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If you’re a new parent, your baby’s bout of hiccups might cause you concern. However just like in adults they are hardly a cause of concern. All babies hiccup at some point, and for a few it may start as early as when they are in the womb. In fact, they are a sign of healthy development. According to a 2019 study, hiccups may be important to your little one’s brain and lungs growth. Hiccups are nothing but short-lived experiences for babies that do not last more than a few minutes. And, unlike the grown-ups, they are not bothered by it. Some can even sleep through hiccups without being disturbed. Most of the time the only solution is to wait it out, however we have explained ways to prevent and stop them in the blog so you are better equipped to handle the next time it happens.
Baby Hiccups | Mamas & Papas Blog

What causes baby hiccups?

Hiccups are a reflexive action, this means we can’t stop them from happening just like coughing or sneezing. When we breathe in, air is pulled into our lungs making the diaphragm contract that moves downwards. As this muscle relaxes, air goes back out through your nose or mouth. During a hiccup, the diaphragm spasms and the air coming is “stuck” against the closed vocal cords making the distinct “hic” sound.

Diaphragm, the large muscle across the rib cage, can be triggered due to several reasons. As per experts, this happens when the nerve connecting the brain to the diaphragm is set off. And, it can occasionally occur due to feeding, temperature, stress or excitement and gastroesophageal reflux.

  1. Feeding: When your little one eats too much, too fast, swallows at the wrong time or swallows too much air, their stomach will expand pushing against the diaphragm that can cause a spasm.
  2. Gastroesophageal Reflux: Hiccups can also be caused by an underlying health condition called gastroesophageal reflux. It happens when undigested food and stomach acid come back up through the food pipe. As they flow past the diaphragm, they can cause irritation which causes spasms.
  3. Temperature: Any sudden change in temperature can cause hiccups
  4. Excitement or Stress: If your baby is overly excited or stress, they can experience hiccups

Although hiccups are closely related to breathing, studies have shown that these two bodily activities are not connected. That is, hiccups don’t cause any significant changes in your little one’s breathing patterns and other important functions such as oxygen saturation or heart rate.

How to prevent baby hiccups?

As baby hiccups are a reflexive action there is no way to completely stop them. On an average, newborn spends up to 2.5% of their time hiccuping as this gradually decreases as they grow older. However, by employing some simple ways you can reduce their frequency for your little bundle of joy.

Track the timing

Start by getting an estimate of how often your little one hiccups during the day. Observing things like the frequency, what time of the day it happens and when can help you understand the underlying cause of the trigger. For instance, they might start hiccuping right after feeding or when you hold them in a certain position. Knowledge of your baby’s triggers will better prepare you to deal with the problem.

Proper feeding techniques

As mentioned earlier in the blog, overfeeding or eating too fast can be some of the causes behind your baby’s hiccups. To avoid this, you can give them small portions between short time intervals. It is important to pay attention to your baby’s cues and avoid force feeding. Make sure your baby’s mouth is properly latched over the whole nipple while breastfeeding or using the bottle to avoid hiccups. Additionally, check the rate at which they are nursing or drinking from the bottle as this can trigger the diaphragm as well.

Other feeding techniques to keep in mind are to make sure your little one is calm during feeding, do not wait until they are so hungry that they start crying. After each meal, keep your baby upright for 20-30 minutes and avoid any heavy activity such as bouncing up or down and high-energy play.

Burp your baby

After every feeding session it is also beneficial to burp your baby to remove any excess air. This will help clear gas bubbles from their esophagus.

Check your baby’s bottle

If your little one is bottle feeding and hiccups tend to be a major problem, check their bottle to see if it is trapping air near the teat. Some designs trap more air than others. Experiment with different brands or types to ensure a smoother experience for your little one.

how to stop baby hiccups | article story block image | mamas & papas blog

How to stop baby hiccups?

Hiccups in babies end as suddenly as they begin. In most cases, it is best to wait it out. However, if they are causing you or the baby distress, you can try the below simple remedies to help.

__text in bold__Gently pat or rub their back

Try gently patting or rubbing your little one’s back. This will help release any trapped gas. Even if the hiccups continue, these comforting motions will soothe them.

__text in bold__Adjust baby’s feeding position

Reposition your baby in a way where they aren’t laying flat. Use a pillow to prop up their head, this may help them take in less air at meal times. You can also try helping them into a sitting position for a while. Changing positions may not stop their hiccups, but it can help.

__text in bold__Offer a pacifier

Give them their favourite binky. The sucking motion caused can lessen the diaphragm spasms and eventually stop the hiccups.

__text in bold__Calm your baby

In case your little one has been crying for a while or overly excited due to playtime, try to calm them down. Divert their attention to something soothing and relaxing such as a sweet lullaby or an adorable teddy. This might help stop the hiccups.

Avoid trying any adult remedies on your little one to stop the hiccups. Giving them water, holding them upside down, scaring them, pulling their tongue or trying to make them hold their breath will be more dangerous than helpful for your baby. If the hiccups persist for a prolonged period of time, visit a doctor.

When to consult a pediatrician?

In most cases, babies are not bothered by hiccups. However, if you notice them in any form of distress due to the hiccups immediately consult a pediatrician. Persistent hiccups can be a sign of underlying health issues that require medical attention.

If your baby has gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), also known as acid reflux, your infant will also show signs such as vomiting, spitting up, coughing, irritability and crying and arching their back especially during or after feeding.

In rare cases where your baby is having trouble breathing or is turning blue due to the hiccups, call 998 for an ambulance and seek professional help.

In conclusion, baby hiccups, while common, can be easily managed with some simple steps. Remember to create a comfortable environment for your little one, pay attention to feeding techniques, and, most importantly, don't panic when hiccups occur. If you have any concerns about your baby's hiccups, always consult with your pediatrician. Remember, parenthood is a beautiful journey filled with ups and downs, and our Mamas & Papas team is here to support you every step of the way.