Burping, Wind & Reflux in newborns

Wind is one of those things that people love to say causes unsettled babies...and is blamed as the cause of poor sleep in newborns.

Some babies are definitely affected more by having a burp stuck in their tummy, while others aren't bothered.

How can you tell if wind or reflux is the issue...and what can you do about it??

 

Is wind really the issue??

Often burping and wind issues are blamed for an unsettled baby when there are other more likely causes. Before getting too worried about whether you need to perfect your burping technique, check you have the other possible issues covered:

  • Newborn babies are used to pulling their legs up by their tummy, that's the position they just spent 9 months in and it is settling for them. So pulling the legs up doesn't mean your baby has a sore tummy or still needs to be burped, it's just a reflex or baby getting comfortable.

  • Newborns get very tired, very quickly, particularly if the feed took a while. Remember newborns should only be up for an hour...so grizzling after a feed may be due to tired signs rather than a wind issue.

  • Baby still wants to suck!! Offer a dummy rather than more feeding and see if that helps.

  • Baby is missing 'womb service' and the lovely, calming sensations of the womb. Try firm swaddling, some gentle jiggling, loud white noise, hold baby on her side and offer a dummy - the magical 5S's techniques may be all you need.

 

What causes wind or burps?

Young babies often swallow air during feeds, particularly if they are bottle fed as bottle-fed babies often feed faster and drink more.

Fast milk flow or a generous milk supply can lead to wind with breastfed babies.

Fast flow teats or some styles of bottles or teats can increase wind in bottle fed babies. Also not having the bottle angled correctly with the teat always full of milk will lead to more wind.

 

Reducing wind from feeds

If your baby starts to fuss during the feed, stop and wind her then. If you continue feeding, she will likely swallow even more air, which will only increase her discomfort and may make her spit up.

Try burping her frequently during the feed, even if she shows no discomfort. The pause and the change of position alone will slow her gulping and reduce the amount of air she takes in.

If she's bottle-feeding, burp her after every 2 to 3 ounces.

If she's breastfed, burp her when she switches breasts.

 

Different burping techniques:

Over The Shoulder Position:

  • Place your baby so that the upper part of your baby's tummy is against your collarbone.

  • Apply slight pressure with your collarbone while patting his back, or use the heel of your hand to gently rub circles on his back.

  • Be sure to throw a burp cloth over your shoulder to catch any spills!

 

The Lap Method

This position is very good for babies that spit-up frequently. Simply place a burp cloth between your hand and baby's chest, then flip the cloth over the back of your hand.

  • Sit baby up on your lap.

  • Holding him with one hand against the front of his body and lean him forward slightly.

  • Support his head under the chin with your fingers.

  • Place the heel of your hand under his ribcage and apply slight pressure.

  • Again, pat his back or rub circles with your free hand.

 

The "Old-School" Method

  • Hold baby in your lap just as you would for the previous method, but bend him further forward at the waist.

  • As you pat or rub your baby's back, slowly and gently rotate his body 360 degrees from the waist, much like he was doing a stretching exercise.

  • Try to imagine doing a pre-aerobic warm-up: bend at the waist and stretch forward, then roll around to the right, continue rolling until you are leaning backwards, then roll to the left and front again.

  • Repeat.

  • If he shows any resistance, try another method. This is definitely the trickiest to manoeuvre, especially if baby is not yet holding his head up on his own, but has amazing results.

 

The Milkshake Method

This technique is from The Happiest Baby - the idea is to jiggle up the little bubbles of air, before you get them out.

  • Sit baby on your lap as for the Lap method.

  • Supporting baby under the chin with one hand, and under the bum with the other hand.

  • Lean baby very slightly forward, so she is resting on your top hand.

  • Gentle lift baby up and down, gently juggling the bubbles up to the top of your baby's tummy.

  • Stop jiggling and try rubbing your hand up her back firmly - the burp should come up now.

  • If not, try the over the shoulder position with some firm pats on the back.

Bicycle Method:

  • Lie your baby on her back and cycle her legs gently back and forth towards her tummy.

  • Massage the tummy gently but firmly, from the bottom of the tummy upwards.

  • Lift to a sitting position, supporting baby's head and see if burps appear.

  • if not, continue with another technique.

Up in the air

  • Try lifting your baby up into the air!

  • The change of scene and quick movement might dislodge a stubborn burp!

  • If nothing else, this is more fun than stressing about burps!!

 

Tummy pressure:

Sometimes some gentle pressure on baby's tummy can help with getting stubborn burps up.

  • Try laying baby on your lap and gently rub circles on baby's back with the heel of your hand.

  • This seems to relieve some of the pressure off his belly and is recommended particularly for colicky babies.

  • Many parents also use this method to relax baby and help him fall asleep.

 

Which technique?

Some babies can only be burped in a specific position; others can be easily burped with any method.

If you do not have success with a particular position, try another one.

Sometimes just moving them from one position to another seems to work out that burp.

 

How do you know if you got all the burps?

The easiest way to tell is whether your baby is calm and happy.....

Another tip is how well your baby settles to sleep. If you put baby down and she looks like she has gone to sleep, but wakes crying after 5 minutes - this is generally a sign there is a burp lurking. Pick her up and the burp will likely come up now.

One piece of advice is to try not to stress too much about burping!!! If you have heard some burps and baby is happy, then carry on with some cuddles, awake time, tummy time...... watch for tired signs, then pop baby into bed.

 

Other solutions for wind:

There are a number of products available to help get baby's wind up or help an unsettled tummy. We recommend Rhuger Mixture as the product we get the most consistent positive feedback about, though all babies are different and you may need to experiment with the best solution for your baby.

 

Could my baby have reflux?

If your baby screams, arches their back and goes red while feeding, they possibly have reflux.

Some signs of reflux include:

  • Chronic coughing, colds, runny noses or wheezing

  • Frequent ear infections

  • Distress during or after feeding.

  • Feeding issues, such as refusal to feed or wanting to feed constantly

  • Frequent Hiccups.

  • Irritability such as screaming, whinging or crying.

  • May sleep little and be disturbed easily when sleeping.

  • May wake frequently at night but it is not uncommon for babies with reflux to sleep through the night due to exhaustion.

  • Spilling and/or vomiting, which may occur at any time including right up until the next feed.

  • Difficulty swallowing.

 

More information on Reflux

Read our detailed information in the links below and consult with your GP or paediatrician if you believe your baby could be suffering from reflux.

Click here to read our detailed information on Gastric Reflux

Read - Living with Gastric Reflux

 

Is reflux the real or only issue?

  • Food allergies can be mistaken for reflux, so ensure your doctor is also checking for this. You may need to try an avoidance diet if you are breastfeeding to see if you need to eliminate certain things from your diet.

  • Babies can have reflux AND food allergies, so it's important to get to the bottom of the WHOLE story!!! Be insistent with your doctor if you feel something is still wrong.

  • Spilling or spitting up does not mean your baby necessarily has reflux - all babies spill to some degree and most do not have reflux!

  • See our information about Colic too, as parents often believe their baby has reflux as baby cries a lot or has difficulty falling asleep. Often newborns are over-tired and needing help to fall asleep, and solving these issues will help with feeding and settling problems.

  • See the information at the top of the page about 'is burping really the issue?' - the same applies to many babies who are very unsettled....while they may have some signs of reflux, often getting better at identifying tired signs and using effective settling techniques will make a major difference to your baby (personal experience speaking here!!!)

  • We encourage you to try the Happiest Baby techniques to see if this relieves your baby's crying and unsettled times, before worrying there is a medical condition responsible!

 

Customer suggestions

The following are some other suggestions from our customers and readers, who have found these techniques useful for reflux and wind issues. We do not endorse these techniques as people get mixed results from them.....but they may be useful for you!

  • Baby massage

  • Cranial osteopathy

  • Infacol

  • Identifying foods that mum eats that baby through breastmilk, including removing wheat or dairy from MUM'S diet.

Related Articles

Wind & Reflux Remedies

Which Baby Bottle Do Parents Choose

What is Gastric Reflux & Seeking Help

Living with Gastric Reflux

 

Where to from here?

Return to newborn sleep information

See Baby Whispering DVD for expert advice on burping techniques.

The Secrets of the Baby Whisperer has good info on burping too.

Visit your GP to discuss your concerns about reflux or wind