s your answer.
If you do choose to continue burping at night, recognize that getting that actual belch probably isn’t 100% necessary, and it’s not worth waking the baby up for it by breaking out all of your craziest burping moves.
(And again, you never need to wake a sleeping baby on purpose just to get a burp. Not worth it!)
What if my baby has severe gas pains? (And burping doesn’t work)
Some babies just won’t burp.
Or, if they do, it doesn’t seem to relieve all of the gas pains.
In that case, you’ll probably want to consult a doctor if your baby is still very young.
There are lots of over the counter medicines and at-home remedies you can try to relieve gas pain when your baby won’t burp, but I wouldn’t try any of them without doctor approval first, especially for newborns.
It’s also worth noting that intense spit up (projectile vomit, not just regular spit up) after feeding is also something that needs doctor attention. Not belching should not cause your baby to spew vomit like the girl from The Exorcist.
A little spit up, like gas pains, is normal, but it shouldn’t be something that takes over your life. If it becomes a persistent problem, consult your pediatrician.
(My daughter had severe spit up problems as a baby and rotated through every specialty formula on the market, plus ruined a lot of furniture, so I feel you here!)
Signs your baby may be ready to stop burping
So let’s recap.
Usually your baby won’t need to be manually burped anymore somewhere between 4-9 months old, depending on a few factors.
Here are some things to look for when you think it might be time to stop burping during and after feedings, or before bed:
- Your baby can easily sit up and move around on his own
- Your baby handles solid foods like applesauce, cereal, and yogurt without issue
- Your baby is a happy feeder who rarely shows signs of fussiness or gas pain
The best way to tell, again, is to run a no-burp experiment lasting a few feedings, and keep a log or journal of your baby’s response.
If you don’t see any discomfort as a result of not-burping, it’s plenty safe to continue.
There’s no single, definitive answer as to when you need to, should, or can stop burping your baby.
But generally, once they can sit up and move around well on their own as well as handle some solid food, the risk of gas pains as a result of not burping goes way down.
On top of that, many experts now say that burping should be optional from the beginning, and based solely on your baby’s own unique ability to handle gas.
Hopefully this guide has helped! Though I’d urge you to consult your doctor or pediatrician if you’re at all worried about this, if your baby seems to be in a lot of discomfort during feeding, or frequently projectile vomits.
But barring that, you should be safe to try a couple of feedings where you don’t manually burp… and see what happens!
Good luck, parents.
Baby Burping FAQ
Why do babies need to be burped?
Sometimes they swallow air while drinking milk (especially from bottles). And the act of digestion naturally creates gas in their stomachs. Their stomachs are sensitive and not able to handle a lot of stress, so the fullness and gas can sometimes irritate them unless it’s released somehow.
When can I stop burping a baby?
Usually around 4-9 months, or whenever your baby can sit up and handle some solid foods.
When can I stop burping a breastfed baby?
Probably sooner! Or maybe you won’t even need to burp them at all, because breastfeeding usually introduces less air into their tummies.
When to stop burping a formula fed baby?
It may take longer, due to the extra air from drinking bottles. You’ll want their stomach and digestive system to mature a little longer, potentially.
Is there anything I can do with formula bottles to make my baby less gassy?
Mix them really well, let the air bubbles settle before you feed the bottle to your infant, and invest in some high quality nipples that will properly regulate the milk flow.
Can I try not burping and see what happens?
Yes! That’s probably the best way to know for sure whether it will work for you.
What about at night? Should I burp my baby at night or if he’s sleeping?
Don’t wake a baby up to burp them. It’s not necessary. And just like regular feedings, you’ll probably just want to try not burping at night once your baby is past the 4-6 month mark, and see how it goes.
Will not burping my baby make them spit up more?
A little spit up is normal for all babies. If missing a burp makes your baby projectile vomit, they may have some digestive issues that need to be diagnosed by a doctor.
What if burping doesn’t work and my baby is always fussy after feeding?
There are lots of medications and at-home remedies you can try, but definitely talk to a doctor first.