The Burp Stops Here!

Parents have been airing out a lot of their concerns recently about how to curb their child’s burping habits.  Well with ECHO’s exhibit on Grossology here all fall, let me see if I, too, can make a little noise about the subject of children who burp.

A burp is really nothing but gas.  When you eat and drink, you don’t just swallow food or liquids but air as well.  This air contains gases like nitrogen and oxygen which build up in the stomach as a large gas bubble that can cause discomfort, if it isn’t popped or released by getting rid of it through the art and science of burping. 

Parents of infants want their babies to burp so as not to experience discomfort after swallowing a lot of air while breast or bottle feeding.  If the burping is excessive and the baby appears quite comfortable, however, they may want to change the size of the hole in the nipple or the nipple itself so the baby is less apt to swallow as much air, especially if they are not breastfeeding (which I hope they are).

What causes excessive burping in older children who are not breast- or bottlefeeding?  Drinking carbonated sodas can certainly be a factor since the carbonation means excess gas is being swallowed – in this case, carbon dioxide is the culprit.  Eating and drinking too fast or simply chewing gum can also result in the swallowing of extra air, so cutting back on the gum chewing or eating a more leisurely meal will often reduce the burping. 

The good news is that burping is never anything to worry about in children, and every baby and child will do it.  However, what can you do if your child is doing it just to get your attention?  You can try to ignore the burping or better yet, you can ask your child to leave the room and do it privately.  If no  one is around to hear the noise, there is often no reason to do it, and the behavior stops.  Don’t forget to remind your child to say “excuse me” if they can’t help themselves and do burp in public. 

Hopefully tips like this will not leave you gassing – I mean guessing – the next time you want to know more about burping. . 

Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children's Hospital at Fletcher Allen Health Care and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. You can also catch "First with Kids" weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at http://www.FletcherAllen.org/firstwithkids