How to get your baby to burp (and fart)

It may seem pretty simple to you as an adult, but your little poop machine's probably going to need some help getting the gas to flow.

Dad winding a baby

In some respects, it’s a golden era. Babies are celebrated, congratulated and cheered for the momentous achievement of … releasing wind.

Whether they’ve let off some thunder down under or expelled some gas from the mast, the triumphant sounds are more often than not met with collective whoops of delight and sighs of relief.

And while you may not get the same reaction as a grown man today (well, not with any regularity, anyway), it is a proud moment for all concerned when your little mini-me lets his trapped wind free.

Babies generally cry for one of a few reasons: they’re in discomfort, they’re tired or they’re hungry. (If it’s really horrendous, continuous and the monster is completely inconsolable, they could have Colic – a nightmare you can read all about here)

The discomfort part, is often caused by needing to burp or fart.

There’s a big difference between the type of air involved in each scenario, and understanding which is which helps inform your strategy for disaster relief.

The farts

A good ol’ Donald (trump) is the release of air that’s created by the digestion of milk in the bowel.

When needing to let one rip, babies will sometimes have a minute or two of discomfort — squirm, wriggle and whine, go an interesting shade of red and have a bum rumble. All good.

Sometimes, however, they’ll become more distressed, and the minute or two will turn into five or ten.

Body language to watch out for on this one is if they straighten their legs out fully while turning reddish — that’s a good sign the wind is digestion-related.

There are a number of things to try, and all involve moving their legs and tummy around to release the offending air. I’ve found gently rubbing my little daughter’s tummy helps move things along. Other things to try are laying her on her back and gently pushing her knees up towards her chest, or rotating her legs in a cycling movement which works really well too.

But everyone’s needs are different, and you can have a bit of fun trying out the different techniques.

Singing songs adds a bit of fun and is a good distraction tool, too.

The burps

Wind that needs to come out from up top, is another story. It’s caused by air that’s been swallowed, primarily when feeding (but also when crying, and even just breathing). The air gets trapped in the tummy and can only be expelled upwards – often it’ll need some help.

Breast-fed babies are less likely to get a good dose of wind as they create something of a vacuum when latched to the breast, meaning less space for air to get in.

Bottle-fed babies, however, don’t have the same surface area to attach themselves to, so end up swallowing more air than their breast-sucking counterparts.

Body language to look out for here include grizzling and squirming, and raising their legs up, with knees close to the chest. During the feed, look out for detaching from the bottle mid feed. (Same goes for the nip, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume you’re not the one doing the feeding in that event.).

If they’re just messing about with the bottle and not drinking, they may need to release some air.

Don’t mistake this for baby being full – they might just need to burp.

My baby tends to swallow a fair bit of air while feeding, so I attempt to get out little burps frequently, and get back to the feed – avoiding the pain of a lot of air in there.

I sit her up on my knees and gently rub and pat her back.Other tactics include putting baby over your shoulder and rubbing their back. Just make sure you have a spew cloth over your shoulder, as a bit of milky vom is often on the cards.

Even if baby is guzzling it down like the barman’s just yelled a last call for drinks, and doesn’t seem to be in any distress, give it a good go for a few minutes either midway or post feed.

Once you start, it becomes mildly addictive.

If your baby does suffer a lot from wind, wind drops that are administered before the feed are available over the counter. These drops collect together smaller air bubbles to form bigger bubbles, which are easier to get rid of.

Personally I don’t believe they do a great deal, but other parents I’ve spoken to swear by them.

If your baby still doesn’t settle after all of that, it’s probably not wind that’s the cause. More likely than not it’ll be the regular little baby fussiness, but if you’re concerned, get your GP to give them a once over, just to be on the safe side.

And if your babe is a crying, screaming tornado on a regular basis, it might be worth reading up on colic.