How to Get Rid of Baby Hiccups

Try burping or giving a pacifier, but know that baby hiccups are normal

Baby sitting

Verywell / Photo Illustration by Madelyn Goodnight / Getty Images

Hiccups can happen to anyone, including babies. As adults, we may see them as a minor or somewhat irritating inconvenience. While there are numerous ways people try getting rid of hiccups, most of the time you just have to wait them out.

As annoying as they can be for adults and older children, hiccups are usually a minor, short-lived experience for babies, lasting only a few minutes. Babies are also typically not bothered by hiccups.

"Hiccups in babies are a common natural reflex—all babies hiccup," says Hilary Stempel, MD, MPH, a general pediatrician at Children's Hospital Colorado and assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

Essentially, hiccups are rarely a cause for concern in babies, explains Dr. Stempel. However, there are things you can try to prevent hiccups in babies and even stop them when they do pop up.

What Causes Baby Hiccups 

Infant hiccups are a reflex that starts early, even before your baby is born. Hiccups are a reflexive action, meaning we can't stop them from happening or control them (just like sneezing or coughing).

Various triggers are thought to cause hiccups. Excess air in the stomach, esophageal irritation, and stress may all be involved, but no concrete reason for the occurrence of hiccups is known.

"At this point, we don’t clearly know why hiccups happen and usually hiccups cause more concern for caregivers than the baby," says Dr. Stempel.

Experts believe that hiccups are triggered by the nerve that connects the brain to the diaphragm and can be set off by many different things, such as eating too much or too fast or even swallowing at the wrong time.

When you breathe, you first pull air into your lungs, and your diaphragm contracts, making it move downward. The diaphragm then relaxes to let the air go back out through your mouth or nose.

When you hiccup, the diaphragm spasms and the air coming in gets "stuck" against your closed vocal cords, causing the distinct "hic" sound of a hiccup.

Despite the fact that hiccups are so closely related to breathing, studies have found that breathing and hiccupping are not connected; they seem to be two separate mechanisms. That is, your body won't cause you to start hiccupping in place of breathing. 

This process may sound especially precarious for babies. Thankfully, research shows that typical bouts of hiccups don't cause significant changes in the respiratory rate, heart rate, or oxygen saturation of healthy infants.

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What Else to Know About Baby Hiccups

Interestingly, fetuses can be seen hiccupping on ultrasounds. Sometimes, hiccups can even be felt through the parent's belly. "In fact, many pregnant people feel their babies hiccupping while pregnant, and those hiccups will continue, usually without reason, once the baby is born," explains Dr. Stempel.

The hiccupping reflex is also very strong in newborns. Researchers estimate that babies spend up to 2.5% of their time as newborns hiccupping. As they grow during the first few months of life, hiccups tend to decrease. 

"I say appreciate the sweetness of baby hiccups! Hiccups are rarely a cause of concern and holding and being with your hiccupping baby can be great for bonding," says Dr. Stempel.

How to Prevent Hiccups in Babies

Although they're typically harmless, there are ways that parents can help prevent hiccups in babies. If your baby hiccups often or seems uncomfortable when they hiccup, you can try some of the following solutions.

Track Timing of Hiccups

First, take note of when your baby's hiccups are occurring. For example, if they are only happening after your baby's feedings or when you lay them in a certain position, these moments could be triggering the hiccups. Try adjusting how and when you feed your baby or what position you place them in.

Feed Smaller Amounts More Often

Some research suggests that overfeeding your baby or feeding too fast can lead to hiccups. Whether you are breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, it may help to give your baby a little less at each feeding.

In addition, check the rate at which they are nursing or drinking from the bottle. Drinking too fast could cause them to take in air along with milk or formula, and this can trigger hiccups.

Burp Your Baby Regularly

Burp your baby after every feeding. Hiccups can be caused by excess air bubbles that get trapped while your baby is eating. Burping can help clear the gas bubbles from their esophagus. 

Check Your Baby's Bottle

If hiccups are a major problem, your baby's bottle could be the culprit. Some bottle designs will trap more air in than others during feedings. Try different brands or types that can reduce the amount of air in the bottle. 

How to Get Rid of Hiccups in Babies 

In general, occasional hiccups are not dangerous for babies. They will happen from time to time in your infant and resolve on their own. "Hiccups most often end as suddenly as they began," says Dr. Stempel. Nevertheless, you can try the following things to help stop your baby's hiccups once they start.

Rub Your Baby's Back

Try rubbing your baby's back in a circular motion to help release excess air and stop hiccups. Even if they continue, this motion can be comforting to your baby.

Burp Your Baby

If your baby starts hiccupping during feeding, stop and burp them. Burping will help release excess air to relieve discomfort and may stop the hiccups.

Change Your Baby's Position

It is fine to try to either lay your baby down or prop them into a sitting position depending on where they were when the hiccups started. Changing positions won't always stop a baby's hiccups, but it can help.

Offer Your Baby a Pacifier

The sucking motion of a pacifier may soothe a baby who is hiccupping and lessen the diaphragm spasms.

Note that some home remedies that may work for adults and older children can be dangerous for babies. When your baby is hiccupping, do not give them water, hold them upside down, scare them, pull their tongue, or try to make them hold their breath.

Additionally, gripe water, an herb-infused water, is a product that some people use to treat hiccups and upset tummies in babies. However, gripe water is not particularly effective or safe to use for babies. So, check with your child's pediatrician before using it.

While many parents around the world swear by gripe water, studies do not show any benefits and there is the potential for adverse reactions. Health experts like the World Health Organization do not recommend its use because gripe water products are not stringently regulated and may interfere with breastfeeding and proper nutrition.

When to See a Pediatrician

If you notice that your baby seems to be hiccupping frequently and/or the hiccups are causing them pain, it is best to consult a doctor. Your baby may be experiencing digestive issues.

"If the hiccups always come with lots of spit-up, irritability, or fussing, then you should speak with your pediatrician. Your pediatrician will consider the whole picture, including your baby’s growth, and discuss if something like gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) could be the reason for hiccups," explains Dr. Stempel.

In some cases, hiccups can be caused by GERD, also known as acid reflux. Especially if your baby's hiccups are accompanied by vomiting, they should be evaluated by a pediatrician to rule out any underlying medical conditions.

If a baby's hiccups seem to interfere with their breathing in any way or they are turning blue, call 911 and seek medical attention right away.

A Word From Verywell

Hiccupping is a normal function of the body that begins well before birth. There are many theories regarding why our bodies hiccup, but no definite reasons have been found yet.

In general, hiccupping is very common in babies (especially newborns) and will decrease as your baby gets older. If your baby is having hiccups that seem to be causing pain or discomfort or they are having other symptoms with the hiccups such as vomiting, however, check with a pediatrician. 

7 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Chaunie Brusie, RN
Chaunie Brusie is a registered nurse with experience in long-term, critical care, and obstetrical and pediatric nursing.