Scientists are now calling into question the age-old practice of burping babies, with surprising research to back them up.
Science News reports that researcher and mother Bhavneet Bharti found it challenging to burp her new baby after every feeding, particularly at night, so she went looking for studies about why burping was necessary.
“I heard stories of many more exhausted mothers and other caregivers spending hours patting their babies in the middle of the night, trying to wait for the elusive sound of the burp,” said the mom, who works at the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh, India.
On our first night, I was simultaneously trying to burp her and googling "how to burp a baby" on my phone.
— Michelle Akin (@MichelleAkin) September 11, 2016
I used to get excited when I won a court case. Now I am really happy when I get a burp out of the baby. #skillz
— Louise (@louweeziz) September 17, 2016
To her surprise, she found no studies at all supporting the idea that burping babies was necessary.
As a result, Bharti and her colleagues enrolled 71 pairs of new babies and their mothers in a research study. Half were given standard advice about vaccinations, breastfeeding and other health issues, in addition to information about the importance of burping their babies. The other half received the first information but no advice to burp their babies.
The researchers then recorded every episode of colic (defined as excessive crying and fussiness) and spit-ups over the next three months.
The findings shocked the scientists. Not only did they not find any correlation at all between burping and colic, but they found that burped babies spit up far more often than those who weren’t burped: an average of eight times a week for burped babies versus 3.7 times a week for those who were not burped.
— Science News (@ScienceNews) September 16, 2016
The results were published in Child: Care, Health and Development, where authors noted that they were surprised that burping actually seemed to increase the number of incidences of spitting up in infants.
Although burping is a rite of passage, our study showed that burping did not significantly lower colic events and there was significant increase in regurgitation episodes in healthy term infants up to 3 months of follow-up.
The study goes against the advice given by most major child care authorities, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and most parenting books and web sites.
However, more and more parenting sites are inclined to agree.
“Because achieving an actual belch isn’t super-important when it comes to your baby’s health and comfort, it’s best to burp your baby gently and be willing to recognize when a burp just isn’t going to happen,” says Our Everyday Life. “If your baby is content and happy, a burp isn’t required, so you can skip the entire process and let her relax or cuddle instead.”
Neonatal Research reported on the study and noted that there are some communities in the world where they don’t burp their babies and the babies “seem very happy.”
They further noted that Robin Barker, the author of the best selling Australian Baby Care Book, says not to bother with burping, as well.
One pediatric nurse weighed in, saying that she agreed.
I have been a neonatal nurse for 30 years and I have never been able to see the point of burping. I certainly didn’t do it with my baby.
The Daily Mail also reported that burping babies is unnecessary. They quoted Brisbane general practitioner and infant health expert Dr. Pamela Douglas, who told the news site that it’s a myth that babies need burping.
“Burping is a practice that spread around the world with the British Empire, but is unnecessary, said Brisbane. “Babies relieve themselves of any wind naturally from any position, just like you and me.”
The baby expert says it’s fine to burp a baby who seems to benefit from it, but not to worry if burping doesn’t seem to be working.
If it seems to be working for you, that’s fine – but if your baby is unsettled, I usually recommend not burping, because it disrupts that lovely sleepiness at the end of the feed which allows the baby’s biological sleep regulators to kick in.
Researchers still stress that it’s still a good idea to burp babies who seem to be clearly uncomfortable and dealing with gas. “It is not the practice of an intuitive occasional burp by the caregivers, but the ritual after every feed that is being questioned,” Bharti said.
[Primary Image by Tyler Olson/Shutterstock]