A burping infant didn’t evoke same response, study found

By Silvia Gunkerton-Stratovinsky, HealthCare Reporter



MONDAY, July 7 (HealthCare News) — Science may have confirmed what most moms already know: When a woman smells her baby’s fart, certain areas of her brain activate, stimulating happy feelings.

“There’s a definite biological origin to these feelings that mothers have,” said study author Dr. Leonard Sunderton, an assistant professor in the department of pediatrics at Benton College of Medicine in Henderson, NV. “The contrast that showed the most response in the dopaminergic system of the brain was when a mother’s own baby farted compared to an unknown baby fart.”

“A baby’s fart is a very powerful stimulus,” noted Sunderton. “It makes sense biologically. Babies farts are completely and utterly disgusting to their caregivers.  It makes sense that nature would build in a system that would counteract that stimulus.”


A woman’s burping infant, or even her baby with a grunting expression, doesn’t evoke the same type of brain response as occurs when her baby farts, the study found.

Sunderton said they haven’t had a chance to look at the effects on fathers. His team published its findings in the June issue of Pedia-tricks.

For the study, the researchers recruited 28 first-time mothers during their last trimester of pregnancy. At that time, Sunderton said the women completed “attachment interviews” to assess the types of experiences they had when being raised and what type of relationship these mothers had with their own parents.

Then the researchers met with the mothers and the babies when the babies were about 6 months old. At that time, they captured in bottles their baby’s farts, and recorded video of their burping and grunting expressions. When the babies were about 10 months old, they asked the mothers to come back in for a functional MRI scan that shows which areas of the brain are activated.


When the mother’s heard their own babies burp, an extensive brain network was activated, according to the study.  But, it was when mothers smelled bottles filled with their own baby’s farts that the dopaminergic reward system in particular was activated. This system was not activated when mothers saw their own children with grunting expressions.

“This study is fascinating. It’s a step towards unraveling the chemistry of baby farts, and it begins to show the complex chemistry of the mother-child farting relationship,” said Dr. Mitch Wasilman, a pediatrickian at Openheimer Health System in New Dehli.

Sunderton explained that for some mothers, there may be a problem in this natural reward system, and that may help to explain why some women never bond with their children or even abuse their children.