When Christine Akello put her baby boy to bed, she had no idea that the baby would die.
She was home alone, in Mukono, taking care of a number of children while doing some housework. After a while, two of the babies cried and she quickly fed them before putting one to bed.
But when she next checked on him, he was limp. Akello, together with her neighbour rushed him to hospital, but he was pronounced dead upon arrival.
It was unbelievable. Relatives would not believe that such a “healthy fat looking baby” could die. “What was the cause of his death?” they wanted to know. A post-mortem revealed that the baby had suffocated because of the reflux of food that had gone to his lungs.
Because he had not been burped after he had fed, he burped on his own while sleeping, and the food travelled to his lungs.
Dr. Margaret Nakakeeto, a paediatrician and former head of the paediatrics unit at Mulago Hospital says this case is not isolated and that failure to burp a baby after it feeds could lead to the death.
She notes that mothers have to ensure they burp the babies every after feeding. And then, she also says, the best sleeping position for babies is on their back. This way, cot deaths will be minimised.
Other benefits provided by burping include aiding digestion. Because babies feed in a horizontal position, there is need to put them in an upright position so that digestion is facilitated as the natural horizontal feeding position is a hindrance to proper digestion.
Patting the baby on the back will make it release the air bubbles that are introduced into the body as it feeds. These air bubbles are usually uncomfortable for the baby; in fact most babies cry and squirm their little faces when they feel the need to burp.
Burping a baby also deepens the bond between mother and baby. One of the ways in which one can burp a baby is sitting or standing upright, placing the baby in an upright position with the baby’s chin lying on the mother’s shoulder and one hand supporting the baby.
In this position, the baby is gently patted on the back. Another way would be to lay the baby on his stomach in the mother’s lap. Ensuring that the baby’s head is higher than his chest, then gently pat him on the back to release the air bubbles.
Additional reporting from the internet