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What Causes Infant Hiccups and How to Stop Baby Hiccups

What Causes Infant Hiccups and How to Stop Baby Hiccups

. 8 min read

For new moms, every little thing can seem scary, especially for instances such as baby crying, baby spitting up, and when baby gets hiccups. New mothers often find themselves checking on their babies all through the day and night, even when the baby is resting comfortably. It is completely normal to be nervous as a new parent. In fact, it would be far more uncommon and worrisome if the new mom or dad wasn’t worried from time to time.

Newborn hiccups can seem frustrating and frightening to the baby, which in turn causes stress for the new mom or dad. Once baby hiccups get started, it can be very difficult for Mom and Dad to figure out a way to stop infant hiccups. Learning what causes infant hiccups and what can stop infant hiccups can help parents to lessen the stress for their baby, and therefore make things much less stressful for themselves.

What Causes Infant Hiccups?

One of the most important tools in any new parent’s box is knowledge. Knowing what causes certain issues with your new baby can go a long way towards learning how to stop the issue. Baby hiccups are no different. Understanding what causes hiccups in babies can help new parents learn how to stop baby hiccups. Let’s take a look at what causes babies to have hiccups.

According to Healthline, hiccups are caused when the diaphragm is contracted and the vocal cords simultaneously close. The sound that the hiccups make happens when the vocal cords close so rapidly. Air is forced through the vocal cords, according to Medical News Today, and the vocal cords slam shut, causing the baby to have what we call “the hiccups.”

Most Baby Hiccups Are Normal, Even Before Birth

Any new parent must realize that it is perfectly normal for their baby to have the hiccups. This is true of any baby that is under 12 months old. In fact, babies can even get hiccups before they are even born. Moms may start to feel the baby have repetitive jerking movements at about 6 months of age. This could be hiccups in the unborn baby. You should note, however, that unlike fetal movement, many moms begin to feel these hiccups at different times throughout their pregnancy.

Some unborn babies will get these hiccups several times throughout a day. As for other unborn babies, their moms may never even feel any infant hiccups during pregnancy. It isn’t quite understood why babies would have hiccups in the womb, but it is generally seen by obstetricians as a good thing. Some doctors believe that fetal hiccups have a role to play in the maturation of the baby’s lungs. Either way, this is considered to be normal during pregnancy.

Fetal hiccups usually slow down by the time the mother reaches her 32nd week of pregnancy. You may no longer experience feeling your baby hiccup on a daily basis after that time. If your baby does continue to do so every day, and if the episodes of hiccups last over 15 minutes each time, you might want to talk to your obstetrician. You may also want to call the doctor if the baby has more than 3 episodes in one day after your 32ndweek.

When Should You Call the Doctor for Fetal Hiccups?

While most baby hiccups before and after pregnancy are normal, you should call your doctor in some circumstances. As we’ve mentioned, if the episodes are lasting at least 15 minutes at a time and happening daily after the 32ndweek of pregnancy, or if the baby has hiccuping episodes more than 3 times a day during this stage of pregnancy, then you should give your doctor a call.

Hiccups in unborn babies are usually a normal reflex. The baby having hiccups persistently in late pregnancy, however, could be a sign that there is something wrong. For example, it could be a sign of umbilical cord compression or prolapse, which could cause changes in the baby’s heart rate, blood pressure, and CO2 levels. Babies who are experiencing this issue could suffer brain damage or even death if they are not immediately treated.

Because of this, it is recommended that you call the doctor if there is a sudden change in the baby’s hiccups after 28 weeks. If the hiccups become stronger and just don’t seem to go away, giving the doctor a call could give you peace of mind and help ensure that all is okay with the baby. While this is a rare issue, it is always better to be safe when dealing with the health of your unborn child.

Should You Ever Call the Doctor for Newborn Hiccups?

As we have said earlier in this post, it is perfectly normal for babies under a year old to have infant hiccups. However, it is important to note that there are times that you might want to consider speaking to your doctor about your baby’s hiccups. This way the doctor can look over your baby and make sure that his or her hiccups are normal and not indicative of an underlying issue.

If you notice that your baby seems to have the hiccups quite often, especially if the child seems upset or agitated when he or she has the hiccups, then it might be time to talk to a doctor. This could mean that the hiccups are a sign of other health issues in the baby. You might also want to call the pediatrician if the baby has hiccups that disturb his or her sleep, or if the regular fits of hiccups continue even after the child’s first birthday.

Babies who have these types of hiccups could be experiencing something known as GER or gastroesophageal reflux. This happens when the lower esophageal sphincter of the baby has not developed fully, and stomach contents come back up into the baby’s esophagus. Excessive hiccups in babies over 12 months, babies who cry more during or after feeding, babies who spit up more often than normal, and babies whose hiccups interrupt their sleep would all fit into this category. There is no need for alarm, however; GER is easily treatable.

How to Stop Infant Hiccups

Even knowing that infant hiccups are perfectly normal, many parents will still look for ways to stop baby hiccups. While hiccups can be very aggravating to adults, they may or may not be causing your baby distress. If it seems that they are, there are a few methods that you could try in order to stop your baby’s hiccups.

1.      Make Your Baby Laugh – Making your baby laugh is one good way to stop infant hiccups. Making funny faces, silly noises, or pretending that you’re going to tickle the baby might bring on the laughter needed to stop his or her hiccups.

2.      Ride it Out – If the hiccups don’t seem to be upsetting the baby very badly, you might choose to let him or her just ride them out. Usually, when a baby is left alone for just a very few minutes, the baby hiccups should subside.

3.      Use a Pacifier – Using a pacifier is another good way to cause the hiccups that your baby is experiencing to disappear. Sucking on a pacifier can be very relaxing for the baby and help the baby’s diaphragm and esophagus relax as well. Once this happens, the hiccups should stop and the baby will usually fall asleep.  You will need to stay close by the infant until the hiccups stop, however, since the force of the infant hiccups could cause the pacifier to pop out of the baby’s mouth.

4.      Give the Baby Gripe Water – Another solution for stopping baby hiccups is to give the baby something called “gripe water.” Made of water with various herbs in it, this liquid can help get the baby’s hiccups under control. Usually, these herbs consist of cinnamon, chamomile, ginger, and fennel. If your baby is in distress from having the hiccups, this might be a good plan to go with. Gripe water is known for helping with intestinal issues in babies. Simply follow the directions on the battle and give your baby the appropriate dose.

5.      Rubbing Your Baby’s Back – Laying your baby tummy down across your lap or holding your baby in your arms while rubbing the baby’s back is another way to calm the infant down and likely stop his or her hiccups. You might also choose to rock your baby back and forth to calm him or her.

Those are a few ways to stop your baby from hiccuping. It is important to note that doctors do not recommend most of the hiccup remedies that we use for adults be used for your baby hiccups. While some of these are traditions that have been passed on down through families, they are not good for your child. These include the following baby hiccup remedies:

  • Making the baby drink water while the infant is upside down.
  • Scaring the baby to make him or her jump.
  •   Pulling the baby’s tongue.

Any of these folklore remedies could not only cause more distress in your baby but could also even be dangerous.

How to Prevent Hiccups in Babies

In addition to stopping your baby’s hiccups once they have started, there are several different ways to prevent hiccups in babies before they even begin. For example, making sure to take breaks and burp your baby properly during feedings can help lessen the frequency of baby hiccups. When a baby swallows air with their formula or breast milk, it can cause them to have hiccups. Burping will help prevent this occurrence. Other ways to prevent infant hiccups include:

1.      Don’t Wait Too Long to Feed - Feeding the baby before he or she is too hungry can be a good prevention for baby hiccups. When a baby becomes overly hungry, he or she is more likely to eat with desperation and take in more air.

2.      Feed Small Amounts – It is a good idea to feed the baby more often, in smaller amounts if he or she is prone to having hiccups. Try cutting the normal feeding amount back a little and feed the baby more often.

3.      Sitting Position – The seating position after feeding may also be contributing to your baby’s hiccups. Try sitting your baby in an upright position for at least 30 minutes after each feeding to see if this reduces his or her hiccuping.

4.      Try to Avoid Air During Feeding – You should also try to avoid letting the baby take in too much air when he or she feeds. You can do this by repositioning the bottle so that no air is coming into the baby’s mouth around the nipple of a bottle. You can also ensure that the baby’s mouth is latched onto your breast properly in order to prevent air from getting into his or her stomach during feedings.

In Closing

While hiccups can be a major aggravation in an adult, some babies won’t even seem to be bothered by infant hiccups. Frequent hiccups during pregnancy and into the first year of life are perfectly normal and, in most cases, do not need parental or doctor intervention.

Most parents can drastically lower the number of instances of newborn hiccups by simply following a safe feeding practice that will help reduce the amount of air that the baby takes in when he or she feeds.

If the baby seems distressed by the hiccups, there are methods that the parent can try to see if it will help stop baby hiccups. For example, giving the baby a pacifier or rubbing the baby’s back can help them to relax and cause the hiccups to stop.

If fetal hiccuping remains strong and frequent at the 28thweek to the 32nd week of pregnancy, you may want to contact your obstetrician. If your newborn hiccups seem to be causing him or her great distress, or if they continue to be bothersome after your baby reaches a year old, you may need to call the pediatrician to rule out GER.


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