We see it in movies and on TV, and we see it in real life, too: Parents feeding their babies and then immediately going to burp them. We don’t really think about it too much, it’s just the way life goes when you’re an infant: You eat, and then you need to be pat on the back to let out a big old burp. Right?
Well, maybe not. In fact, there’s research that leaves us with the question: How necessary is burping your baby, really? One researcher and mother Bhavneet Bharti, of the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh, India, became curious about the topic when she was getting pretty exhausted burping her own baby after every single time they ate (which is a lot when you’re that young!).
“Similarly, 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,” says Bharti.
Bharti was so exhausted from her burping routine that she started to think why we even do it in the first place. She looked into seeing there was any research done on the topic, and totally failed to find any. So of course, she did was any curious researcher would do, and developed her own study to determine how essential burping a baby after you feed them is. And the results of her study are pretty interesting.
Bharti and her researchers studied 71 mothers and their newborns. About half of the moms were given information and advice regarding immunizations, breastfeeding and other health issues, but nothing on burping. The other half were only informed about how to properly burp their newborn. For three months, the mamas tracked any excessive crying or other signs of discomfort, plus how often they spit up.
It turns out that the babies who got burped didn’t cry any less than the ones who didn’t. Plus, for a twist in the research, the burped babies actually spit up more than the ones who weren’t burped—way more actually: an average of about eight times a week, with unburped babies spitting up about 3.7 times a week.
The study was published in the journal Child: Care, Health and Development and defined as a “clever and well-done study of a ‘wellness practice’ that many people take for granted, but has rarely, if ever, been truly shown to have benefits,” by Jenifer Lightdale, a pediatric gastroenterologist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Massachusetts.
An important thing to note: This evidence doesn’t mean you should never burp your baby—but the research suggests that it maybe doesn’t have to be something you resort to after every single feeding. “It is not the practice of an intuitive occasional burp by the caregivers, but the ritual after every feed that is being questioned,” Bharti clarifies.
While more evidence is needed to make any formalized conclusions, this small but powerful study certainly gives us insight into why we even burp our babies in the first place.
Do you burp your baby after every single feeding? Have you ever considered why we do this, or if there’s a benefit to it? In light of this research, would you consider reducing the amount of times you burp your infant a day?