You’re sitting there playing with little baby, admiring their presence in your life and how much value they’ve added to it, exchanging laughs with them as the seconds and minutes pass by so quickly – when all of a sudden and out of nowhere they go “hic!”.
What’s that all about? Your baby hiccuping?
If you’ve ever seen your baby go through a bout of hiccups, especially if this is your first time ever experiencing this as a parent, then you’re more than likely starting to become nervous and begin asking yourself “is this normal? Or is anything bad happening to my kid?”.
My Baby Hiccups All The Time, Is This Normal?
The short answer to this question is YES, this is completely normal. Even though it may be a frightening sight for many parents to see their tiny little babies uncontrollably hiccup, hiccups are very normal and common among babies that are younger than one year of age.
Believe it or not, babies may hiccup while you’re still pregnant with them and way before they’re even given birth to. Many babies hiccup while still in their mother’s womb, which experts also deem as completely normal and nothing to be afraid of.
It isn’t abnormal for babies to have the hiccups more than once a day, and it isn’t abnormal for a bout of hiccups to last for more than 10 minutes at one go. As long as your baby shows no signs of pain or discomfort during these bouts of hiccups, then all is normal and there’s no reason for you to worry about it.
Babies tend to experience less and less bouts of hiccups as they age. So, they’ll have less hiccups at 6 months of age than they did at 3 months of age, and less hiccups at 9 months of age than they did at 6 months, and so on. By the age of 12 months, hiccups tend to barely happen anymore.
Note from Dr. Leah Alexander, M.D., F.A.A.P.: “ Parents frequently ask me about their infant getting hiccups during the first few month visits, so you’re not the only one experiencing this.
Clinically, I don’t hear much about them by the 4 month old well visit. Occasionally, they seem to occur a bit longer in cases of GERD, but do not cause pain.”
Why Do Babies Hiccup? What Causes This To Happen?
Contrary to popular belief, your baby hiccuping has nothing to do with their breathing pattern. Baby hiccups are caused by diaphragm contractions followed by a rapid closing of the vocal chords, which results in a hiccup sound.
In most cases, infant hiccups are caused by feeding, regardless of whether you’re directly breastfeeding your baby or bottle feeding them breast milk or formula milk.
The two most common causes of baby hiccups during feeding are when babies are overfed and when they are fed too quickly, which leads to them swallowing an excessive amount of air in the process.
So, feed baby smaller amounts of milk more frequently (as opposed to large amounts of milk throughout fewer sessions per day), and feed them from a slow flow baby bottle if you’re not directly breastfeeding them via skin to skin contact.
Your baby’s hiccups may also be caused by an allergic reaction.
Many babies are allergic to certain proteins found in formula milk (and some proteins found in breast milk as well).
When a baby consumes these proteins they’re allergic to, this leads to the inflammation of their esophagus and to the agitation of the diaphragm, which causes hiccups as a result.
This especially happens during breastfeeding, when some mothers eat something that their baby is allergic to, and this food passes on to the baby through the breast milk.
In The Air
Sometimes, irritants in the air that your baby breathes in may be the culprit.
For example, strong fragrance may make your baby cough, and if the coughing doesn’t stop anytime soon this could put excessive stress on their diaphragm, which ends up sending them on a hiccup spree.
This is one of the reasons why having an effective air purifier at home, and especially where your baby spends most of their day, is important.
An Association with Apnea
Note from Dr. Leah Alexander, M.D., F.A.A.P.: “ According to the Journal of Pediatrics, hiccups can be associated with brief periods of apnea.
This was seen in a study of both intubated and non-intubated infants: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7351583
For a few of these infants, there were EKG changes.”
What Should I Do If My Baby Is Hiccuping?
In most cases, parents should do nothing at all and let the “problem” solve itself on its own. That’s because there’s not much of a problem to deal with in the first place, and the hiccups will go away on their own very soon.
While sitting there and bearing with a baby’s hiccups may be annoying for you and I as parents to put up with, babies don’t really care about it.
Many parents assume that babies get annoyed from the hiccups they get the same way you and I do when we get them, but that’s not true – babies are not affected by the hiccups they get at all.
You should, on the other hand, do something about your baby’s hiccups if it’s affecting their day to day activities or putting their health and well being in danger. The following list mentions some of the most common examples of when you should have your baby checked on by a doctor.
- Hiccups are excessive and uncontrollable, not something that happens every once in a while
- Hiccups prevent them from properly feeding
- Hiccups prevent them from properly sleeping. If your baby is sleeping perfectly fine through their hiccups (and this does happen more often than one would think it does), then there’s no need to do anything about it.
- Baby spits up while hiccuping
- Baby coughs while hiccuping
- Unusual change in behavior by becoming excessively cranky
- Baby continues to hiccup frequently beyond the one year of age mark
In most of these cases your doctor will be able to give you a quick and easy fix to get this problem sorted.
In some rare cases, however, unusual hiccuping may be an implication of a more serious underlying health problem or medical condition that your doctor will be able to diagnose.
How To Get Rid Of Newborn Hiccups?
Even though hiccups are a very normal thing for young and growing babies, it’s quite difficult to convince the parent of a 2 week old newborn that nothing wrong is going on.
So, the following is a list of some of the most useful tips you can implement to help them stop.
Many parents find that giving their baby something to suck on while hiccuping often helps make it stop. This is one of those instances in which that set of high quality pacifiers you’ve purchased before will come in very handy.
Sucking on a pacifier will help relax your hiccupy baby’s diaphragm. This is a bit of a hit or miss technique and won’t necessarily work every time for all babies out there, though.
Help burp your baby on a regular basis, both during and after feeding sessions.
Your baby may be hiccuping because of excessive gas buildup in their body, something you may help them get out of their body via frequent burping.
If your baby is being bottle fed, whether you’re feeding them formula milk or expressed breast milk, a good rule of thumb to follow is burping them once every 2 to 3 ounces of milk they drink.
This usually translates to burping your baby once when they’re halfway through a bottle of theirs.
After around 5 to 10 minutes has passed and you’ve successfully helped them burp, you can continue feeding them the second half of their bottle.
If your baby is being directly breast fed, however, then burping them in between breast switches is best.
When burping your baby, be sure to do so gently.
Many parents make the mistake of hitting their baby’s back area with excessive and unneeded power, thinking that this will help them burp more efficiently.
This is simply untrue. All you need to do to burp your baby when they have hiccups is simply rub or pat them on the back.
Sometimes, all a baby ever needs to stop hiccuping is for you to distract them with something else to focus on.
Try distracting them with their favorite toy, a quick game, something that makes them laugh, turning on the TV, some music, etc ..
Anything works, just please, whatever you end up doing, DO NOT try to distract them by scaring them.
Assuming your baby is old enough to be drinking water on its own and you’ve successfully had them do so before, then having them drink some gripe water may get the job done.
The good thing about having your baby drink gripe water as an attempt is that there are very little to no negative side effects.
Just make sure that you take a look at the list of ingredients on any gripe water bottle you buy first, and double check whether everything that’s on there is baby safe and that your baby is not allergic to any ingredient on the list.
If your baby is old enough to be given solid food, then try placing a few sugar crystals under their tongue and let them melt away.
If your baby is still not old enough to be given solid food, then put some sugar crystals on your finger or dip it in some sugar syrup and have your baby lick your finger that way.
Sugar is notorious for easing pressure on the diaphragm, so it might be worth it to give this a try when you want to stop your baby’s hiccups.
Worst case scenario is your baby keeps hiccuping, nothing bad will happen to them if this method doesn’t work.
If your baby’s hiccups seem to never stop on their own even when you’re giving all of this the time it needs to sort itself out (which usually happens in most cases), then it may be time for you to have your baby checked out by a doctor.
It will greatly help your pediatrician out if you take notes about your baby’s hiccups when they happened.
Jot down details such as what time it was when your baby started to hiccup, how long the bout of hiccups lasted, what your baby was acting like/doing throughout all of this, anything unusual you noticed about your baby during this time, etc ..
Till then, educate yourself on the subject and get to know what you should do (and shouldn’t do) by checking out reliable medical resources such as this one.
What Not To Do
Now that we’ve gone over some of the most useful tips that solve the problem, the following list discusses what you should NOT do to put an end to your baby’s hiccups.
You and I probably try holding our breaths when trying to put an end to a seemingly endless bout of hiccups we’re going through, and it sometimes does work, but this is something you should NEVER attempt to do on a baby.
You’ll basically be suffocating your baby and putting them in great danger of brain damage – there’s no “ifs” or “buts” in this one.
Legend has it that if you catch someone hiccuping by surprise and frighten them, they’ll stop hiccuping.
Is there any scientific data that backs this up? Not at all, so please don’t try doing this with your baby! Frightening them this way is not only a cruel thing to be doing, it won’t stop them from hiccuping and it could harm them in more than one way.
The last thing you’ll want to happen is for your baby to develop a trauma while all you were trying to do is startle them out of their hiccups.
Many parents also believe that placing a piece of wet cloth on their baby’s forehead for some time helps put an end to their hiccups, which is completely untrue as well.
Not many people have heard about this one, in comparison to the other “methods” mentioned in this list, but you’ll often come across some people recommending you press on your baby’s forehead and pull on their tongue at the same time.
By doing this you’ll be putting your baby at a risk of physical harm and that’s just not worth it.
At this stage in their life, a baby’s tongue is still not completely developed yet and cannot withstand even the slightest of pulls sometimes without significant harm being dealt.
Another ridiculous suggestion that gets shared around is to press your baby’s eyeballs – something you should never do because of the possibility of permanent eye damage that could cause to a baby so young and fragile.
Prevention For The Future
Stopping your baby’s hiccups in their tracks for the time being is only half the battle, the other half is preventing them from experiencing hiccups for the foreseeable future – and here’s how you can help with that.
It should be noted, though, that you can never do enough to guarantee that your baby won’t experience any hiccup episodes in the future. It isn’t that easy and no one can control each and every factor that might trigger hiccup episodes in their baby.
Feeding On Time
Feeding your baby on time and as soon as they begin to show early signs of hunger is very important for many different reasons, one of which being decreasing the chances of hiccup episodes.
You should always aim to feed your baby when they’re in a calm state, because feeding them when they’re cranky and crying will bring on a whole world of problems.
How would you feel if you participated in physical activity right after one of your meals with no time for rest in between? Not the most exciting of ideas, right?
Well, the same holds true for your baby and their feeding sessions.
So, don’t put your baby through any significant physical activity right after a feeding session of theirs – play time can wait for 20 to 30 minutes for the digestion process to have taken place.
To help speed up the digestion process, have your baby sit in an upright position for 20 to 30 minutes after each feeding session of theirs.
Feeding While Seated
If your baby is old enough to be fed while seated upright, then you’ll definitely want to do this to help prevent them from getting the hiccups.
By sitting upright while feeding, there’s a much higher chance that only food will go down to your baby’s stomach, and not excess air that causes bloating and hiccups.
When directly breastfeeding your baby, make sure they’re establishing a proper latch – or else they’re more than likely to be swallowing a lot of air in the process. The same is also true if you’re bottle feeding your baby.
Hot & Cold Don’t Mix
Don’t expose baby’s stomach to hot and cold temperatures within a very small time frame because that may cause hiccups.
So, if you heat up a bottle of milk to feed them from and then have them eat some cold solid food shortly afterwards, this results in sudden change in their stomach temperature and could lead to bouts of hiccups.
This condition is commonly found among babies, especially newborn babies.
Babies that have Gastroesophageal Reflux (also commonly referred to as GER) are likely to experience a burning and uncomfortable sensation in their esophagus after eating, because acidic juices and some food that hasn’t been completely digested yet transfer from the stomach back to the esophagus, leading to this irritation.
When a baby’s esophagus is affected this way, so is their diaphragm, which may end up causing them to hiccup.
If you suspect your baby is suffering from GER, tell your pediatrician about it and any symptoms you may be noticing that could better help them diagnose your baby’s case.
If your baby does indeed have GER, don’t worry – it’s a very easily treatable condition.
One of the reasons why it’s very important you regularly and frequently clean your baby’s bottle is because the less build up of milk there is on the nipple, the easier and smoother the milk flow will be and the less your baby will have to suck – which means the less likely they are to be sucking in more air than milk.