It's important to remember that most babies get hiccups in their first year, and it's usually not a cause for concern.
Hiccups happen when the baby's diaphragm contracts. This forces air out through closed vocal cords, causing the hiccups sound.
You as a parent may be concerned that hiccups will cause your baby some discomfort, but luckily that is all very well.
In this article, I explore the factors that cause hiccups in newborns, the best ways to stop and prevent them, and some tips for when you might want to see a doctor.
What we discuss in this comprehensive post:
- 1 What Causes Hiccups in Newborns?
- 2 Stop and prevent hiccups in your baby
- 3 stop hiccups in your baby
- 4 Preventing hiccups in babies
- 5 When to see a doctor?
- 6 Is Hiccups A Sign Of Reflux In Babies?
- 7 What Causes Hiccups in Babies in the Womb?
- 8 Conclusion
What Causes Hiccups in Newborns?
Hiccups are generally not a cause for concern.
Authors of a study of hiccups suggest that the hiccups reflex may serve to remove excess air from the stomach.
However, the medical community is still unsure whether hiccups have a purpose. So what's going on in the body to cause it?
Hiccups occur when something causes the diaphragm to spasm and the vocal cords to close quickly.
Air is forced through the closed vocal cords, causing the hiccups sound.
The diaphragm is a large muscle that runs across the bottom of the rib cage. It moves up and down when a person breathes.
In adults, it often happens after drinking too quickly, but hiccups in babies tend to happen for no apparent reason.
They can happen when a baby:
- eat too much
- drinks too quickly
- swallowing too much air (e.g. when drinking)
These factors can cause the baby's stomach to expand.
As it expands, it pushes against the diaphragm, causing the spasms that lead to hiccups.
If hiccups are common and cause anxiety, they could be the result of an underlying health condition, such as gastroesophageal reflux (GER).
This happens when partially digested food and stomach acid come back up the food pipe.
If these fluids pass through the diaphragm, they can irritate it and cause spasms.
Feeding or stomach problems don't always have to lead to hiccups. The diaphragm can spasm for unknown reasons.
Does the hiccups mean your baby is full?
Indeed, your baby's hiccups are often a sign of satiety, but not always. If your baby hiccups at the breast, he will likely stop feeding, as the hiccups may be uncomfortable at that point.
But it can also be because he has been drinking too quickly or is not latching on well and has taken in too much air. In that case, he may still be hungry.
Stop and prevent hiccups in your baby
There are several ways to stop or prevent hiccups in newborns.
For example, taking breaks from feeding to burping and using pacifiers can help.
In this section, I want to consider ways to stop or even prevent hiccups.
stop hiccups in your baby
If you've Googled this topic, your child probably already has it on a regular basis.
That is why I will first consider how to effectively stop hiccups.
Hiccups normally do not harm a baby. While adults may find hiccups uncomfortable, they cause less stress in babies.
It's usually fine to let a baby stop hiccups on its own. If they don't stop, it's a good idea to talk to a doctor.
If you are worried and your baby doesn't want to let his hiccups take its course, the following strategies can be helpful:
- Pause to burp the baby
- Sucking on a pacifier can help with a baby's hiccups
When the stomach fills with air, it can press on the diaphragm and cause spasms.
First a few fun myths:
What not to do to stop hiccups
- Cause a startle reaction
- Hitting his back (not even softly, it doesn't help)
- Let him hold his breath
- Pull their tongues
- Letting someone jump doesn't work either, so don't throw your baby in the air
- drink water upside down
- Place a warm washcloth on their forehead
Trying these and many other home remedies on a baby is a bad idea.
These supposed remedies can upset a baby and can even be dangerous. Moreover, they are unlikely to stop the hiccups.
Take a short break to burp
Taking a break from feeding to burp the baby can reduce the amount of air in their stomach. This can prevent hiccups.
According to Nestle baby food it is a good idea to burp bottle-fed babies when they consume 30 to 45 milliliters.
If a baby is breastfed, it is a good idea to burp the baby while switching between the breasts.
Using a pacifier
Sucking on a pacifier can help relax the diaphragm and stop hiccups.
Use gripe water
Gripe water is a mixture of herbs and water. It has been traditionally used to treat colic and other stomach problems.
The herbs usually found in gripe water include:
It has lost some of its popularity because it used to contain 3,6% alcohol and was therefore banned. In the meantime, that is no longer there, but high amounts of sugar and I would not give it myself.
If stomach problems are responsible for hiccups, some people think that gripe water can help. However, there is currently no scientific evidence for this treatment.
Is gripe water dangerous?
Overall, no studies have proven that gripe water is directly harmful to babies. However, there are ingredients in gripe water that can be a problem. For example, while most brands claim to be alcohol-free, not all forms of gripe water are alcohol-free.
Since the risks are low, a person may decide to try gripe water. Various brands can be purchased online.
Rub your baby gently
Rubbing their back and rocking the baby back and forth will help them relax. This can stop the spasms that cause hiccups.
Preventing hiccups in babies
Hiccups are often unavoidable, but following the methods below can help:
- feed the baby before they get very hungry to keep them calm so they don't drink too quickly
- feed the baby more often and in small amounts
- put the baby upright for half an hour after each feeding
- reposition the bottle so that air does not get near the teat
- making sure the baby's mouth is locked all over the nipple
Read also my article about everything around sitting, when can a baby actually sit up independently?
When to see a doctor?
A doctor should be consulted if a baby develops hiccups on a regular basis.
The hiccups are not normally a cause for concern in babies less than 12 months old.
Talk to a doctor if hiccups are common or they seem to be troubling the baby, as it may indicate an underlying health condition.
GER can cause frequent, uncomfortable hiccups. A baby can have GER if they also:
- crying more often than usual, especially around feedings
- bend their backs during or after feedings
- spit more often than usual
It is certainly smart for anyone who suspects a baby has GER to talk to a doctor. The condition is easy to treat.
Is Hiccups A Sign Of Reflux In Babies?
Most cases of reflux go away once the baby is between 4 and 12 months old. It's normal for all babies to hiccup, but babies with reflux do it a lot. This is caused by the extra air in his stomach and by the spasms of his esophagus irritated by reflux stomach acid.
What Causes Hiccups in Babies in the Womb?
A pregnant woman will notice many different movements as the baby develops, and these movements are likely to get stronger with each trimester.
In addition to kicks, rolls and punches, a woman may also notice fetal hiccups.
Identifying fetal hiccups can be difficult. However, a woman may find that the feeling of hiccups is more rhythmic than other movements.
Some people have described it as a twitching or pulsating sensation similar to having a muscle cramp.
Women may feel like the baby is moving between 16 and 20 weeks or sometimes later. The first fetal movement is called acceleration.
Factors such as the position of the placenta can affect how quickly a woman feels her baby moving.
The weight of the mother can also play a role, with those who carry less weight around their midsection more likely to feel kicking and other movements.
What Causes a Baby Hiccup in the Womb?
Doctors don't know why babies hiccup in the womb.
Not all babies get hiccups, but others get them often. Some theories suggest that fetal hiccups are linked to the development of the baby's lungs.
However, this has not been proven.
Are they normal and when should I see a doctor?
Doctors consider fetal hiccups a natural part of pregnancy.
While it is difficult to pinpoint exactly why some women feel their baby hiccups in the womb, it is considered a good sign and a natural part of pregnancy.
Rarely, fetal hiccups will be a sign that something is wrong with a pregnancy or fetus.
After week 32 of pregnancy, a woman is unlikely to feel the baby hiccups in the womb every day.
A woman who regularly notices fetal hiccups, especially if it occurs daily and more than 4 times a day after 28 weeks, should contact a doctor.
While frequent hiccups don't necessarily mean a problem, the umbilical cord may be compressed or prolapsed.
The blood and oxygen supply to the fetus can be limited or stopped completely in these situations.
A sagging or compressed cord can cause complications, including:
- the baby's heart rate slows down
- the baby's blood pressure drops
- build-up of CO2 (carbon dioxide) in the baby's blood
- brain damage
More evidence is needed to be sure if increased episodes or duration of fetal hiccups are cause for concern later in pregnancy.
However, a report on umbilical cord accidents cited a study in sheep that suggested that fetal hiccups could occur when the umbilical cord is compressed.
Still, a woman concerned about fetal hiccups should contact her doctor, if only to reassure you that the baby is happy and healthy.
If there is a problem with the cord, a doctor can also advise on the steps they can take to try to relieve pressure on the cord.
Which weeks is the hiccups most common?
As mentioned earlier, most women will feel their baby move somewhere between weeks 16 and 20 or possibly up to week 25 of the pregnancy.
Some women describe the initial feeling as popcorn popping, or a butterfly flapping its wings.
As the pregnancy progresses, women can distinguish the movements and feel the kicks, rolls and bumps that can occur during the day and night.
Most women become aware of fetal hiccups in the second or third trimester, although some babies don't get hiccups in the womb and some women just never feel them.
Other things babies do in the womb
A baby starts to do many surprising things as it grows and develops in the womb.
In addition to hiccups, babies can kick, prick, turn and roll and can even smell, see and hear before they are born.
Some babies can also suck their thumbs into the womb.
Eating sugar can often stimulate a baby's movements, just like eating or drinking something hot or cold.
Read also: rock quietly with one of these baby bouncers
How can you stop fetal hiccups?
Staying hydrated can ease the discomfort of fetal movements.
While fetal hiccups can be distracting, they are not painful and showers should last no longer than 15 minutes.
Fetal movements can be uncomfortable and make it difficult for pregnant women to relax or even fall asleep.
Some tips to reduce the discomfort of fetal movements include:
- lying on the left side of the body
- using pillows to support the bump and relieve pressure from the spine
- varied and healthy food
- Continue to exercise moderately as long as it is safe to do so
- stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water
- stick to a normal bedtime and sleep during the day if necessary
Pregnant women should monitor their baby's movements.
It is recommended to watch for kicks and punches as frequent, regular fetal movement is a sign that the baby is developing correctly in the womb.
In most cases, fetal hiccups are nothing to worry about.
However, if there is any reason why you are concerned about fetal hiccups, it is best to contact your doctor, who can check that nothing is wrong or recommend treatment if necessary.
Baby hiccups are usually not a cause for concern. Most babies have hiccups in their first year. Many of the likely causes are related to nutrition.
Following the best feeding practices can reduce hiccups, and some home remedies can help too.
Contact a doctor if hiccups are common or if it causes pain or other symptoms.
It's also a good idea to contact a doctor if hiccups are common after your baby turns one year.
A nice story after a deep, deep valley, read also this article on why rainbow babies are a gift.