The "howtos" out there don't really show you how hard to pat the baby when burping it. They seem to focus on positions and such, but they stop short of actually doing it.

I want to know that I'm patting/rubbing him hard enough to be useful, and not so hard that I would make him uncomfortable (or worse, I suppose). Use comparisons like "as hard as you would knock on a bedroom door while trying not to wake someone if they are sleeping", or simply link to a video where someone is actually burping a baby (especially one that does not burp easily!)

My baby is 1 month old.

edit: I just want to add that there are several good answers here. Thanks!

  • This is pretty hard to quantify, but I would pat my son with the same firmness you'd pat an adult on the shoulder, or pat a big dog. Or as firm as a normal clap, or patting your leg for a dog to come to you. Since your hand is spread out and contacting their ribs, the force is heavily dispersed and it's very hard to accidentally injure your little one.
    – user11394
    Dec 22, 2014 at 0:36
  • CreationEdge is right, 'patting yourself on the leg for a dog to come to you' is about the right firmness in my experience.
    – A E
    Dec 22, 2014 at 15:32
  • If you're in the U.S., I'll bet the hospital has a lactation counselor you could call. While this isn't exactly their job, I bet they'd be delighted to help you, and they'd have tons of hands-on experience with babies and feeding issues.
    – Marc
    Dec 24, 2014 at 17:34

4 Answers 4


Here's something that might help you to feel more comfortable.

Rest and keep your thumb and the base of your hand (almost to the knuckles) on the baby's side/back, so that the only part of your hand moving are your fingers and knuckles. Then pat away as comfortable. If you do it this way, it's quite unlikely that you will get enough force in your fingers without exaggerating/unnatural movement to cause any discomfort.

Alternate patting and circular rubbing movements. If you don't get a burp after a minute or so and the baby is content, you can feel comfortable that you've done your job. If he's fussing, you can walk and pay/rub.

The object of burping isn't to whack the air bubble out of him (so it's ok if it's very gentle); the object is to get the smaller bubbles to come together and 'break apart' into one big bubble, which he is then upright enough to let out of his stomach. It's just a matter of time and gentle agitation; not much is needed.

  • 2
    After reading your answer I realized that, mechanically, this is how I burp as well. I wouldn't have analyzed it that way. It's naturally comfortable for the burper because you don't need to move at your wrist, elbow or shoulder.
    – user11394
    Dec 22, 2014 at 15:56

We found that the act of changing seating position sometimes gets a burp. We now do this on purpose and call it baby yoga.


  • lay the infant out, butt on our knee/thigh
  • SLOWLY move them forward to a seated position. think of a slow abdominal crunch
  • lean slowly back
  • repeat and smile at cute expression

We alternate "baby yoga", traditional pats< and rubbing their back with heel of your hand.


Every baby is different. My first child burped on her own, or else right when we would pick her up. But or second required patting, rubbing, jostling, MORE patting, and some harder patting. My advice is start out gentle, and if that doesn't work, step it up a notch. It is extremely unlikely that you will somehow hurt your infant just from the motion of burping.


I have had almost immediate results when I have the baby with her head over my shoulder and her abdomen on my upper chest/shoulder. Upright, allowing the gas to travel upward.

Then putting two fingers (Index and Middle) on her belly, gently applying pressure, enough that if you pushed on your own hand, you wouldn't see any white around your finger, but when you lift off, it quickly fades back to your normal skin color. In other words, barely at all.

Then wiggle the fingers like you were scratching something without actually leaving the spot. So if you did it on your own hand, you'd see your skin moving under your fingers, with your fingers staying fixed on the spot.

If that doesn't work, sometimes placing the baby face down over your thigh with slight pressure on her belly, while supporting her weight partially, because if they are gassy, it could hurt if there is too much weight on there.

I've never really needed to pat anything that was audible.. Just gently tapping. Keeping in mind, the areas that collect gas are NOT the lungs, and rib cage, but the abdomen.

  • Patting on the back still works to burp babies because the vibration travels through their chest, across the diaphragm, and jostles the stomach contents enough to get the air bubbles to coalesce. If they are upright, they will likely burp. You don't need to manipulate the stomach/abdomen to burp a baby, and I myself would hesitate to recommend your method. I do think a gassy baby (with gassy distention in the large intestine) can benefit from other measures, like moving the legs as if they were bicycling, etc. But otherwise, patting the back is tried and true. Dec 23, 2014 at 0:52
  • The abdominal massage was recommended from The Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth. The patting methods is tried and true, but some people tend to get anxious when the baby is distraught, and can tend to pat harder and harder. This is an alternative to that, with the focus being on gentle vibrations, and posture.
    – peege
    Dec 23, 2014 at 0:59
  • I was responding to your comment "the areas that collect gas are NOT the lungs, and rib cage, but the abdomen." This doesn't mean back-patting is insufficient. It's highly unlikely an adult will pat too hard the way I described. Still, your recommendation is not only new to me, but also seems a bit awkward (how are you supporting her if one of your two hands is between the baby and yourself?) and I don't recommend poking into soft baby-places in general. If it does anything more than vibration (easy to achieve with back-patting), it can put some pressure on the stomach => spitting up more. Dec 23, 2014 at 1:24
  • To clarify my point. I agree with your first comment about the vibrations of the chest being the activating agent. To understand the belly rub, I suppose you might need a visual demonstration. The whole point is vibration and not pushing in to the belly. The pressure I apply is slightly more than rubbing, and not acute. Hope that helps.
    – peege
    Dec 23, 2014 at 2:08
  • I could not find a Bradley Method video on burping. :-/ We all, however, live and learn (and get spit up on!) ') Western practices (what I am familiar with) often clash with what some doulas teach. Both have value (but when I am in doubt, like others, I'll go with what I know). As long as it helps and doesn't hurt, it's all good. Dec 23, 2014 at 3:00

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