Why do babies get hiccups? How can you get rid of baby hiccups? (Plus, what NOT to do.) Is your baby hiccuping inside the womb? Find out in this article!

Baby Hiccups: Fast Facts About this Cute Reflex

Sure, you knew you’d be dealing with baby poop. And you probably anticipated baby teething. But did you plan on baby hiccups?

Fact is, many babies begin hiccuping in utero. So it makes sense that they continue to do so once they’re born.

What are baby hiccups?

Hiccups are a spasm or involuntary pulse of the diaphragm. They are actually a reflex, that may be associated with the suckling reflex, so nothing abnormal or harmful about newborn hiccups.

Baby hiccups present as a cute but sometimes bothersome bounce from the belly that often comes out of the mouth in a sweet little hic or hiccup sound.

Not all babies get hiccups, but many do. Some of us are just more susceptible to this physical quirk. If your baby is prone to hiccuping, take a moment to read more about the science behind hiccups, what you can do to help, and learn if there are risks associated with hiccuping.

Why do babies get hiccups?

First, it helps to understand the anatomy of hiccups. The diaphragm is the primary character in the story of hiccuping. It is a muscle between the chest and abdomen, just above the stomach. (Source) When the diaphragm jumps, or hiccups, the vocal cords temporarily close, and the telltale sound is produced.

Hiccups can happen once, or rhythmically for a few minutes. They rarely last longer than that, and usually only persist in adults with adjoining health concerns.

Baby hiccups happen for a variety of reasons including:

  • after eating a large meal
  • becoming quickly excited
  • swallowing too much air
  • experiencing a sudden temperature change
  • feeling tired
  • rarely, a symptom of malnutrition

If your baby undergoes surgery, hiccups can also occur as a minor complication from general anesthesia or having surgery on abdominal organs.

Baby hiccups due to immature digestive system

Probably the primary reason for baby hiccups is baby’s immature digestive system. Colicy babies and babies with acid reflux (or silent reflux) are more prone to having newborn hiccups.

The sphincter muscle that separates baby’s esophagus and stomach can also be underdeveloped, which can cause spit up and baby hiccups.

How to get rid of baby hiccups

Baby hiccups might seem pretty random, but there is a plan of action you can follow to keep them in check. Remember this tip when you want to get rid of hiccups — Feed half as much, twice as often.

  • Overfilling the stomach can launch the diaphragm into a bout of hiccups. If you’re breastfeeding, consider offering one breast, burping, playing a bit, and then offering the second breast once your baby’s tummy has had a chance to settle.
  • If you’re bottle feeding, offer half the ounces you normally would, burp, take a break, and then resume feeding remainder of bottle. (Check out this interesting post on paced bottle feeding, too.) You also may want to consider using a special bottle that mimics breastfeeding and reduces air intake.
  • If your baby is eating table food, you may want to try mashes like apple sauce or avocado, which are easier to digest, instead of bigger chunks of food, a la baby led weaning.
  • If child is older than 6 months, try giving her a little water in a sippy cup, as this can calm the diaphragm.

Additional tips to reduce or ease newborn hiccups

  • Feed with baby sitting in a more upright position
  • Burp well after each feeding
  • Keep baby upright for 10-20 minutes after feeding
  • If breastfeeding, be sure baby is emptying the breast and getting a good balance of foremilk and hindmilk
  • Be sure baby doesn’t have too tight a diaper or elastic waistband
  • Wait at least 30 minutes after feeding before putting baby on tummy
  • Experiment with different breastfeeding positions
  • If bottle fed, look into special bottles/nipples that reduce excess air intake.
  • Finally, you may want to look into a tongue or lip tie if baby is also dealing with bad gas, reflux, or poor weight gain

You can always keep a journal to chart your baby’s hiccup patterns, but for most children, hiccups aren’t painful or bothersome. If hiccups are persistent (longer than 48 hours) and severe (completely debilitating), there can be other anatomical causes so check in with your child’s doctor or call 911.

Is my baby hiccuping inside the womb?

Yes! In fact, hiccuping is one of the first “skills” your baby learns. Weeks before they can hear, babies can hiccup, as early as nine weeks in utero.

Fetal hiccups are completely normal, as the diaphragm, vocal cords, and adjoining muscles and respiratory matter are developing.

Although tiny hiccups occur long before, moms will begin feeling hiccups in the womb around the start of the third trimester. If your baby gets hiccups during your pregnancy, there is nothing you need to do; they’ll subside within a few minutes and your belly will settle into gentle kicks and rolls once again.

Some researchers believe that hiccups help the baby expel air from his stomach, practicing for his life outside the womb.

What NOT to do when baby hiccups hit

There are loads of old wives tales that offer not-so-scientific remedies for hiccups. “Cures” that may help adults can be harmful to babies, so take note and AVOID these common techniques when attempting to ease your infant’s hiccups:

  • Drinking water upside down
  • Eating a glob of nut butter
  • Performing the Heimlich Maneuver
  • Sniffing pepper
  • Chewing on a lemon
  • Swallowing a tablespoon of sugar
  • Breathing into a paper bag
  • Getting startled

So, now you have the skinny on baby hiccups

No studies have found hiccups to be harmful. Most likely your baby will grow out of her hiccup bouts as her digestive system matures. So, look forward to that milestone!

Does your baby have hiccups?

What natural remedies help your baby’s hiccups go away? Share with us in the comments below!

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About the Author

Genevieve Howland is a childbirth educator and breastfeeding advocate. She is the bestselling author of The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth and creator of the Mama Natural Birth Course. A mother of three, graduate of the University of Colorado, and YouTuber with over 75,000,000 views, she helps mothers and moms-to-be lead healthier and more natural lives.

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