How to Get Rid of Baby Hiccups
Hiccups are a transient, albeit often very annoying bodily condition that all humans share, everywhere on the planet. This means that it doesn’t bypass little babies as well. In fact, hiccups are rather common in babies who are younger than one year and shouldn’t cause much concern. It’s actually quite interesting how they can occur while the baby is still in the womb: ever noticed that rhythmical jerking feeling in the late stages of pregnancy? Well, it might have just been your little one having the hiccups!
And because they happen so often in babies, they usually don’t really bother them that much, nor cause them any particular health problems (like interfering with their breathing, for example, as some people think). In some instances, babies even sleep through whole bouts of hiccups without any fuss!
And while adults can try and stop the hiccups at any time - just take a big gulp of water or hold their breaths for a minute or so, when (or if) babies are somehow bothered by them or discomforted, they can’t really articulate it properly, nor can they help themselves much. This is the part where you step in to help them. In the following sections, you can find a bit more info on baby hiccups, and also ways of stopping them or at least alleviating the discomfort they can cause.
What is the Cause of Baby Hiccups?
Hiccuping is basically a reflex, one that starts very, very early in life, even while the baby is still in the womb. And this reflex is actually particularly strong in newborn babies (some studies say it takes about 2,5% of the time of the baby’s life during this stage). But, as they grow older, the frequency of the hiccuping decreases as well.
And while the mechanism of the occurrence of hiccups is well known, the actual purpose or reason behind it is still under debate. Some doctors and scientists say they're caused by an irritated esophagus, which in babies makes a lot of sense considering how their esophagus is not properly developed yet, meaning they have a hard time keeping the food in their bellies. That’s why doctors consider the reflux, or the return or regurgitation of the breast milk or baby formula, as a major reason behind baby hiccups.
Others think hiccups in babies might serve an important purpose - they might actually help them in getting rid of the excess of air that has entered their bellies.
Another theory about the onset of hiccups is that they’re connected to strong emotions, like stress or excitement.
How Do Baby Hiccups Happen?
Most of the time when you breathe, you’re pulling air into your lungs, while your diaphragm gets relaxed in order to let the air go back out through your mouth. The hiccups occur with a contraction of the diaphragm. During hiccups, the muscle below the baby’s lungs, which is actually the diaphragm, contracts; the combination of the quick closing of the vocal cords produces that well-recognizable and equally annoying sound of hiccups everywhere!
How to Get Rid of Baby Hiccups?
There are a couple of effective methods with which you can help your little one get rid of the storm of hiccups that has befallen them or at least help them to alleviate a little bit this uncomfortable reflex.
Burp Your Baby Well
Burping your little one in between feedings, or by having a small break in the middle of one, is actually very important. Burping can be quite helpful in removing the hiccups because it helps in getting rid of an excess of gas, aka air that gets trapped while your baby is feeding, which is considered as the possible culprit behind the hiccups. It’s also important to remember to hold your baby in a more upright position during feedings - burping also helps with this a lot, because it requires holding the baby in an upright position. The AAP or the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you burp your baby - if it’s bottle-fed - after every 2-3 ounces of formula. If you’re feeding your little one by breastfeeding, make sure to burp them after they make the breast switch.
So the next time they have hiccups, you can try to gently pat or rub the back of your baby.
Get a Pacifier
Burping is a very convenient method around the time of feedings. But not all baby hiccups actually start from feedings - sometimes the baby can start hiccuping on their own, seemingly out of nowhere. When this happens, it’s always a good idea to have a pacifier in hand. Giving a pacifier for your little one to suck on will help their diaphragm relax and may significantly help in stopping the onset of hiccups, or at least lowering their intensity and frequency.
Let Them Go on Their Own
Quite often hiccups just stop on their own and don’t really require any assistance from the outside. If you notice that your little one is not that much bothered by them, then you can relax and just let them pass on their own.
However, if they don’t stop on their own after a long while, you should maybe consider contacting your doctor about it. Albeit very rare, it is sometimes possible that persistent hiccups are a sign for some more serious medical condition or issue that might be occurring at the same time.
Give Your Baby Gripe Water
Gripe water is basically a combination of water and herbs that some people consider helpful in dealing with issues such as colic and other similar intestinal troubles. The herbs that are used in this concoction can vary, but the most common ones are chamomile, fennel, cinnamon, and ginger. There are also some store-made instant mixtures for gripe water - we recommend that you first check the list of ingredients before buying one. The effectivity of this drink is not that much proved or well-researched, though, so you might want to try something more effective from our list if you see that it’s not really helping. Also, try discussing it with your doctor before you give your baby as a drink - it’s always a good idea to make sure what your baby can consume and how much of it.
How to Prevent Baby Hiccups
Bout of baby hiccups can also be prevented in some occasions. But have in mind that considering how it’s still not entirely clear all that’s causing them, the hiccups still can’t be obliterated entirely. You can always try the following methods, though, if you want to help in preventing certain hiccuping episodes.
- It’s important that your baby is and stays calm during feeding. Fussiness and restlessness may contribute to ingestion of an excess of air and also worsen the reflux effect. Make sure you don’t wait too much before you begin feeding your baby, because the hungrier your baby gets, the more upset it gets as well. This might affect their eating pattern, as well as an agitated emotional state followed by crying which can also be a cause behind baby hiccups.
- Remember to play it cool after each feeding. This means that you should definitely avoid any heavy or more demanding activity with your little one. A higher-energy play such as bouncing up and down is definitely a no-no.
- Keeping your baby in an upright position 20-30 minutes after each feeding is also something that can be done as a hiccup prevention method.
- Giving your baby smaller feedings, but more frequently throughout the day has also proved to be effective against the onset of hiccups.
- If you’re a parent who bottle-feeds their little one, it’s worth remembering to minimize the amount of air the baby swallows. You can do this by tilting the bottle (before offering it to your baby) in such a way that the milk or formula inside fills the teat completely. Anti-colic bottles are also another idea worth considering. You can check out here our selection of baby bottles, most of them which have superb anti-colic systems).
- If you notice that your baby starts to get hiccupy after a certain lying position, find a more comfortable position for them. The way the baby is lied down also affects the airflow that goes in and out of their lungs and diaphragm - if their body is uncomfortable with the position it might just rebel with a bout of hiccups.
When Should You Worry?
As we said earlier, most of the time hiccups are not a cause for concern and they’re pretty common in babies under one year of age. Hell, they occur even while the baby is still inside the womb!
Still, you should always be on the lookout for any possible bigger signs of discomfort that your baby may be exhibiting. If, for example, your little one is constantly plagued by hiccups, and is also often agitated and upset by them, it would be a good idea to talk to your doctor about it, since it can be a possible sign for another underlying medical issue. Also get a doctor’s advice if the hiccups are disturbing your baby’s sleep, is causing them to vomit, or if they keep happening very frequently after 12 months of age.