Burping a swaddled baby can be tricky, but it is possible with some adjustments to your burping technique. Swaddling provides many benefits for infants such as improved sleep, decreased startling, and reduced colic. However, the snug wrapping also makes it challenging to burp baby in the usual over-the-shoulder position. By using alternative holds and burping methods you can successfully burp even a tightly swaddled newborn.
Why burping is important for babies
Burping serves an important purpose for all babies by releasing air they have swallowed while feeding. Babies take in air when nursing or bottle feeding due to their poor suck-swallow-breathe coordination. If the air gets trapped it can make baby very uncomfortable, causing stomach pain, gas, spit up, and fussiness. Getting a good burp or two out during and after feeds can help minimize these issues. Burping may be even more essential for bottle fed babies since they tend to take in more air from bottle nipples and valve systems.
Failure to burp can result in painful gas bubbles in baby’s belly. Some experts believe build up of intestinal gas from not burping can contribute to colic symptoms. While evidence on burping and colic relief is mixed, many parents do report it helps their colicky babies.
Burping is thought to be particularly useful for infants with reflux or GERD by bringing up small amounts of stomach contents with the bubbles. Getting some of the acid back up can provide relief. Burping can also limit projectile spit up incidents.
Premature babies and those with respiratory issues may especially benefit from burping which reduces the amount of air in their stomachs pressing on their lungs and diaphragms.
Challenges of burping a swaddled newborn
Traditional over-the-shoulder burping doesn’t work as well with a tightly swaddled baby. The snug wrap prevents you from easily leaning baby forward into the right burping position. Their bodies and arms remain straight in the swaddle fabric.
A swaddled baby also can’t help by using their arms to push against your shoulder for leverage to get the burp out. Their lack of arm movement and pressure makes it harder to burp them.
The swaddle can feel constricting when baby is lifted up into an upright burping hold. The snug wrapping prevents them from extending their torso as much as needed.
A young newborn also has poor head and neck control. When upright, a swaddled baby’s head can flop backward or forward since they can’t use their arms in the swaddle to stabilize themselves.
Tips for burping a swaddled baby
With some adjustments you can still burp a swaddled baby effectively. Here are tips for making it work:
- Loosen wrap – Unwrap one or both arms from the swaddle temporarily for burping. This allows baby to bend their elbows and push on your shoulder.
- Sit baby up – Hold baby in a seated position on your lap facing out with their back against your chest. Support their head and lean them slightly forward.
- Lay baby across lap – Position baby on their belly across your knees and gently rub or pat their back.
- Drape over shoulder – Place baby over your shoulder in the usual burping position with their legs straddling one of your shoulders and their chest against you. Let their head rest in the crook of your neck.
- Bicycle legs – Lay baby face up and move their legs in a bicycling motion. The leg movement helps push out gas bubbles.
- Change angles – Try burping in different body positions like sitting upright, leaning forward, leaning side to side, or laying baby on your chest.
- Pat firmly – If gentle back pats don’t work, pat just a little more firmly. Repeated firm pats can help dislodge trapped gas bubbles.
- Take breaks – Give baby a break from the swaddle for a few minutes after trying to burp. The break may allow gas to pass easier.
Burping tips by feeding method
Burping breastfed babies
Follow these tips when burping a swaddled breastfed baby:
- Burp 1-2 times during feeding – Burp after 5-10 mins on the first side then again after switching sides.
- Sit up position – Hold baby upright, letting them lean slightly forward supported on your chest.
- Pat gently – Use soft pats on the center of baby’s back.
- Burp after – Burp again after finishing the feeding, both right after and 5-10 mins after.
- Keep upright – Hold baby upright for a few minutes before reswaddling to let gas pass.
Burping bottle fed babies
Use these tips when burping a swaddled bottle feeding baby:
- Burp often – Try burping every 1-2 oz during the bottle.
- Pat firmly – Bottle fed babies often need slightly firmer pats to release gas.
- Keep upright – Hold baby vertical for 5-10 mins after feeding before reswaddling.
- Take a break – Consider leaving baby unswaddled for 10+ mins after feeding for gas relief.
Baby burping positions
These positions can help you burp a swaddled newborn:
Hold baby in a sitting position on your lap facing out with their back against your chest. Support their head and upper body with one hand and chest/abdomen with the other. Lean baby slightly forward and pat or rub up their back from bottom to top.
Drape baby over your shoulder in the classic burping position with their legs straddling one of your shoulders and their chest against you. Support their bottom with one hand. Let their head rest in the crook of your neck. Gently pat their upper back with your other hand.
Lay baby on their belly across your lap, perpendicular to your body. Support their head and keep their face turned to the side. Use one hand to gently pat or rub up their back from bottom to top.
Lay baby face down along your forearm and rest that arm on your chest. Use your other hand to pat or rub their back. Switch to resting them face down on your chest if needed to give your arm a break.
When to avoid swaddling for burping
It may be best to unswaddle baby for burping in these cases:
- Newborn under 1 month old – Their weak neck control can make burping upright more difficult.
- Preemie – Extra pressure on their lungs and breathing may be problematic.
- Spitter – Burping unswaddled could reduce spit up.
- Colicky – Laying baby on their belly unwrapped may relieve gas and crying.
- Difficulty burping – If you are unable to burp baby well while swaddled.
Remove any loose bedding and keep a hand on your baby if burping while unswaddled.
Ways to burp baby without unswaddling
If you want to keep baby wrapped, you can also try these tips:
- Bicycle legs – Gently pedal baby’s legs to help move gas bubbles.
- Tummy massage – Gently rub baby’s tummy clockwise and downward.
- Tummy time – Lay swaddled baby on their stomach for a few minutes.
- Change positions – Rotate baby through different inclined positions.
- Gas drops – Give baby approved gas relief drops before or after feeding.
Signs baby needs to be burped
Watch for these clues that your swaddled baby needs burping:
- Pulling off nipple or bottle
- Fussing during or after feeding
- Extending legs or squirming
- Turning red in the face
- Spitting up frequently
- Crying right after eating
Babies are all different in how often and easily they need to burp. Getting to know your own baby’s signs is helpful. Some babies may only need burping occasionally while others need it after every ounce.
How to burp a newborn
Here are some general tips for effectively burping newborns:
- Burp frequently -Aim for at least once mid-feeding and again after.
- Sit upright -Hold baby upright against your chest during and after feeding.
- Pat the back – Gently pat between baby’s shoulder blades with an upward motion.
- Support head – Use your hand to keep baby’s chin lifted and head supported.
- Use pressure – Start with gentle pats then use slightly firmer pressure if needed.
- Change positions – Rotate through different upright holds to release gas bubbles.
- Take a break – Let baby relax unswaddled for 10 mins if having trouble burping.
- Burping over lap – Try burping with baby draped over your legs if over the shoulder doesn’t work.
Swaddling safely for sleep
If you choose to swaddle baby for sleep, follow these safety tips:
- Stop swaddling by 2 months old – When babies start trying to roll over, swaddling becomes risky.
- Use a thin breathable fabric – Avoid thick, heavy materials like blankets that could overheat baby.
- Leave hips loose – Make sure the swaddle isn’t overly tight around baby’s legs.
- Alternate arms out – Consider swaddling one arm out once baby is used to the swaddle.
- Never cover face – Make sure the swaddle fabric doesn’t ride up over baby’s nose and mouth.
- Watch temperature – Don’t overdress a swaddled baby. Check baby’s chest for signs of overheating.
While it requires some extra effort, you can successfully burp a swaddled baby. Adjusting your hold, using different positions, and taking occasional swaddle breaks can help. Pay attention to your baby’s cues to know when they need to be burped for comfort and gas relief even when wrapped up snuggly. With some patience you can discover techniques that work to keep your swaddled little one burped and happy.