Everyone is familiar with hiccups. We all experience them from time to time, less and less often as we grow older. Babies are particularly prone to hiccups, even within the womb.
Sometimes as early as the 6th week after conception. But hiccups are usually nothing to worry about. They may last for a minute or up to an hour but do the baby no harm. Some infants even seem amused by the surprise caused.
Baby’s hiccups are just one of those normal behaviours and reflexes that parents need to know about but not be alarmed by. Hiccups are most likely to occur just after a feed or when the child gets excited. As a newborn’s internal organs develop and mature, hiccups should diminish in intensity and frequency. But why do babies get hiccups?
Why do babies get hiccups?
Hiccups have nothing to do with breathing. They are caused by sudden contractions of the diaphragm triggered by irritation or stimulation of that muscle. Some leading pediatricians believe that baby hiccups are the result of feeding (breast, formula or other foods). Or a drop in temperature that causes the baby to get cold. Hiccups are considered harmless unless they prove persistent enough. That’s when they interfere with your baby’s regular feeding and sleeping. Babies with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may tend to hiccup more frequently. This happens right after spitting up, coughing and irritability. Be sure you mention this behaviour to your medical advisor. This includes very frequent bouts of uncontrollable hiccups, particularly after age 1. Although your baby hiccups are seldom the sign of a more serious underlying medical condition, it never does any harm to be cautious.
How to get rid of baby hiccups—and prevent them
For the most part, baby hiccups just happen. But there are a few things you can do to relieve the discomfort they may cause. And maybe even prevent them from happening.
Burp your baby more frequently during feedings. If you’re bottle-feeding, slow things down by taking little breaks. This is actually trickier to do if you’re breastfeeding.
If it’s too late and the hiccups have already hit—and are clearly bugging your baby—we recommend good old distraction as the best solution. Make them laugh and send hiccups packing.
Cause a sudden unexpected shock by bursting an inflated paper bag. Also, dropping a cold key down the sufferer’s back is just part of popular folk law.
A gentle back rub, a sip of water or giving something to suck on, may just do the trick. Hiccups usually bother a parent more than the child. Although they may cause distress to the baby during feeding. Change your baby’s position and try to get them to burp or relax.
For bottle- and breastfed babies and newborns:
• You should plan to sit your baby upright for 20 to 30 minutes after each feeding.
• If there’s no identifiable cause of the hiccup, rubbing baby’s back or rocking her can also help.
What not to do for baby hiccups
• Never startle or scare your baby to combat hiccups.
• Don’t put a wet cloth on their forehead, which doesn’t help either.
• Holding one’s breath is one remedy that should never be attempted on your baby. It’s dangerous—plain and simple.
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