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What Are Burp Cloths?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 23, 2024
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Burp cloths are probably one of the most useful cleanup tools for babies, since young babies have a tendency to spit up when they are burped. People can buy specially made cloths or they can use any type of soft cloth for this purpose. Even a cloth diaper or receiving blanket will do in pinch, but anything used should have two purposes: It should be soft enough on the baby’s face which may be up against the cloth while he or she is being burped, and it should provide a strong enough shield for the clothing of the person who is burping the baby.

Those items made specifically as burp cloths can come in numerous forms. Sometimes bibs are called burp cloths but these may not prove effective because burped up milk doesn’t necessarily dribble down the baby’s chin. For practical use, look for cloths that are soft, absorbent and relatively large (about the size of a generous dishtowel). They should be able to fit over the shoulder with a little cloth hanging down in front and back. Cloth diapers are truly excellent for this purpose and tend to be less expensive than are commercially manufactured cloths.

For the mom who really wants things special, there are tons of patterns and choices in commercially made cloths including those that are personalized. Given their use, some people find personalization a high price to pay, as a single cloth can then cost over $10 US Dollars (USD). Since moms should start out parenting with a good supply of burp cloths, pricing can quickly become prohibitive.

Infants may eat up to 12 times a day, though formula fed babies may only take bottles 8-10 times a day. For new moms who don't have cloths left over from other babies, a safe supply of burp cloths is about 20-24. New babies are surprisingly good at burping up messes regularly, and more than one cloth may be needed per feeding. Later on when burping is less common, moms can still use the cloths to wipe messy baby faces or dirty noses as needed, and they’re helpful in cleaning up babies who are learning to eat solid foods. If you use a pregnancy pillow when you sleep with your child, you can consider making a pillow case made from burp clothes. It allows for easier cleanup even if the accident happens in the middle of the night with the lights out.

Many people make their own baby burp cloths and this can be easily accomplished with inexpensive cotton flannel. Cut pieces usually only require a quick hem so they don’t run or shred as they get washed repeatedly. This can be an inexpensive way to supply plenty of cloths for cleanup. Some moms make pillow cases out of burp clothes for their pregnancy pillows so any accidents in bed can easily be fixed by changing the pillow case. It's a smart way of cleaning up and it also allows you to keep using your beloved pillows shortly after your baby makes a mess.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a InfoBloom contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By dfoster85 — On Apr 08, 2012

@ElizaBennett - I mostly used whatever was handy, too, but I did have a couple of those cute monogrammed burp cloths for my first baby. One my aunt made because she just likes to do embroidery projects, and another my sister bought at a craft show. They were basically cloth diapers with embroidery on them.

They may be overly fancy for something baby is going to spit up on, but they do at least, in my experience, work just as well as dishtowels or blankets! They're one of those things that I think exist for people to buy as presents for first grandchildren, etc. No one who has recently had a baby would buy one, but they are cute for the shower!

By ElizaBennett — On Apr 08, 2012

I never had any specially designated burp cloths; I just used whatever was handy. I do use cloth diapers, so I would use the plain "prefolds" as burp cloths. It worked well as I would use the next size up from what the baby was wearing as an actual diaper; the newborn size of cloth diaper, in my experience, is not large enough to make a good burp cloth.

The article mentions that it would be about the size of a dishtowel, and that's actually another thing I used a lot of - dishtowels! These are great impromptu burp cloths because they are very absorbent. And if you forget to bring enough burp cloths to someone else's house, chances are they have a dishtowel or old hand towel you can use.

Flannel receiving blankets are also fine, but not quite as absorbent as the other options.

By alex94 — On Jan 13, 2011

I have learned after raising 3 kids that a burp cloth is essential to every diaper bag!

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a InfoBloom contributor, Tricia...
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