How to Get Rid of Baby Hiccups

baby laying on stomach with face looking forward

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Hiccups are something that can happen to anyone. As adults, we may see them as a minor inconvenience — guzzle some water to get rid of them, and then go about our day.

Although annoying to adults and older children, hiccups are usually a short-lived experience for babies, lasting only a few minutes. Babies are also typically not bothered by hiccups. While hiccups are not something to worry about, it may be possible to help prevent them in babies and even stop them when they do happen.

What Causes Baby Hiccups 

Infant hiccups are a reflex that starts very early, even before your baby is born. The hiccuping reflex is very strong in newborns especially; they can spend up to 2.5% of their time in the newborn stage hiccuping. Then, as they grow out of the newborn stage, the hiccups tend to decrease. 

Hiccups are a reflexive action, meaning we can't stop it from happening or control it, just like sneezing or coughing. Different triggers are thought to cause hiccups—excess air in the stomach, esophageal irritation, stress, and more—but no concrete reason for the occurrence of hiccups is known.

A hiccup is actually triggered by the nerve that connects the brain to the diaphragm and can be set off by a lot of different things, such as eating too much or too fast or even swallowing at the wrong time. 

Normally when you breathe, you pull air into your lungs and then your diaphragm relaxes to let that air go back out through your mouth. When you hiccup, however, the diaphragm spasms and the air that you're trying to suck in gets "stuck" against your closed vocal cords, which causes the distinct "hic" sound of a hiccup.

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

This process may sound especially precarious for babies, but studies show that typical bouts of hiccups do not cause significant changes in the respiratory rate, heart rate, or oxygen saturation of healthy infants.

How to Get Rid of Hiccups in Infants 

In general, occasional hiccups are not dangerous to a baby. They can occur from time to time in your infant and resolve on their own.

Curing hiccups in a baby doesn't require any action, but there are a few things you can try 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.
  • Burp your baby. If your baby starts hiccuping during a feeding, stop feeding and burp your baby to help try and release excess air.
  • 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 can be worth a try.
  • Offer your baby a pacifier. The sucking motion of a pacifier could help soothe a baby who is hiccuping and lessen the diaphragm spasms.

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

When to Call Your Doctor

If you notice that your baby seems to be hiccuping frequently and the hiccups are causing your baby pain or accompanied by vomiting after feedings, it is best to consult with a doctor. Your baby may be experiencing acid reflux or digestive sensitivities.

In some cases, hiccups can be caused by GERD, or acid reflux. Especially if your baby's hiccups are accompanied by vomiting, it's best to have your little one checked by a doctor to rule out any underlying medical conditions that could be causing the hiccups. 

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

How to Prevent Baby Hiccups

Although they're typically harmless, there are ways that parents can help prevent babies from experiencing hiccups. 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 him in a certain position, you could be triggering the hiccups and can adjust how and when you feed your baby or what position you place him in. 

If your baby hiccups often or seems uncomfortable with their hiccups, you can try some of the following solutions to help prevent hiccups from occurring.

  • Adjust feeding timing and amount. Some research suggests that overfeeding your baby or feeding too fast can lead to hiccups. Whether you are breastfeeding or bottle feeding, it may be necessary to adjust the amount that you feed your baby to help prevent them. Try feeding smaller amounts more frequently to see if it makes a difference for your baby.
  • Burp your baby well. Hiccups can be triggered by excess air bubbles that get trapped while your baby is eating. Burping can help clear the gas bubbles that could lead to the hiccups. 
  • 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 the feeding. Try different brands or types that can reduce the air trapped in the bottle. 

A Word From Verywell

Hiccuping is a function of the body that begins well before the baby is even born. There are many theories regarding why our bodies hiccup, but none has been proven yet.

In general, hiccuping is very normal in babies, especially newborns, and will decrease as your baby gets older. If your baby is having hiccups that seem to be causing her pain or discomfort or is having other symptoms with her hiccups, such as vomiting, it is best to check with a doctor to make sure there's nothing else going on that could be causing the hiccups. 

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Article Sources
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