Should I Stop My Baby’s Hiccups?

Baby Hiccup

It’s common for babies to hiccup, and to do so frequently. As with any behavior in your newborn, you should ask yourself, “Is this bothering the baby, or is it bothering me?” Chances are, the answer is the latter. If your baby seems quite content and peaceful, and is simply hiccupping, then don’t worry about it: it’s normal. But for more information about hiccups in babies, read on.

Why Does She Hiccup?

In anyone, a hiccup is an involuntary contraction of the respiratory muscles. Usually, only the left side of the diaphragm contracts during hiccups, but sometimes both sides and the muscles in between the ribs, as well. 1

In adults, there can be many reasons for hiccups, most of them benign. In babies, it is a normal behavior. You may remember that your baby had hiccups in the womb, so it’s just a normal reflex.

However, sometimes, there is a known cause of your baby’s hiccups. Distention of the esophagus or stomach with food or air may cause hiccups. That may be why your baby hiccups during or after a feeding.  Gastroesophageal reflux disease may also be the cause of your baby’s hiccups. If you think your baby has reflux, see your pediatrician.

But What Can I Do?

If your baby seems content, then you don’t need to do anything. However, if the hiccups are truly bothering your baby, or if they are interfering with feeding, then there are a few easy maneuvers you can try to stop them.2,3

  • Try feeding your baby: either giving her a bottle or a turn at the breast, or, if she’s older, giving her some soft food, such as bananas or rice cereal. Sometimes swallowing will relax the diaphragm and stop the hiccups.
  • Give her something to drink: if she’s old enough, try giving her a bottle or sippy cup of water.
  • Try to feed her so she swallow less air: remember, a stomach distended by air can lead to hiccups, so do what you can to decrease the amount of air she swallows when eating. You can do this by making sure she’s latched on correctly if breastfeeding, sitting her upright during feedings, holding the bottle at a 45 degree angle so the air is at the upright end of the bottle, and burping her halfway through the feeding.
  • Slow down the feeding: too much food too quickly can also distend the stomach, so feed a little slower.

What NOT To Do

Although the following may work for adults (or even older children), don’t try this with a baby:2

  • Don’t try to scare her or startle her
  • Don’t try to get an infant to drink backwards out of a cup
  • Don’t slap her back
  • Don’t pull her tongue
  • Don’t press down on her eyeballs
  • Don’t press down on her fontanel (the soft spot on her head)
  • Don’t feed her a spoonful of sugar

Remember, most of the time, the hiccups don’t bother her and are a natural phenomenon. With a little bit of time, they will go away.

References:

  1. Bredenoord AJ. Management of belching, hiccups, and aerophagia. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2013 Jan;11 (1):6-12.
  2. How to Get Rid of Baby Hiccups.
  3. Burping, Hiccups, and Spitting Up. 2009.
Ruben Rucoba
Dr. Rucoba has over 25 years of experience as a primary care pediatrician after completing medical school at the University of California, San Francisco. His clinical areas of expertise include caring for children with special health care needs and assisting families with international adoption. He has been a freelance medical writer since 2010, writing for health websites, continuing medical education providers, and various print outlets. He currently works at Wheaton Pediatrics in the suburbs of Chicago, where he lives with his wife and four daughters, including a set of twins.

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