Is burping really necessary? Grandma versus science!

The Pediatric Insider

© 2016 Roy Benaroch, MD

Ann wrote in: “My baby doesn’t burp easily – sometimes she doesn’t burp at all. Trying to make her burp makes her upset. Do babies really need to be burped after nursing?”

A fair question. Generations of parents have been burping their babies, and it seems like something we probably ought to do. I mean, it’s uncomfortable to have un-burped gas in your belly, right? And gas there probably causes fussiness, and maybe makes babies spit up, right? Not only does it make sense, but that’s what Grandma has been saying. Could Grandma possibly be wrong?

Let’s see what science says. There was a study of this exact question, published in 2014 in the journal Child: Care, Health and Development. A group including nursing and pediatric specialists from Chandigarh, India took on the Grandmas in their publication, “A randomized controlled trial of burping for the prevention of colic and regurgitation in healthy infants.” Their conclusion: “burping did not significantly lower colic events and there was significant increase in regurgitation episodes.” Yikes!

It was a simple study design, the kind I like best. 71 babies were randomly placed into two groups: an “intervention” group, where moms were taught burping techniques and told to burp their babies after meals; and a “control” group, where mom were taught other things about parenting, but were not taught about burping. The babies were all otherwise healthy, ordinary term infants, enrolled shortly after birth. They were followed for three months, with the families recording crying times and the number of spit-ups (regurgitation.)

The results: the amount of crying in each group was about the same. Burping did not prevent “colic”, or excessive crying. When comparing the episodes of spit-up, the “burping” group had approximately twice as many spit up episodes as the non-burped babies. So: burping had no effect on crying, and actually made spitting worse.

There are some important limitations. The study was done in India, and the conclusions might not be the same in babies from other parts of the world. Also, the intervention wasn’t “blinded” – for practical reasons, the parents knew if their babies were in the burping group. Still, the conclusions were statistically strong, and I think they’re probably correct.

Will this convince anyone to stop burping babies? Probably not. But I would say, for Ann, if burping makes your baby upset, there’s no reason to keep doing it. For the rest of you: you’ll have to settle this with Grandma, yourselves. I’m not getting in the middle of it!

Ogre belches are the worst

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2 Comments on “Is burping really necessary? Grandma versus science!”

  1. wzrd1 Says:

    Well, Doctor Mom passed away in 2001, but by then, our children were grown and had homes of their own.
    Today, we have grandchildren, all, far outside of burping land, beyond voluntary or usual burps associated with, well, life.
    A couple of them, burping appears to have been mandatory, but then, they had colic and one was well documented for having reflux.

    We faithfully burped our eldest, courtesy of instructions from Doctor Mom. Our youngest, no so much, just as we didn’t “sterilize” bottles or do any of the other useless things new parents do, having learned from experience.

    So, it really comes down to, whatever works to keep the youngling happy and unharmed.
    Which can be a very real thing at a young age and sleep goes far beyond disrupted and into impossible, where one honestly understands why some species do eat their young. 😉
    OK, it wasn’t *that* bad, but it got close a few times. :/
    I came moments from ordering a B-52 strike…

    Nah, good joke, save in this world, where actual homicidal parents do exist, thoroughly ruining a shared angst over sleepless young.

    But, two grandchildren had colic from hell, one, eventually diagnosed with reflux, the other, a “medical mystery” that resolved over time.
    Guess who got stuck babysitting both? 🙂
    I also managed to sooth both, splinting their abdomen while standing (their preferred position anyway), the palm over the abdomen and lower thorax worked well to soothe them.
    And equally important, it was baby contact time.
    I was recently retired from the Army and loved family time that was uninterrupted!

    Indeed, I miss it now, now that we had to relocate, due to my job, some 1300 miles away.
    Still, it beats the previous distance apart, some 6800 miles away.

    So, if baby rests well after feeding, don’t bother burping. If baby doesn’t rest well unless burped, burp away!
    Even if the burping doesn’t actually relieve the discomfort, it’ll reassure baby via physical contact and caring.
    Which is really, actually what it’s really all about anyway. A goat can feed a baby, but only a human can actually *care* for a baby.

    And I’m one who loves babies! They taste so yummy!*

    *I’m the joker that puts baby’s hand or foot inside of his mouth, to much hilarity for baby. When it starts to get old, baby tickles the roof of my mouth, for more hilarity. 😉

    Like

  2. Dr. Roy Says:

    “Even if the burping doesn’t actually relieve the discomfort, it’ll reassure baby via physical contact and caring.” <– wzrd. great point!

    Like


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