Baby Hiccups: Understanding This Common Condition

By Tracy Wright
Woman holding cute Asian baby

Sometimes even when our babies are in the womb, we can feel those adorable little bumps in our belly that are likely our little ones hiccupping! But once those babies come out, newborn and infant hiccups are very common and nothing to worry about, according to most medical experts. Still, they are probably more distressing for parents than babies. For me, I always worried it would prevent my babies from breathing easily or being able to go to sleep.

What causes hiccups?

The Cleveland Clinic says that “hiccups are most likely caused by irritation to the diaphragm, the muscle at the base of the lungs. Sometimes, that muscle starts to spasm or cramp… or it could be caused by increased gas in the stomach. If babies overfeed or gulp air during eating, that could cause the stomach to expand and rub against the diaphragm, generating those hiccups.”

Fortunately, a 2019 research study in Clinical Neurophysiology found that “typical bouts of hiccups don’t cause significant changes in the respiratory rate, heart rate, or oxygen saturation of healthy infants.”

What to do if your baby has the hiccups

Hiccups are a normal part of infancy, and there are ways to try to deal with the condition. Some recommendations from Baptist Health and Cleveland Clinic include changing feeding positions, burping the baby, giving the baby a pacifier or waiting for the condition to stop on its own. Another common remedy I used for my babies for gas or colic (including hiccupping) is gripe water, which can be found over the counter in most drugstores.

To prevent hiccups, Baptist Health and VeryWell Family recommend:

  • Feeding smaller amounts more often and not overfeed.
  • Try switching your baby’s bottle to make sure it’s an aright fit for your baby and traps less air.
  • Avoid high-energy play, such as bouncing, immediately after feeding.
  • Keep your baby in an upright position for approximately 30 minutes after feeding.
  • Ensure that your baby’s mouth is latched over the whole nipple.

There are some instances where excessive hiccupping may need a consult to the pediatrician. This is if the condition is being caused by gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), which causes stomach acid to back up into the baby’s esophagus, according to the Cleveland Clinic. However, typically hiccups aren’t the only symptom of GERD. The Clinic says they may also be accompanied by “coughing, spitting up, irritability and crying, and arching the back, especially during or after a feeding.” If your infant has any of these symptoms, visit your pediatrician to discuss a more serious condition.

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