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6:51 p.m. - June 29, 2005
Feeding and Burping a Baby: So Simple Even I Can Do It!
You never forget how to ride a bicycle. And you never forget how to feed and burp a baby!

Well, almost never forget.

I will admit the first night with Kristin at home I totally spaced the diaper change right after she wakes up in the middle of the night (oops! But maybe that was intentional!) However, I totally got right back into the groove of the feeding and burping of a newborn baby.

Because of our situation, we have to use formula to feed Kristin (ok, I KNOW that it’s possible for adoptive mothers to lactate and provide breast milk. I also know it’s possible to hire wet nurses, but I don’t see any serving wenches around here that I can hire for that purpose!). That means I don’t get to weasel out of any baby duties whatsoever.

Since we are an equal-opportunity baby-raising shop, I get half of the feeding duty when I’m home. I take the early shift (9PM to 12:30 AM) and also anything from 5AM to 7:30 AM while Liz tries to get some sleep. And if / when Kristin wakes up, the goal is to feed her, burp her, and get her back snoozing relatively quickly so we all can get some sleep and don’t walk around babbling more incoherently than normal. (I know my babbling can be incoherent, even if I have sleep. But on just four hours I can be dangerous – I just emailed the Candidate about the Osmonds, fer cripes sake!)

So it’s important that I know what I’m doing – and in case you ever are faced with that situation of needing to bottle feed and burp a baby – I’m here to let you in on my secrets!

After you change the baby (change the diaper – not change the life form or the circumstance - this isn’t Mr. Wizard and Tooter Turtle. Remember to be what you is, not what you is not) and prepare the formula – and not never, ever microwave the bottle to heat it up – then you’re ready for the feeding.

Holding a small baby reminds me of carrying a football, you need to cradle it. And you can cradle a newborn in one hand. This is helpful for many reasons; the most important is that at this age one can’t yet hold a bottle – so you need one hand to hold the bottle and one hand to hold the baby. The one hand baby carry is also important for going down steep stairs, working the TiVo remote, and plowing through the hordes of admirers when you go out in public. I’m sure we all have this last problem, right?

Hold the baby with the head resting in the crook of the arm and make sure the head is supported. Then take the bottle and put the nipple against the lips. If the baby wants to eat, the baby will latch onto that thing and start chowing down. This is a good time to look the baby in the eyes and start telling it about life – I remind Kristin all the time that while Daddy will pay for college, she may want to start thinking about eloping. Oh, and while I will allow here to go to that school in Greendingle if it’s her choice, and that’s OK since she’s a girl, I’ll always show up on parents weekend in red.

So you’re set, right? Baby in one arm, bottle in the other, and the baby is slurping away at the formula. But wait – there’s a commercial on the TV that you need to fast forward over, or you need a drink of your beverage, or the phone is ringing, or you need to turn the page of the magazine you’re reading or something else. What do you do?

Well, you get creative – think of how you can contort your body or left arm and hand to both hold the baby and the bottle while your right hand reaches for what you need at the time. My favorite move is the chin tuck – prop the bottle up with your chin while you reach for the remote. I mean, you really don’t want to watch a lame commercial that crops up in the middle of the Daily Show when you have TiVo, right? So you need to have your other hand free once in a while. And once you grab the remote you can transition it into the same hand where you are holding the baby. With a beverage, probably not – you’re going to have to make it a quick drink.

Also watch out for the baby’s hands. At this age, they don’t know the have hands, and they tend to whap themselves in the face, then give this look like “What is this thing that’s hitting me? Hey, can you put a stop to it Mr. Blurry Thing Holding My Bottle of Formula?” (Deep secret…at this age they may be looking toward you, but you’re just a shambling mound to them. Soon, they’ll see you and love you, then like you, then you’ll be a nuisance that they grunt to on the way out the door.)

The baby should be guzzling the formula up, but at some point you’re going to have to stop and burp it. Their stomachs fill up with gas easily, and prudent burping eliminates crying, whining, and perhaps some unpleasantness at the far end of the spectrum, if you get my drift.

Everyone knows, supposedly, how to burp a baby. Hold the baby up next to you, with its head looking over your shoulder, and start smacking it in the back. Keep smacking it in the back until you get a nice burp. Some people like to put a cloth over their shoulder in order to protect themselves from some burping side effects. I go commando. A little spit-up never hurt anyone.

And don’t be wimpy about how you hit the baby. You can’t just go ‘tap-tap-tap’. You must be reasonable with your strikes. Don’t act like you’re smacking the buzzer on Family Feud. Find the proper balance.

The proper rhythm is important in burping. You want to give the baby consistent hits on the back to try to force the air out of the stomach. Of course just going smack, smack, smack is a bit dull; you need to make this a little peppier, especially after midnight, else you could fall asleep due to monotony. Normally, I feed and burp Kristin listening to my iPod, and many times have borrowed the rhythm from the songs I’m listening to for my burping, and I’ve found some songs and artists work well, and some, not so much. Here are some highlights:

(Sidebar before the highlights, if you please your honor, that last sentence sounded like the old promos from Lawrence Welk: “Friends, our show dis veek is a tribute to dairy farming in Wisconsin – here are some highlights…”)

Dave Clark Five – “Bits and Pieces” – For those of you who have heard it (I’ll give many of my readers a pass since 1964 isn’t really in their frame of reference, but you can google it or find some passages on the net I’m sure), this is almost perfect to burp by. A very simple, consistent rhythm permeates the song. Actually, the song is ahead of it’s time with its low, thumping bass. I wonder how come none of those idiots who have those loud bass-heavy stereos in their cars haven’t discovered this one.

The Knack – “My Sharona” – While not consistent, if you keep doing the main riff over and over again you can get a good burp going. The key is to keep that rhythm going even during the guitar solos. (It’s not like you’re going to forget it!)

Metallica – One would think Metallica would be good music for burping. Yet, the nature of their songs doesn’t really lead to success in this area. The songs are usually fairly complicated rhythmically, with lots of changes. Some portions really work like the first part of “One” (up until the double time section), the middle part of “Four Horsemen”, and perhaps “Leper Messiah”. But my favorite Metallica track, “Master of Puppets” just changes too much and has odd rhythms. Kristin wouldn’t know what to make of it. (For the same reason, a lot of Captain Beefheart is out – insane polyrhythms aren’t good for belch production. Rush and Primus are also a bit too busy for this as well.)

Disco / Dance – A lot of disco and dance music does well. It can’t be the ultra-fast techno, or you may grind the baby into dust by the time the song is over. Classic disco works well, along with bands like New Order and Big Audio Dynamite and some Nine Inch Nails songs. Just don’t sing those out loud – the baby won’t mind but the wife may wonder why you’re singing the song “Closer” to a month-old kid.

You get the point – keep simple, constant time on the back.

Once you hear a burp, then you can resume feeding. The baby will tell you if it wants more. And judging by my formula bills, the response to another offering of the bottle’s nipple is “yes, please, let me have more of this beige-colored liquid you are offering me”. You usually know when to stop when you see the formula around the mouth. That means the little nipper has called it a meal for now – and it’s back to burping again.

There are consequences if you don’t burp. First, the baby will cry. Second, the baby will not stop crying. Third, the crying will continue. And finally, you won’t be able to stop the baby from crying until you burp it. Like I said, you don’t want to have issues on the back end – it could be messy.

Basically, it’s like the instructions on a shampoo bottle: Feed baby, burp, repeat.

Now, if you’ll excuse me someone is waking up. And try as I might, I’ve not been able to successfully feed and type at the same time. It’s something to aspire too, for sure, and with practice I may be able to get there. I just need to make sure Liz doesn’t see me try!


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