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Baby Hiccups: Why They Happen & Effective Ways to Stop Them

by Vannessa Rhoades 11 Jul 2023

Baby Hiccups: Why They Happen & Effective Ways to Stop Them

Your brand-new bundle of joy is experiencing a rather noticeable bout of hiccups. Although they may seem endearing, you can't help but wonder if there's anything to worry about. Baby hiccups are actually quite common and generally harmless. In fact, they usually worry the parents more than they bother the baby. To help ease your new-parent worries, let’s examine why they happen and how to get rid of baby hiccups.

Why Do Babies Get Hiccups?

The primary cause of hiccups is usually irritation to the diaphragm, which is the muscle located at the base of the lungs. Occasionally, this muscle undergoes spasms, resulting in the closure of the vocal cords and the recognizable "hic!" sound. Newborns and infants are particularly prone to hiccups. This could be attributed to increased gas in the stomach. If babies consume excessive amounts of food or swallow air while feeding, it can lead to stomach expansion and friction against the diaphragm, consequently triggering those hiccups.

Interestingly, hiccups can even occur in developing babies before they are born, and many pregnant people have experienced the fluttering sensation in their bellies. Odds are good that if your little one hiccupped a lot in utero, they’ll hiccup plenty in the first few months after their arrival as well.

Typically, hiccups do not cause discomfort in babies. However, in certain cases, hiccups can be an indication of gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), where stomach acid flows back into the baby's esophagus. If your baby is experiencing GERD, hiccups will not be the sole symptom. Infants with reflux may exhibit additional signs, including coughing, spitting up, irritability and crying, and arching of the back, particularly during or after feedings. If you observe these symptoms in your baby, consult your doctor to determine whether your little one might have reflux and discuss possible treatment strategies.

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How to Stop Baby Hiccups

If your baby doesn't experience reflux symptoms, there's really no need to be overly concerned about hiccups. However, if those little spasms are causing you distress, here are some strategies you can try:

  • Alternate feeding positions. Experiment with feeding your baby in a more upright position. Using a pillow to prop them up slightly instead of allowing them to lie on their back may help reduce the amount of air they swallow during meals.
  • Burp more often. If you’re wondering how to stop baby hiccups after feeding, try burping your baby more frequently. If you're breastfeeding, burp your baby before switching sides. For bottle-fed babies, pause halfway through a bottle to burp your infant (after they have consumed 2 or 3 ounces of milk) and then finish the feeding after a 5- to 10-minute break. Sometimes waiting to complete the feeding while your baby is relaxed can end the hiccupping. You can also try repositioning the bottle so that the air isn’t near the nipple but is instead at the bottom of the bottle. If your little one already has hiccups, gently patting their back may provide some relief.
  • Grab a pacifier. Pacifiers can sometimes put an end to hiccups. The sucking motion can help relax the diaphragm and alleviate hiccups.
  • Consider offering gripe water. Gripe water, an over-the-counter liquid supplement of sodium bicarbonate and herbs commonly used for colic and digestive issues, is also known to be helpful for some parents in relieving hiccups in babies.

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What Not to Do About Baby Hiccups

Even though these noisy little spasms can seem worrisome, they’re usually safe for your little one. If you’re still inclined to figure out how to stop hiccups in babies immediately, it's important to be aware of certain home remedies you should avoid:

  • Never startle or scare the baby as a method to stop hiccups. Such tactics are ineffective and not recommended.
  • Placing a wet cloth on the baby's forehead does not help alleviate hiccups.
  • Holding one's breath should never be encouraged or attempted on a baby. It poses a significant risk and is unsafe.
  • Some people suggest pulling on the baby's tongue or applying pressure to their forehead or anterior fontanelle (the soft spot on the baby's head). However, these actions can cause harm to the baby and should be avoided. Overall, the best approach is to wait patiently as hiccups typically resolve on their own. Rest assured that the hiccups will naturally subside in due course.
Baby Hiccups: Why They Happen & Effective Ways to Stop Them

The Takeaway

While baby hiccups can sometimes be a temporary annoyance, it's important to note that they are generally not harmful to your little one. If your baby continues to hiccup for an extended period without relief, go ahead and reach out to your pediatrician for guidance and reassurance. In the meantime, if your infant experiences occasional episodes of hiccups, try not to worry and just appreciate those endearing little high-pitched sounds while they last. 

Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. Please contact your health provider if you have any medical questions or concerns about your child or yourself.

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