Is it okay to put baby to sleep without burping?
By Cradlewise Staff
For the six months of life, your baby is on a liquid diet of breast milk or formula. And with that comes the duty of burping your baby to ease their gassy tummy. But when your little one drifts into a slumber mid-feed, and you don’t want to wake them up, is it okay to put your baby down to sleep without burping them?
It’s a question almost all new parents will face at some point (babies do love their mid-feed nap times…). Here’s what the experts say about burping a baby before sleep.
Why do we need to burp babies?
Let’s understand why we need to burp babies in the first place.
While drinking milk, either from the breast or a bottle, babies swallow a lot of air along with the liquid, in part because their mouths don’t form a perfect seal around the nipple.
Dr. Nilong Vyas, M.D., pediatrician and founder of Sleepless at NOLA, says, “Babies can swallow air when feeding or crying; that air must either come out as a burp or flatulence.”
The air that they swallow while feeding is often trapped in their stomach. This can cause them to feel gassy and uncomfortable.
According to Dr. Vyas, it’s best for babies to eliminate that gas as a burp, so it doesn’t cause pain as it passes through their gastrointestinal system.
Burping helps to release some of this trapped air, allowing your baby to feel more comfortable and content. Ever felt tight-chested or experienced a swollen belly after a big meal? That’s the basic sensation that burping relieves for your baby.
Not only that, but burping also helps to prevent spit-up and reflux. When babies cannot release the trapped air in their stomachs, it can come back up in the form of spit-up or reflux, which can irritate their esophagus or throat and cause fussiness (not to mention extra clean-up).
Remember that every baby is different. Some may need to be burped more frequently than others. Some babies may only need to be burped once or twice during feeding, while others may need to be burped more frequently.
Signs your baby needs to burp
Your baby’s cues can help you understand whether they need to be burped after or during a feed. Here are six signs that your baby needs to burp:
- Fussiness during or after feeding: If your baby is fussy while eating or after a meal, it may be a sign of gas in the stomach.
- Hiccups: Hiccups are common in babies and can signal that your LO needs to burp.
- Spitting up or reflux: If your baby is spitting up after feeding, burping them may help reduce the amount of spit-up by releasing gas.
- Arching their back: If your baby is arching their back or squirming during feeding, it can be a sign of discomfort or pain caused by trapped gas.
- Gurgling noises: Babies often make gurgling noises when they need to burp. These noises are often caused by trapped gas in the stomach.
- Restlessness after feeding: If your baby is restless or unable to settle down after feeding, burping can help them feel more comfortable and relaxed after feeding.
Since every baby is different, your baby may have unique signs they need to burp. You know your baby the best, so pay attention to their cues and try different burping techniques to find what works best for them.
What happens when you don’t burp the baby?
Burping helps babies release the gas and air they swallow while feeding, providing them with comfort.
If a baby is not burped, the gas can remain in the stomach, causing discomfort and digestive issues. It may lead to an increase in symptoms such as crying, irritability, and discomfort. The gas can also put pressure on the stomach, leading to the possibility of spitting up or vomiting.
In some cases, not burping the baby can also lead to an imbalance of their gut bacteria, which can cause digestive issues and is also linked to the quality of their sleep.
Until they’re about six months of age, babies can’t burp on their own, which is why they need to be burped by their caregivers.
— Dr. Nilong Vyas
That said, it’s okay if “It can be attempted to put a baby down without burping,” says Dr. Vyas, but watch their cues: if they wake 20 minutes later crying, “you can be confident it is secondary to a burp.” If your baby tends to wake up in discomfort not long after falling asleep without a burp, you’ll need to help burp them until they are old enough to do it themselves.
Is it okay to put the baby to sleep without burping?
Well, yes. It’s generally okay for a baby to sleep without burping. But it depends on your baby, how they’re feeling and what they need. So you’ll have to decide on a case-by-case basis, recognizing if they are showing signs of discomfort.
Feeding can often have a calming effect on a baby. While they nuzzle close to you for their milk or formula, feeling comforted and satiated, they might slowly fall asleep during or after feeding.
But if they’ve swallowed air with their meal (as they often do), they may need to release gas with a burp, which is more challenging to accomplish when the baby is asleep.
Some babies may be more prone to gas and discomfort if they go to sleep without being burped, while others may not have any issues. However, if a baby is already asleep and showing no signs of discomfort, it is generally safe to let them sleep without burping.
How to burp a sleeping baby
Here are some methods and ways to burp a sleeping baby:
- The traditional method: While your baby is sleeping, gently hold them upright on your shoulder and pat their back until they burp. This position allows gravity to help bring any gas up and out.
Tip: Cupping your palm to pat works better than a flat palm.
It is important to be gentle and patient when burping a sleeping baby as they may be more resistant to releasing gas while they are asleep.
Here are some other methods of burping your baby when they’re awake:
- The seated position: Place your baby in a seated position on your lap, supporting their head and chest. Rub or pat their back gently until they burp.
- The stomach-down position: Lay your baby on your lap with their stomach facing down. Gently pat their back until they burp. This position can be especially helpful if your baby is experiencing reflux.
- The bottle-feeding method: If your baby is being bottle-fed, try pausing the feeding every few ounces to burp them. This can help prevent them from swallowing too much air while eating.
If your baby does not burp after several attempts, it is okay to let them continue sleeping, as they may not have swallowed enough air to need a burp. Always make sure to support your baby’s head and neck while burping them to ensure their safety.
However, sometimes you’ll find that your baby doesn’t burp after feeding.
Dr. Vyas notes that if they don’t burp, it may be because they don’t have enough gas accumulated, or it could be due to the child not being straight enough to allow the air to come up, “So, for example, a parent may need to extend the neck of the infant so that it allows the esophagus to straighten to allow the air to release. Holding the head and neck of the baby while the body lies on the arm of the parent, their back can be lightly patted to help the air be expelled.”
Do breastfeeding babies need to be burped less?
Some evidence suggests that breastfeeding babies may need to be burped less frequently than formula-fed babies. Here are some reasons why:
- Breast milk is more easily digested than formula and therefore produces less gas in the stomach.
- Babies can make a better seal on a human nipple versus a bottle nipple.
- Babies have better control over the flow of milk when they’re drinking from the breast.
Tips for preventing excess gas in babies
- Avoid overfeeding: Overfeeding can lead to excess gas as the baby’s digestive system struggles to process large amounts of food.
- Try using a different bottle. If bottle-feeding, experiment with different bottle shapes and sizes to see what’s most comfortable for your infant.
- Burp your infant more frequently. Burping your infant during and after feedings can help release excess gas. Try different burping positions to see which works best for your child.
- Keep your baby upright after feedings. This can help prevent excess gas by allowing gravity to help move the gas through their digestive system.
If your baby’s gas symptoms persist or seem severe, consult your pediatrician or a lactation consultant.
Q: What is the best way to burp a baby?
A: The best way to burp a baby is to hold them upright and gently pat or rub their back until they burp. Some babies may also be more comfortable being placed over the shoulder and patted on the back.
Q: Is it ok to put my baby to sleep without burping if they have an upset tummy?
A: If a baby has an upset tummy, burp them to help relieve any gas that may be causing discomfort. In this case, it is not recommended to put a baby to sleep without burping.
Q: How can I ensure my baby doesn’t wake up during the night when I put them to sleep without burping?
A: To prevent a baby from waking up during the night when put to sleep without burping, try to ensure they are well-fed and comfortable before bedtime. If they wake up and seem to be experiencing discomfort, try gently patting or rubbing their back to help them burp.
Q: What other things should you do instead of putting your baby to sleep without burping?
A: Instead of putting a baby to sleep without burping, try using a pacifier or rocking them gently to help them fall asleep. Ensure that they are well-fed and comfortable before bedtime.