Baby hiccups are caused by a contraction of the diaphragm and the quick closing of the vocal cords. The rapid closing of the vocal cords is what creates the sound of hiccups.
Since hiccups tend to bother adults, you may assume they bother babies as well. However, babies are typically not affected by them. In fact, many babies can sleep through a bout of hiccups without being disturbed, and hiccups rarely interfere with or have any effect on a baby’s breathing.
In fact, a 2019 study indicated that hiccups may be important to baby’s brain development and breathing. Hiccups in infants are likely another development tool — and one of the earliest they develop in the womb.
But if your baby seems to be uncomfortable, here are some tips:
- Burp your baby.
- Give them a pacifier.
- Consider a trial of gripe water.
- Just let the hiccups run their course
Let’s look deeper at these suggestions:
Burping will also help because it places your baby into an upright position. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests burping your bottle-fed baby not only after feeding, but periodically during the feeding as well.
If your baby is breastfed, burp them after they switch breasts.
Rub or gently pat your baby’s back when they have hiccups. Do not slap or hit this area roughly or with too much force.
Infant hiccups don’t always start from a feeding. When your baby starts to hiccup on their own, try allowing them to suck on a pacifier, as this will help relax the diaphragm and may help stop the bout of hiccups.
If your baby seems to be in discomfort because of their hiccups, you could consider trying gripe water. Gripe water is a combination of herbs and water that is believed by some to help with colic and other intestinal discomforts, though no evidence exists to support it.
The types of herbs can vary and may include ginger, fennel, chamomile, and cinnamon. Gripe water has not been clinically shown to help with hiccups in babies. It is also considered a supplement, and so gripe water is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.
Before you give your baby anything new, it’s always recommended that you discuss it with your baby’s doctor.
Check the ingredient list before giving store-bought gripe water to your baby. Avoid products that contain vegetable carbon (sometimes labeled as carbo vegetabilis or activated charcoal), alcohol, and sucrose. All of these ingredients can have
adverse effectsin babies.
Babies under 1 will hiccup fairly often, so letting them be is probably your best bet. More often than not, your baby’s hiccups will stop on their own.
If they aren’t bothering your baby, then you can just let them run their course.
If you don’t interfere and your baby’s hiccups don’t stop on their own, let their doctor know. While rare, it’s possible for hiccups to be a sign of a more serious medical issue.
There are a few ways to help prevent hiccup episodes. However, it’s difficult to prevent your baby’s hiccups completely as the causes aren’t yet clear. There may also be yet identified benefits.
Try these methods to help prevent hiccups (and for general good digestion):
- Make sure your baby is calm when you feed them. This means not waiting until your baby is so hungry that they’re upset and crying before their feeding begins.
- After a feeding, avoid heavy activity with your baby, such as bouncing up and down or high energy play.
- Keep your baby in an upright position for 20 to 30 minutes after each meal.
Hiccups are considered normal in babies. They can also occur while the baby is still in the womb.
However, if your baby gets hiccups a lot, particularly if they’re also upset or agitated with hiccups, it’s a good idea to talk to your baby’s doctor. This could be a sign of other medical issues.
Also, talk to a doctor if your baby’s hiccups are disturbing their sleep or if bouts of hiccups continue to happen often after your child’s first birthday.
If you’re searching the internet on this topic, you may find a variety of recommendations for home remedies.
It’s important to note that doctors advise that you avoid many of the stereotypical cures for hiccups when your baby gets them. For instance, don’t startle your baby or pull their tongue.
These methods don’t work for infants, and they may do more harm than good. If baby seems content, there’s no reason to intervene.
It’s not always clear what causes a bout of hiccups in infants, and there may be benefits yet to be known.
As long as your baby is not vomiting with their hiccups, does not seem bothered by them, and is under the age of 1, hiccups can be a normal part of development.
Regular hiccups should go away by the time your baby reaches 1 year old. However, if they continue often after that time, or if your baby seems upset by them or abnormally cranky, talk to your doctor. A doctor will be able to rule out any other possible causes.