What Causes Babies to Get Hiccups?
Hiccups are an involuntary spasm caused by irritation in the nerves in a baby’s diaphragm. This results in rapid air expulsion from their lungs, which briefly passes through their vocal cords, giving the hiccups their characteristic sound. There are three main causes for a baby’s hiccups:
- Eating too much. Overeating can cause your baby’s stomach to expand. Since it’s close to the diaphragm, the stomach rubs against and irritates the nerves that pass through it.
- Crying for a long time. A baby who cries a lot places a lot of strain on their diaphragm, which can lead to an involuntary muscle response.
- Eating too quickly. This can make your baby swallow air along with their food. As a result, that air travels into their stomach instead of their lungs, causing gas that can lead to hiccups.
Some less common causes include:
- Drastic temperature changes
- Improper feeding techniques
How Dangerous Are Hiccups?
It’s normal for your baby to get the hiccups every once in a while, especially after eating. That’s why pediatricians say for the most part that hiccups aren’t any cause for concern. In fact, babies tend to tolerate them very well. So don’t worry, your baby isn’t in danger!
What Are the Different Kinds of Hiccups?
Not all hiccups are created equal. We’re not talking about variations on sound or how quickly they occur. We’re talking about how long they last. Hiccups can be classified into the following groups:
- Brief hiccups. Also called acute hiccups, these are the most common. Your baby will most likely experience these hiccups at some point. They tend to last a few minutes or hours, lasting no longer than 48 hours. These hiccups tend to be associated with benign causes.
- Persistent or chronic hiccups. These hiccups last more than 48 hours and can be more annoying. Persistent hiccups last more than two days but less than a month. Chronic hiccups last at least one month and can continue for over two. This is much less common, and you’re more likely to see them in people over 50. Chronic hiccups tend to be associated with other illnesses.
The Main Ways to Get Rid of a Baby’s Hiccups
Now that you know what causes a baby's hiccups, it’s time to learn how to get rid of them. Even though hiccups aren’t dangerous, parents want to make sure their baby is as comfortable as possible until they pass.
Getting rid of a baby’s hiccups is different from eliminating them in adults. Below, we’ll tell you the best techniques to get rid of your baby’s hiccups.
Place them on your chest
Pediatricians recommend putting the baby on your chest when they have hiccups. This will usually stop their hiccups immediately. After doing this, feeding your baby a little more can stimulate and aid digestion and empty their belly.
Your baby might swallow air during each feeding. That’s why it’s important to burp them after feeding to prevent hiccups and colic. Many parents struggle with finding the right technique. Below are the steps to burping your baby correctly:
- Drape a clean towel or cloth over your shoulder
- Hold the baby vertically against your body
- Try to place their head on your shoulder with the cloth, which will help catch any spit up
- With your free hand, pat or rub their back gently
- The position can vary depending on what’s comfortable, such as placing the baby on their stomach or sitting them on your lap (make sure you support their head if they’re on your lap)
- If they can’t burp, place them on their back to sleep or try letting them feed again
Keep in mind: It’s recommended that newborn babies be nursed exclusively for the first six months, if possible. Babies that are breast-fed during this time tend to swallow less air and have less gas, while bottle-fed babies tend to experience the opposite.
Make them sneeze
Some pediatricians recommend gently wiggling a clean paper towel under the baby’s nose to make them sneeze. You can also make them sneeze by gently stroking their nose. A paper towel, however, is more effective. Make sure you do this lightly and use a clean paper towel.
Use a pacifier
Sometimes, giving your baby a pacifier for a while can relax their diaphragm and stop their hiccups.
Three Things to Avoid When Your Baby Has the Hiccups
Because babies’ bodies are smaller and not as developed, certain techniques and maneuvers that work for adults should never be used on babies because they could make it worse. Below are the techniques you should avoid using to get rid of a baby's hiccups:
- Don’t try to scare them or make them hold their breath. This might work for adults, but babies will only get scared or upset, making things worse.
- Don’t try to pull their tongue and hold it outside their mouth.
- Newborn and infant stomachs are more sensitive than ours, so giving them medicine isn’t a good idea. In some cases it can even be toxic.
Can I Prevent My Baby From Having Hiccups?
Even though hiccups can have a variety of causes, they can be prevented sometimes. Below are the best ways to prevent hiccups before they start:
- Calm feeding. Some babies are anxious, especially if they don’t eat at the right time or at proper intervals. To prevent this, feed them before they become really hungry, and try to take breaks during feeding to help them digest.
- Avoid overfeeding the baby. Ask your pediatrician how much food your baby should eat to prevent their stomachs from bloating.
- Anti-colic nipples for bottle-fed babies. Normal nipples tend to cause babies to swallow air with the formula, which can lead to colic and hiccups. Try an anti-colic nipple instead.
- Practice good nursing techniques. If you or your baby are in an awkward position, this could cause your baby to swallow air while they eat. That’s why we recommend learning optimal nursing positions.
- Avoid drastic temperature changes. If your baby starts on solid food, make sure they’re all served at the same temperature. Otherwise, the changes could induce hiccups.
- Feed them in a quiet place. Feeding your baby in a relaxed environment benefits both you and the baby. Quiet surroundings help you to concentrate on feeding and decrease both of your stress levels.
- Burp them. This helps relieve and prevent hiccups as well as encourage proper digestion.
- Don’t let your baby “cry it out.” A lot of people think that soothing a baby every time they cry will spoil them. This isn’t true! Babies cry because they need something. Meeting their needs will keep them from crying, which can prevent hiccups. Watch this video from Dr. Eva Benmeleh Roditi to learn more about your baby’s needs and take care of them accordingly.
When Should I See a Pediatrician?
Most times hiccups aren’t a cause for concern and you shouldn’t have to call your pediatrician if your baby has them. That said, if their hiccups last over 3 hours (or beyond 48 hours), if they have a fever, or if they’re cranky, it’s best to take them to the pediatrician.
Keep in mind: Persistent or chronic hiccups may be linked to health problems. Therefore, it’s important for a doctor to do a full checkup to determine and treat the cause. This condition can affect how they eat and sleep and negatively impact their health.
Hiccups Aren’t Dangerous For Your Baby!
You now have more tools to help take care of your baby. Hiccups are common in adults and kids. While more severe cases can be related to illnesses, hiccups themselves aren’t dangerous. Breathe easy and help your baby stay happy and healthy!Remember, SABEResPODER!