Although even the newest baby has instinctive methods of drinking with seemingly few breaks to take breath, inevitably, they do swallow air when they are guzzling away, whether they’re feeding from the breast or a bottle. And winding your baby – encouraging him to burp up any excessive air – is all part of feeding.
How often should I wind my baby?
It is a good idea to try a gentle winding session half way through a feed and then at the end, though don’t obsessively do the mid-feed wind every time if breaking away from the breast upsets your baby too much.
Whilst not every child will need to take a satisfying big burp that sounds like the work of a teenage schoolboy, all babies need to be able to settle after a big feed, and some gentle massage will help them do this, at the end of a feed.
How to wind your baby
There are three main ways of getting your baby to release any excess wind.
For you and for your baby, the preference may differ, so it’s worth bearing all of them in mind. If one doesn’t work, do try another, but don’t get too agitated otherwise your full baby will feel like he is being hurled around!
On your shoulder
New parents will probably try this position first as it is what we tend to see most other people do. Plus we can cuddle and comfort the child at the same time.
Hold your baby with his head just on your shoulder (not too far slung over it) and hold him steady with your arm under his bottom. Then with your free arm gently rub his back.
You can pat his back but don’t get too carried away or distractedly start giving him slaps as if he’s a rugby mate!
Sitting on your lap
Some babies, especially once they are just a few weeks old, prefer the open freedom of your lap once they have had their feed. (Some are born wrigglers who are straight off the breast once they’re full, while others will happily snuggle there for hours.)
Sit your baby facing away from you and support him by spreading your hand and resting his chest a little forward, onto it, making sure his head is also fully supported. Then rub or gently pat his back with your other hand.
Lay your baby across your lap
This position works for some babies, but do bear in mind that he has just had a big feed and laying on his tummy might be uncomfortable.
Make sure you rest your baby’s head on one of your legs rather than letting it hang over the edge of your lap, and allow his tummy to rest on the other leg, then pat his back.
When is he done?
You will quickly get to know what works for your baby. Some infants offer the slightest burp and are happy, whilst others need to have a good old honk before settling for a post-feed nap.
If your baby has fallen asleep during the feed, gently rub him in case he needs to bring up a little wind, but don’t feel the need to go through the usual major process if he looks comfortable enough.
If he has burped but still seems uncomfortable (and you’ve done the nappy check), try a little more gentle massaging in case more wind needs to come up.
Spitting up or possetting
A new baby’s system is not mature enough to necessarily deal with the volume of milk intake without rejecting a little, or without the need to clear out some residual mucous, and in older babies, some of the milk may get carried up with a bubble of air.
A baby which barely possetted early on may get more into the habit for a few weeks, and some infants will bring something up after every feed.
There is a big difference between this and bringing up so much milk that they are missing out nutritionally. If you are happy with their weight progress you have nothing to worry about. However, if you feel your child is not just bringing up a little amount of their feed, but vomitting regularly (not just once or twice a week), then do ask your health visitor or GP about it.
New babies’ possetting is rarely that unpleasant and the milk is usually quite freshly drunk, but if the feed was some time ago, the spit-up will smell more like sick.
No matter what, whilst you may spend early weeks in washable tops that have endured leaky breasts and stray baby wee, you will probably still prefer to have something to hand to protect you from possetting!
If you get muslin cloths, it can be useful to get the dual-colour packs you can now buy from places like Mothercare. (In our household, the lemon-coloured ones were used to mop up wee etc and the lime-coloured ones were used for sick, possetting, etc, in order to avoid any mishaps when reaching for a cloth in an emergency!)
Of course some torn up old sheets etc work just as well and are cheaper. It is useful to use a fabric rather than tissue for this job as you will find them more durable, plus washing and re-using is preferable ecologically.
If your baby possetts a lot and you are feeding from a bottle, you might want to try a different style of bottle. They all boast ‘anti-colic’ features these days, but some will suit different children better, and cause them less gassiness.