Like any new parent, you’ll be monitoring your baby like clockwork.
You’ll take a firm mental note of any physical or emotional changes, and after a while, you may understand most of your baby’s behaviors, so nothing takes you by surprise.
There is one thing that can disrupt this predictable pattern, though – hiccups.
Hearing your baby hiccup for the first time can be startling, and if it’s persistent, it can even be pretty scary.
While we know hiccups are perfectly natural and normal, they can be distressing for both you and your baby. Read on to discover what causes hiccups, and learn how to treat and prevent them.
What Causes Hiccups In Babies?
Just like sneezing or coughing, hiccups are reflexive, and there’s nothing we can do to stop them. It’s a normal process, and for some babies, it may even start before birth!
Some infants can start experiencing hiccups when their lungs start to develop in the womb, at approximately 6 months.
If you’ve ever noticed strange little spasms in your abdomen during pregnancy, it may just be the hiccups.
As adults, we have various triggers for our hiccups, and the same is true for babies and newborns.
Although we have some idea of what causes hiccups, in truth, there are no definitive answers. Some of the most suspected causes of hiccups in babies and newborns include:
- Too much air in the stomach
- Involuntary contractions of the diaphragm
- Gastroesophageal reflux
Hiccups And Gastroesophageal Reflux
In most cases, hiccups won’t bother your baby. They can be startling for you both, but hiccups are rarely painful or a sign of anything more serious.
However, in some cases, hiccups can be a sign of GERD or gastroesophageal reflux. This is a condition that causes your baby’s stomach acid to come back up into the esophagus.
If your baby has GERD, there will be more signs and symptoms than just hiccups. Your baby may also have the following symptoms:
- Spitting up
- Arching their back during or after a feed
If you’ve noticed any of these signs along with their hiccups, talk to your doctor for more advice and treatment plans.
How To Stop Hiccups In Babies And Newborns
While hiccups aren’t dangerous for your baby, they can be disruptive and startling, and like any good parent, you’ll want to decrease your baby’s discomfort as much as possible.
Babies and newborns can have hiccups at any time, but if hiccups are occurring after feeding, here are a few things you can do:
- Take Breaks: Sometimes, you need to take a break during feeds to stop the hiccups. You can try gently burping your baby, calming them by rubbing their back, or changing positions to help ease the hiccups.
- Frequent Burping: On the topic of burping, frequent burping is important, especially during feeding. Feeding can lead to an excess buildup of gas in the stomach, which is believed to be the main cause of hiccups. During feeding (but especially bottle feeding), try burping your baby after every 1 or 2 oz to minimize the hiccups.
- Change Your Routine: You may also need to change up your feeding routine to prevent hiccups. If your baby is experiencing the hiccups frequently, it’s best to try feeding them less but more frequently, which can reduce the amount of air they swallow with each feed.
If your baby is experiencing persistent hiccups NOT around feeding times, here are a few other tricks you can try:
- Pacifier: Pacifiers solve many problems, and they can also help with hiccups. Try giving your baby a pacifier to suck on, as the motion can help relax the diaphragm and stop hiccups in the tracks.
- Gripe Water: This may not be a popular treatment, but gripe water may help with hiccups. It’s not a foolproof solution that works for babies, but if you want a treatment for persistent hiccups, it’s worth a shot. Gripe water is simply a blend of herbs that can be bought over the counter, and they’re used in the treatment of hiccups, colic, and other stomach issues.
- Check Their Bottle: In some cases, their bottle may be the cause of their hiccups. Some bottles are designed to trap more air which can cause hiccups. If no other methods are working, or persistent hiccupping keeps returning, we’d recommend trying another bottle.
Can You Prevent Hiccups?
Hiccups are a common reflexive action, and in most cases, you won’t need to prevent them.
However, if you think they’re causing you or your baby distress or they’re happening extremely frequently, you may wish to try the following tips and tricks to prevent their hiccups.
- Track Their Hiccups: We’d recommend tracking their hiccups. Take note of what times your baby’s hiccups are occurring: for example, are they happening during or after feeds, when they’re lying down, or at other times? Tracking their hiccups can help you find the cause, and hopefully, the solution.
- Adjust Their Feeding Position: To avoid a build-up of gas, you may want to try sitting your baby in an upright position for at least half an hour after each feed.
- Avoid Too Much Activity After Feeding: Lots of heavy activity such as bouncing after feeds can be a common cause of hiccups. Avoid these activities for at least half an hour after feeding to prevent hiccups.
The Bottom Line
Hiccups are a part of life for both adults and babies alike.
Although hiccups are often harmless, if they’re becoming persistent or causing your baby discomfort, you may wish to try a few of the techniques in this article to make them comfortable.
We can’t say for certain what causes hiccups, but over the years, parents and medical professionals alike have built up a pretty good idea of what the main issues may be.
If your baby is experiencing other symptoms such as coughing, irritability, or arching their back during feeding, take them to the doctor to eliminate other conditions such as GERD.