When I was a new mama, I was told to hold my newborn upright.
Actually, I wasn’t told.
I was shown by someone who didn’t speak a word of English beyond “Hi.”
My husband explained that the nurse said it helps the baby digest the breastmilk. My breastfeeding coach, Vivien, turned up later and told us a bit more, in English for me and in Chinese for my husband.
In a nutshell, you hold a newborn upright because their little digestive systems haven’t blossomed yet. So, how long do you have to sit like that? Does this go on until they’re 18?!?
Not to worry, Mama. I’ve got you covered.
Should you put the baby down straight after a feed?
Please don’t do that. You know, the times I did do it (usually at night), I was instantly regretful.
Babies, especially newborns, need our help with digestion. After feeding your baby, the last thing you should do is set them straight down.
I mean, think about how you feel after you eat a meal. Do you just lie down?
Ok, let me rephrase that…IF you lie down, do you feel awesome? No? Well, neither does your baby.
But because your baby can’t say, “Gee, I feel gassy and uncomfortable,” all you get is lots of agitated crying.
You need to burp your baby and hold her upright for a bit after each feeding. No, you don’t need to do this for years on end. In the early months of life, you must do.
How long to keep the baby upright after feeding?
A good rule of thumb is to hold your baby upright 10 to 15 minutes after a feeding. If you notice she spits up, or GERD is involved, you should probably hold her upright for 20 to 30 minutes.
Just an FYI – sometimes any baby can spit up. This is normal. But if spit-up keeps happening, you will want to hold your baby upright longer. You should also check with the doctor to ensure it’s not GERD.
How long to keep baby upright after night feeding?
At night, the same hold baby upright rules apply. If you don’t take the time to hold your baby and burp her after those night feedings, she may wake up because of gas.
Then you’ll have a screaming, crying, agitated baby on your hands at some ungodly hour. Taking the time to hold her upright may seem exhausting, but that’s less time than you’ll spend comforting her if she’s having gas or other upset from laying down so soon after a feeding.
How to hold a newborn upright after feeding?
Listen, we ALL have that moment when we’re new mamas, and we’re like, Am I doing this right??? I remember feeling completely lost until I got some advice on doing it from my breastfeeding coach.
It’s simple, really. You need to hold your baby upright and gently pat her back repeatedly.
Using a cupped hand is best because it is gentler than keeping your palm flat and will help encourage the release of trapped gas.
Oh, and do yourself a HUGE favor…put a cloth on your shoulder. This way if she does spit up a little, it will get on the cloth and not on your clothes.
This is important late at night so keep a stash of burp cloths around. Otherwise, you’ll be covered in stinky spit-up and have to change clothes.
Additionally, try a few different positions to see what your baby prefers.
- Upright with baby against the chest
You will hold your baby so her chin rests on your shoulder while you use one hand to support her. With the other hand, you’ll use it to gently pat her back, keeping that hand cupped for gentle yet effective release.
A rocking chair is a wonderful place to sit in this position. A glider too. These provide a soothing rocking motion that will help your baby relax as you hold her upright to help her digest. It will be much easier to put her back down to sleep in the middle of the night when doing this.
- Have the baby sit up on your lap
As you know, newborns cannot sit up on their own. You will support your baby’s head and chest with one hand, cradling her chin in your palm in this position. The heel of your hand should be on her chest, though be gentle, so you don’t accidentally hit her in the throat. Your other hand can be used to pat her back gently.
- Go for the belly
This one is best during daytime hours because you can pair it with that tummy time which is essential for development. You can lay her on your lap while supporting her head while she’s on her belly. The key here is to keep her head higher than her chest, then pat her back. You can also move her easily to the floor on her tummy time mat from this position.
What do I do if the baby gets fussy during feedings?
If your baby becomes agitated in the middle of breastfeeding, gas is likely bothering her. Stop your session to burp her and then start feeding her again.
It can benefit you and your baby to stop and provide burping every 5 minutes or so during feeding if she’s gassy, spits up a lot, has GERD, or just gets intensely agitated in the middle of a feeding.
When can I stop holding the baby upright after feedings?
It depends on the baby, but generally speaking, most babies won’t need to be burped like this once they get to the ages of 4 to 6 months, around the time when they start to eat solids. You will notice they burp and fart on their own at this point and seem less of a hot mess to deal with, so you’ll know.
For now, just enjoy those moments of holding the baby upright. It goes by so fast that you realize they’re too big to pick up and hold in your arms one day.
Leslie Berry lives with her husband and two young daughters in Los Altos, California, where she loves helping other moms get comfortable with motherhood and embracing the insanity with facts peppered with laughs.
She loves eating too much sushi, exercising, and jamming out on her Fender. Read more about Leslie here.