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When a new parent’s baby has hiccups after eating, drinking milk from a bottle, or breastfeeding, they may be concerned about what is happening. Hiccups are typically not dangerous and will eventually go away on their own, but this article will help parents know why babies get hiccups and how to make them stop if the problem persists.
Why do babies get hiccups?
Hiccups are caused by spasms of a baby’s diaphragm and, like adult hiccups, have no clear or useful purpose. They can be triggered by many things, such as drinking milk from the bottle or breastfeeding, or through the experience of strong emotions like stress or excitement. (for example, if your baby is getting excited or anxious for their upcoming feed)
Is it normal for babies to hiccup?
Newborn hiccups are perfectly normal, so much so that babies can even have hiccups in the womb! In the last trimester of pregnancy as baby’s lungs are developing more rapidly, you may feel little spasms happening regularly for a few minutes – there is a good chance they were little hiccups!
Anecdotally if your baby hiccuped often in utero, there’s a good chance they will pick up a lot in their first few months after being born. Regardless of whether your baby hiccuped in utero or not, it is perfectly normal for them to experience hiccups in their first months.
it is not normal for your baby to have hiccups if they are combined with regular reflux or regurgitation and if your baby is experiencing pain. If this is the case, reach out to your pediatrician for advice and assessment.
Why does my baby get hiccups after feeding?
Newborns often hiccup shortly after eating, drinking milk from a bottle, or breastfeeding. These episodes are most often caused by overfeeding, swallowing air while feeding, or gulping down lots of milk too quickly.
When a full stomach presses against the diaphragm, it triggers spasms of that organ which in turn causes a hiccup. Baby hiccups are quite common after or during feeding.
The hiccups can also be caused by sudden changes in stomach temperature, such as going from hot rice cereal to cold milk.
Why does my baby get hiccups after spitting up?
A baby’s constant hiccups can often be triggered by things other than feeding.If their baby is not feeding, the culprit of recurring hiccups usually stems from gastroesophageal reflux. (GERD)
When babies experience gastroesophageal reflux, you can blame stomach acid, and partially digested food; it flows back up into the esophagus causing discomfort. The muscular valve at the end of their esophagus is in charge of keeping their food down hasn’t fully developed yet.
Babies’ hiccups can be caused from irritation of the esophagus, which travels through the diaphragm. It’s quite common, and GERD isn’t guaranteed to be a long-term problem.
Hiccupping is not typically a sign of GERD or reflux. Here are some other clues to look out for that could mean GERD:
- Baby is crying or has been spitting up more than normal
- Baby is arching or wriggling excessively during or after regular feedings
If you think your newborn or infant is experiencing gastroesophageal reflux, consult with a pediatrician; there’s a good chance it can be treated.
How long do baby hiccups last?
A baby’s hiccups usually go away after a few minutes. Try waiting it out and see if they resolve on their own.
Hiccups in babies can happen numerous times a day, and for long periods of time (around 10 minutes) but should not be of concern unless they are painful for the baby. If the hiccups persist and seem to be causing your little one distress, call your pediatrician for advice.
How to get rid of baby hiccups
If you think your baby’s hiccups are due to overfeeding or wind, try more frequent burping during feeds, or reducing the overall size of each feeding.
Generally speaking, keeping baby upright for 20 to 30 minutes after each meal can help your baby deal with their hiccups. You may also find that rubbing your baby’s back, or gently rocking them can help them relax, causing their hiccups to subside.
The mothers also swear by pacifiers as a remedy for baby hiccups since it helps your baby relax and settle the diaphragm.
You could consider trying gripe water; a combination of herbs and water that is believed by some to help with colic and other intestinal discomforts. Though no formal evidence exists to support it, anecdotally it has been seen to provide relief to hiccuping babies. Make sure you speak to your baby’s doctor before trialing supplements like gripe water.
How to stop baby hiccups in breastfed babies
- As you switch from one breast to another, give your baby an opportunity to burp.
- Reach out to a lactation consultant to make sure that baby’s latch is good, particularly making sure that babies lips are sealed around the areola of your breast. Babies who have an incomplete or incorrect latch may be taking in too much air. (If your baby is also bottle feeding, check out our article on baby bottles most like the breast for recommendations)
How to stop baby hiccups in bottle-fed babies
- Try taking breaks during a feed, at a minimum halfway through the bottle, and give baby an opportunity to burp and rest before resuming their feed.
- Take care to position the bottle in such a way that the air within is at the end or bottom of the bottle, rather than in the nipple. You may find that experimenting with different brands of bottles can help here. (Our favorite baby bottles are like the breast for the most natural feeding)
What not to do for baby hiccups
- Don’t try and scare your baby, or otherwise startled them. This will most likely just distress your little one, rather than address their hiccups.
- Wet cloths on their forehead is not been proven to help with baby hiccups.
- Do not ever attempt to encourage baby to hold their breath, or restrict their breathing in any way. This is extremely dangerous.
- Some recommend a combination of pressing on your baby’s fontanelle, and pulling on their tongue. Again ultimately this is only going to cause baby to become distressed.
Remember that most baby hiccups are not harmful, so more often than not the solution is to simply wait it out. As long as your baby is otherwise content, and does not seem to be in pain, there is no real reason to address the hiccups directly. Even a moderate amount of spit up in association with hiccups is normal.
Can I prevent baby hiccups?
There is no guaranteed way to completely prevent your baby from having hiccups, but keeping a few common causes in mind will help you reduce the likelihood of them occurring.
- Avoid overfeeding by taking regular breaks while breast-feeding or bottlefeeding. This will give your baby a chance to self moderate their intake, and rest between feedings, allowing their body to relax.
- Make sure that your baby’s bottle is positioned correctly to minimize the amount of air they take in.
- Keep baby upright after each feed before laying them down again – this will help reduce the risk of any possible reflux and associated hiccups.
Is it okay to lay a hiccuping baby on their back?
If your baby is generally content, it is safe to lay a hiccupping baby down. To help your baby feel more comfortable while they are hiccuping though, you may find that holding them upright can help them manage better.
When will my baby stop having hiccups?
Baby hiccups become less frequent as they get older, but it is not a hard and fast rule. When your baby is able to sit upright on their own, around six months old, you will generally see the frequency of their hiccups decline.
In short: baby hiccups are normal!
Remember that hiccups are a very normal occurrence, typically benign, and often short-lived. if your baby is experiencing regular hiccups which are causing them pain or to become distressed, reach out to your pediatrician for advice.