Babies often need a little help to bring up their wind, or burp. Whether they are fed by bottle or breast, it is definitely useful to know how to encourage this as trapped wind can be very uncomfortable. Here are some of my favourite techniques for helping babies burp.
If your baby is reluctant to release their trapped wind, try going through all the suggestions below in a cycle. Every baby is different and what works once may not work another time. Trial and error, along with lots of patience, will help you figure out your baby’s preference.
Stroking up their back
Sit baby up on your knee, facing to one side. Lean them slightly forward onto one hand, using your thumb and forefinger to support their head in an upright position. Use a very gentle lift in that supporting hand to keep their back as straight as possible. Whilst their back is straight, use firm pressure to stroke up their back from about the level of their belly button to their shoulders. You can also alternate the strokes with gentle patting, concentrating on the middle area of the back. It can be tempting to pat between their shoulder blades, but you’re trying to move the air bubbles up from their stomachs, so patting that area is more effective.
The main way to relieve the pain of trapped wind is to dislodge it so the baby can burp, so rocking can be very helpful. Hold the baby in the same way as when stroking up their back, but hold them with one hand on their front and one on their back. Gently rock them from side to side, then from front to back, again and again. You only need to rock them about 1-2 inches each way. Try to keep their back as straight as you can.
Lie them up over your shoulder
This position really helps keep a baby’s back naturally straight so you can concentrate on the gentle patting of their back. Hold the baby in the same arm as the shoulder you want to put them over. Their chin should be level with the top of your shoulder. Let their hands rest next to their chin, as in the picture above. The hand you are holding them with should be over the nappy area and around their chest. Your free hand will hover over the back of their rib cage. Keep your hand quite close to baby as you pat since newborns can sometimes throw themselves back without warning. With your hand close, you can catch and control this movement very easily.
Put them over your knees
Sit down in a comfy chair and keep your knees together and your feet flat on the floor. It can be helpful to lay a blanket or muslin cloth over your knees in case the baby dribbles or vomits. Lie baby down over your knees, with his head at the side of one of your thighs and his feet at the other side. This position puts a little pressure on the baby’s stomach. Gentle patting can be combining with stroking and rocking your knees together from side to side.
Babies like bouncing even if they don’t have wind! You can hold them facing towards or away from you with your hands around their torso and under their armpits. Bounce gently up and down, at a rate that suits you and baby. About 120 times a minute, or twice a second is a good place to start. If you just use your forearms, this is an excellent arm workout!
However, if your baby really does like bouncing, your arms are likely to get tired quite quickly. Try resting baby’s bottom on your bent knee whilst sitting. Bring your knee up by raising onto your tiptoes, then gently drop your heel down towards the floor. This gives a gentle bouncing motion without as much effort on your biceps. You can also do this with the baby facing outwards with their legs either side of your thigh and their back resting against your abdomen.
Massage is an excellent way to soothe your baby and can help to stimulate the gut movement needed to help them pass wind. Keep the room nice and warm and strip baby down to their nappy. Give a little gentle pressure to their tummy in a clockwise circular motion. This matches the direction of their intestines so helps move air along to the exit! Some people recommend motioning as if they were writing I L U (for I love you) over the baby’s tummy. There are plenty of images on pinterest showing how to do this, but a simple circular clockwise motion will work just as well.
Have you noticed how your baby will often poo right in the middle of changing their nappy? That’s because when you lift their knees and hold them bent, it stimulates movement in their intestines, so they can’t help but poo out more! That makes this position a great one to remember if your baby has wind as well as if your baby hasn’t pooed for a while or seems a little constipated. Just as when you change a nappy, gently hold their feet and push their knees up to bend naturally. Hold in that position for a few minutes if baby will tolerate it.
A lovely soothing warm bath can often ease the pain of trapped wind for babies. Just make sure that the water is nice and warm and deep enough to cover their tummy. Use a bath thermometer if you are unsure of the right temperature, and please remember to NEVER EVER LEAVE A BABY UNATTENDED IN A BATH, NOT EVEN FOR A SECOND!!! If the phone rings or the doorbell goes, ignore it and look after the baby instead!
There are a couple of other things to consider if your baby seems to struggle with trapped wind quite frequently.
Some babies are just very fast or very hungry feeders. They want to get their food so fast that they don’t care about bringing in all the extra wind that comes with it. Until the extra air causes them pain, of course! With babies who need to slow down a little, it can be useful to split feeds into shorter periods at the breast or with the bottle. Give the baby a couple of minutes to feed to start with, then take them off the breast or remove the bottle. Give them a chance to process that they have got a little something in their tummy, as this may help them to slow the rate of feeding when you put them back on. It can also be useful to split feeds into smaller parts so that you can try and help the baby to burp in the middle of the feed, rather than at the end.
If you are bottle feeding, it may be worth looking at a different sized teat for the bottle, as some will allow the milk to flow more slowly or more quickly.
Over the counter remedies
There are three main over the counter remedies in the UK. All are suitable from birth, but they all work in a different way. It is therefore impossible to know exactly which one will work for your baby. Some will be given via a dropper before a feed, others can be mixed in with artificial milk and others are given on a sterilised spoon before a feed. Do head to Amazon.co.uk and look at the options and reviews for each product and see what you think.
A word about Colic
Some babies develop colic from very early on. This is a sustained pattern of distress usually in the early to late evening, which happens every day for several weeks. It can be extremely distressing as you can’t figure out what to do to help soothe your baby. For support when your baby just won’t stop crying or settle, visit the UK charity Cry-sis website.
Further sources of support can be found on the Useful Links page