Breastfeeding: Do you need to burp your breastfed baby?

My two week old goes to sleep at the breast, or on my shoulder while I tap his back, but only burps about half the time, usually in a couple of minutes. After almost every feeding, he wakes up one hour later with lots of gas. There is a history of allergy in my family, but I think the gassiness can be linked to a foremilk/hindmilk imbalance, since I do have abundant milk production. After how much time should one give up on burping a breastfed baby?

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Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

It is really not necessary to burp all breastfed babies. Many will bring up burps all on their own. If you notice that you are spending ten minutes or so after each feed, and you are still not "successful," it probably isn't necessary to burp him. Actually, in cultures where babies are held upright in their mother's arms, or in a sling or pack throughout the day, babies are nursed frequently and do not need to be burped.

Since your baby does become gassy about an hour after breastfeeding, there may be several things going on. He could be swallowing a lot of air during a feed. You mentioned that you have a very abundant milk supply. Your baby may not have a good seal at your breast (does he have dimpling cheeks or make smacking or clicking noises while nursing?) He could be gulping in extra air as he nurses. I would recommend feeding more frequently. He will probably be taking in a bit less at each feed, and won't be overwhelmed by an abundance of milk. Offer one breast per feed, being very careful about proper positioning and attachment. Express just enough milk from the other breast for comfort.

When a mother has lots of milk and/or a gassy baby, it can be very helpful to nurse in a more upright position. You might find it comfortable to lean back slightly in a recliner and holding your baby along your side, hand supporting his neck, bring him to your breast. When your milk ejects, which can be several times during a feed, you can remove him from the breast for a minute or so, calm him, and allow him to go back to the same breast and continue nursing as the flow slows. Following a daytime feed, rather than lying your baby down, hold him in an upright position for about a half hour or let him sit up in a bouncy chair.

Since you have a family history of allergy, dairy products in your diet could be the cause of your baby's discomfort/gassiness. I would not normally recommend limiting your diet in any way, so try some easier methods first, including feeding more frequently and positioning your baby. If you don't see any improvement, you could try a total dairy elimination diet for at least two weeks and see if it brings about some improvement.

Hang in there, babies between the ages of 2 and 12 weeks of age are more prone to colicky behavior. They are often very gassy babies. You may not ever really find out why your baby is so gassy - colic is really still much of a mystery. While it's going on, take care of yourself. Eat well, grab a nap if you can, and you'll be ready for any mood he's in.

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