By Dr Mike Marinus, dad to Megan and James plus a Chiropractor in Blairgowrie with a special interest in family practice and paediatric care. Click here to hear his podcast. This is the 9th in our series on babies by Dr Marinus. Find his other articles here.
Do babies always have to be burped? How do I burp my baby and which babies need to be burped? These are the big questions I get from frustrated parents and they are important to understand when dealing with fussy babies.
First off, I want you to stop thinking about ‘burping’ your baby and understand that what you are doing is decompressing him. The air in his tummy builds up through the day as he takes it in not only during feeds (when he gulps or breaks the latch) but also when he cries, sighs and moans throughout the day. Air intake is a continuous process and so decompressing babies should also be something we do throughout the day as well, to keep them free of unnecessary tummy pressure that can lead to constant crying and upset. Think of it as equalising your ears during a flight when the pressure change can cause almost unbearable pain until it is released by equalizing and this is exactly what you are doing for your baby when burping.
The science says that we have about 20 minutes after a feed to remove this gas from the stomach until it is sucked down into the intestines where it can cause similar painful pressurising effects which we need different techniques to decompress. So you have to be on your game. Keep in mind that burping is a passive process and its all about the physics of air movement. The air in the stomach is under a higher pressure than the air outside your baby. So the trick is to connect these two areas by making your baby’s back (oesophagus) as straight as possible while you burp them. Think of being in a fancy restaurant and needing a burp, what do you do? You bend forward because that keeps the burp locked down, so we want to do the exact opposite to get the burps out.
Creating a slight bit of movement, like tapping your foot or gently bouncing on a Pilates ball is also vital in making sure you get all that wind out. Again this is all about how air moves and we need to separate the gas form the milk and the gentle bouncing helps the same way that it does when you try to settle cake mix and remove the bubbles by tapping the bowl on the kitchen counter.
Lastly, your baby’s tummy is very stretchy and hot gas tends to rise up and get stuck higher than the level of the outlet pipe. This means that if you only burp your baby upright you will never get rid of that last amount of air. It is this air that then moves out when you put baby down to sleep and wakes him 10 minutes later. So when I teach burping techniques I add in a few controlled seconds of baby down on his back to allow this gas to find its way out before you put him back down to sleep.
What about Hiccups? Are they bad and how do we stop them? Well, there is research at the moment that says hiccups are a method your baby uses to get rid of that last bit of air which is trapped inside his stomach. This makes sense and if it is indeed the case then we don’t want to stop hiccups at all. Having said that the two accepted ways to stop hiccups are 1. Use a dummy and 2. Make your baby cry. Please try number 1 first.
Click here to find experts in the field of nutrition, optometry, massage, stimulation and even sleep.