Understanding Newborn Hiccups: Causes, Tips, and When to Seek Help

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Newborn Hiccups

Newborn hiccups are common in infants under 12 months old and may occur daily for some babies.

Interestingly, 2019 research suggests these hiccups may promote your baby’s brain development and respiratory functions. Think of them as nature’s early development tools – one that a baby starts experiencing even before birth.

While the reason behind them isn’t fully understood, one thing’s clear – hiccups are usually not considered a cause of concern.

However, if you find newborn hiccups bothersome for you or your baby, there are ways to get rid of them. Let’s learn more about them.

Why Do Newborns Get Hiccups?

Hiccups occur due to spasms or cramps in the diaphragm – a large muscle beneath the rib cage that moves up and down during breathing. These spasms lead to a sudden closure of the vocal cords, which creates the hiccup’s signature “hic!” sound.

While hiccups are more common in little ones without an apparent reason, certain feeding behaviors can sometimes induce diaphragm spams. These may include:

  • Overfeeding the babies
  • Eating too quickly
  • Swallowing excessive air while eating

These actions can cause your baby’s tummy to enlarge and press on the diaphragm, inducing spasms that lead to newborn hiccups.

Hiccups usually don’t bother little ones, but frequent hiccups can hint at an underlying health condition like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This condition happens when partially digested food and stomach acid flow back up through the food pipe. As these substances pass the diaphragm, irritation may occur, triggering spasms and hiccups.

Keep an eye out for other signs of GERD:

  • Coughing
  • Spitting up
  • Crying during feeds
  • Persistent arching back

If you notice these, a visit to the doctor can help determine if your baby has GERD and find the best way to soothe them.

How to Stop Newborn Hiccups?

Now that you understand the causes of hiccups in newborns, let’s focus on what to do for newborn hiccups to stop.

1. Let hiccups run their course

Babies hiccup often, and it’s usually harmless. While adults might find hiccups concerning, most babies sleep soundly through them, and their breathing stays unaffected.

In most cases, hiccups go away within 5-10 minutes on their own. So, unless your baby seems distressed, let nature take its course.

However, if the hiccups persist beyond 10 minutes or seem to bother your little one, consult your doctor.

2. Burp the baby while feeding

When your baby’s tummy gets filled with air, it can push against the diaphragm and cause tiny spasms and hiccups. Burping your baby regularly, especially while feeding, may help release trapped air and prevent hiccups.

As suggested by the American Academy of Pediatrics, it is advisable to burp bottle-fed infants after every 2 to 3 ounces of consumption. And for breastfed babies, it’s advisable to burp them when switching between breasts.

Hiccup Tips: Softly rub or pat your baby’s back during hiccups. Avoid using excessive force or slapping in this area.

3. Massage or rub the baby’s back

To release excess air from your baby’s tummy, try massaging their back in a circular motion. You can also gently rub their back and rock them back and forth to relax and halt the spasms responsible for hiccups.

4. Use a pacifier

Hiccups can occur anytime, not just during and after feeding. If your baby experiences hiccups out of the blue, offer them a pacifier to suck on. It can soothe the diaphragm and stop the hiccups.

5. Give the baby gripe water

Gripe water, a blend of herbs and water, has long been a traditional remedy for colic and tummy troubles. Common herbs found in gripe water are ginger, fennel, chamomile, and cinnamon.

While some believe it can alleviate hiccups caused by stomach troubles, science hasn’t confirmed this. However, due to the low risks involved, you can choose to give it a go.

READ: 5 Important Tips for Handling a Newborn

What Not to Do in Newborn Hiccups?

When you search for ‘how to stop newborn hiccups’ on the internet, you might get a lot of suggestions and home remedies. However, you must understand that many of these recommendations lack scientific support and can even be harmful.

Examples include:

  • Making a person jump while carrying your baby
  • Startling your baby
  • Pulling your baby’s tongue
  • Making your baby sip water while upside down

These methods can distress or even injure your baby and are unlikely to stop the hiccups. Instead of trying unproven remedies, consult your baby’s doctor, as they will suggest evidence-based advice and rule out any underlying medical conditions causing the hiccups.

How to Prevent Newborn Baby Hiccups?

Completely preventing newborn hiccups can be a challenge, as the underlying causes remain unclear. However, there are a few strategies you can opt for to minimize the occurrence of hiccup episodes and promote overall good digestion in your baby:

Ensure your baby is calm during feeding. Avoid waiting until they are hungry and upset before starting the feeding session, as this can trigger hiccups.

  • Instead of large meals, try feeding your baby smaller amounts more often.
  • After feeding, opt for gentle activities and avoid bouncing or high-energy play.
  • Keep your baby upright for 20 to 30 minutes following each meal.
  • Adjust the bottle position to eliminate any air near the teat.
  • Confirm that the baby’s mouth is properly latched over the entire nipple.

When is the Time to Consult a Doctor?

While hiccups are common in babies (both in and out of the womb), excessive hiccuping, especially when coupled with distress or agitation, warrants a doctor’s visit. This could signal underlying medical conditions.

Seek immediate medical attention if:

  • Your baby’s struggling to breathe or feed.
  • Their lips turn blue (cyanosis), suggesting low oxygen levels.
  • Your baby’s hiccups are disrupting their sleep.
  • Frequent hiccups persist beyond your child’s first birthday.
  • Hiccups continue for a duration exceeding two hours.

Remember, while most newborn hiccups are nothing to worry about, it’s always better to be cautious and seek medical advice if you have any concerns. A doctor can help ensure your little one’s health and well-being.

Take Away

Newborn hiccups are a normal and frequent occurrence, especially in the first year. They’re often related to feeding and typically not a cause for concern.

Following proper feeding techniques can make a difference, and some tried-and-true home remedies can offer relief.

However, consult a doctor if:

Hiccups persist for more than an hour or occur frequently throughout the day.
Your baby seems distressed or uncomfortable due to hiccups.
Other symptoms like vomiting, fever, or difficulty breathing accompany the hiccups.
Hiccups continue beyond the first year of age.

Remember, consulting your doctor if you have any concerns about your baby’s health is always the best course of action.