There are several ways to stop or prevent hiccups in newborns, including using pacifiers, and taking breaks from feeding to burp. Most babies get hiccups in their first year, and they are not usually a cause for concern. Hiccups occurs when the baby’s diaphragm contracts. This forces air out through closed vocal chords, creating the hiccuping sound.
A person may become worried that hiccups are causing discomfort in a newborn baby.
What causes hiccups in newborns?
According to a study from 2012 research, hiccup may help to remove excess air from the stomach. However, the medical community is still uncertain whether hiccups have a purpose. Hiccups occur when something causes the diaphragm to spasm, and the vocal cords quickly shut. Air is forced out through the closed vocal chords. The diaphragm is a large muscle that runs across the bottom of the rib cage. It moves up and down as a person inhale and exhale.
Hiccups in babies occur for no obvious reason, but feeding can sometimes cause the diaphragm to spasm. They may happen when a baby eats too quickly or overfeeds. Also, hiccups ca also occur when a baby swallows too much air. These can cause the baby’s stomach to expand. As it expands, it pushes against the diaphragm, triggering the contractions that lead to hiccups.
If hiccups happen frequently and cause distress, they may result from an underlying health condition, such as gastroesophageal reflux (GER). This occurs when partially digested food and stomach acid come back up through the food pipe. As these fluids pass the diaphragm, they may aggravate it and trigger spasms.
Feeding or stomach issues may not always be the cause of hiccups. The diaphragm may spasm for unidentified reasons.
How to Stop Hiccups in Newborns
Adults may find hiccups uncomfortable, but they tend to cause less distress in babies.
It is usually fine to help a baby stop hiccupping. If they do not stop, then you may have to consult a doctor.
When a person is concerned and does not want to let newborn hiccups run their course, they may find the following approaches helpful:
Taking a break to burp the baby
When the stomach fills with air, it may push on the diaphragm, which in turn lead to spasms. Taking a break from feeding to burp the baby may reduce the amount of air in their stomach. This can prevent hiccups.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it is a good idea to burp bottle-fed babies every time they consume 2 to 3 ounces. It is best to burp a baby during breastfeeding, while switching between breasts.
Using a pacifier
Sucking on a pacifier may help to relax the diaphragm and stop hiccupping.
Feeding them gripe water
Gripe water is a mixture of herbs and water. It is traditionally used to treat colic and other stomach problems. The herbs usually contained in gripe water include fennel, ginger, chamomile, and cinnamon.
Rubbing the baby’s back
Rubbing their back and rocking the baby back and forth can help them to relax. This may stop the hiccup-causing spasms.
What not to do
Some remedies for hiccups are baseless and completely rooted in tradition and have no scientific backings. These include:
- making a person jump
- throwing the baby up and catching them
- pulling their tongue
- making them sip water while upside down
It may not be best to try these home remedies on a baby. These supposed remedies may distress a baby and may even be unsafe.
Hiccups are often not preventable, but following the methods below may help:
- feeding the baby before they become very hungry, to keep them calm
- feeding the baby frequently in small amounts
- sitting the baby upright for half an hour after each feeding
- repositioning the bottle so that no air is near the teat
- ensuring that the baby’s mouth is latched over the whole nipple
When to see a doctor
Hiccups are not usually a cause for concern in babies under 12 months old. However, you may need to speak with a doctor if hiccups are frequent or they seem to distress the baby because this can indicate an underlying health condition.
GER may cause frequent, uncomfortable hiccups. A baby may have GER if they also:
- cry more often than usual, particularly around feedings
- arch their back excessively during or after feedings
- spit up more often than usual
Anyone who suspects that a baby may have GER should speak with a doctor. The condition is easy to treat.