Both my mom and mother-in-law believe and promote the practice of burping babies. After our son George was born they both ensured he was always burped well after every feed. I, on the other hand, probably burp George only 50 percent of the time. The 50 percent burping rate is due to a combination of sometimes George just won’t burp, sometimes it’s the middle of the night and I forget to burp him, and sometimes he has a small feed and I don’t think a burp is required. 

Why do we burp babies? 

The theory is that while babies are nursing or drinking from a bottle, they inhale air that needs to be expelled after feeding. Patting infants backs after feeds causes them to bring up that air and burp with the aim of decreasing tummy discomfort and crying episodes. 

What does the research say?

A study was completed in 2014 that compared babies who were burped to those that were not burped to see if there were different rates of colic or regurgitation.

There is definition of colic used in the study was excessive crying, paroxysmal onset, qualitative difference in cry, physical discomfort signals, and inconsolability. Regurgitation in the study was defined as “any expulsion of milk with or without other material from mouth.”

The study was small, having only 71 baby mother pairs, but the findings were surprising. This study showed that burping did not appear to affect rates of colic and that babies who were burped actually experienced higher rates of regurgitation than babies who were not burped.

Has this study changed what I do?

Personally, I still try my best to burp George after his feeds. But when I forget to burp him or he doesn’t burp after several minutes of patting his back, I don’t stress about it as much I used to.

This post was co-authored by Stephanie Liu, MD, MSc, CCFP, BHSc and Erin Manchuk, BScPharm, BCGP.

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