Baby hiccups can often be noticed in a little one after they have just got done feeding, be it by bottle, breast, or eating solid foods. Because babies are so small, and their systems are still developing, you might notice them hiccupping throughout their entire body. But be rest assured, the hiccups are probably bothering you as a parent more than they are the baby.
What is a Hiccup
Before you can really find a “cure” for hiccups you must first understand what a hiccup is and what causes it to occur. The cause for adult hiccups is the same for infant hiccups; however, because a baby’s system is still developing they may occur more frequently. A hiccup is caused by the spasm of the diaphragm. When this happens it causes the vocal cords to move and make the hiccup sound. The diaphragm is a muscle located at the bottom of your chest. It aids in breathing. While inhaling, the diaphragm pulls downward assisting your lungs to fill with air. When you go to exhale, the diaphragm then pushes upwards to assist your lunges in expelling air from them. When it is functioning correctly, many people are not even aware of their diaphragm muscle, until it starts to spasm and causes annoying hiccups to occur.
What Causes Hiccups
The most common causes of hiccups are eating or drinking too quickly or too much at one time, laughing hard, or crying hard. Because hiccups are not considered a medical emergency, and usually resolve in a short amount of time on their own, it is extremely rare to have to visit your doctor for treatment for hiccups. If you find one of these causes frequently result in your baby getting hiccups, your best option is to take note of them and do what you can to keep them from occurring again in the future.
Take a Break From Feeding to Burp
When you are feeding your baby, it is recommended that you periodically stop after every couple of ounces to burp your baby. This recommendation is for bottle fed baby specifically. But for breastfed babies, you should stop to burp your baby when you would normally switch sides. If your baby only feeds on one side, if they break the seal on their own, stopping to burp the baby at this time is ideal. If not, and you do not want to disturb your baby it is important to take the time after feeding to burp your baby then. This will help to prevent your baby from getting too much air into their tummy when you are feeding your infant. Do not be alarmed if your baby spits up when you burp them. This is normal as the baby’s digestive tract is not fully developed like an older child’s is. Often times an air bubble will form and milk comes up with it. Simply wipe your baby’s face clean and they will be fine.
Burping Helps with Hiccups Even When Not after a Feeding
Burping your baby is also helpful at other times when your baby maybe hiccupping. If you notice your baby hiccupping you can first try burping your baby to see if this helps to relieve the problem. Sometimes babies get too much gas in their tummy, and burping the baby results in the air being able to escape the tummy and relief the discomfort that the air can cause. While you are burping your baby, you might not want to bounce them on your lap or knee. This can actually increase the amount of air they take into their tummy or cause them to spit up more. The result is they might actually hiccup longer. Simply hold the baby still on your lap or over your shoulder to burp them to help alleviate the problem.
Let the Baby Suck on a Pacifier
If your baby has a tendency to hiccup at times other than at feedings, and the use of burping does not seem to alleviate the problem you can try other methods. One of the best options is to give your baby a pacifier to suck on. The sucking on the pacifier helps the baby to control their breathing, and to also help relax their diaphragm. When the diaphragm is able to relax, the baby’s hiccups should stop. This may not be an ideal option for moms who are breastfeeding only though, as it could cause nipple confusion. Instead a mom can offer the baby the mother’s clean finger to suck on instead of a pacifier, as this should not confuse the baby and help to maintain the mother-baby nursing relationship. If the baby sucks his or her own thumb this may also result in helping to alleviate the baby’s hiccups. One reason this method might be helpful is because it helps to calm the baby. As the baby calms and relaxes, the diaphragm is also able to relax, thereby stopping the hiccups from occurring.
Try an Infant Swing
Sometimes movement helps a baby’s hiccups to be relieved. One way of doing this is to sway while holding your baby. The gentle movement can help to alleviate the hiccups or any tummy upset that might be causing them. For another option, if you need your hands free for a brief period of time is to use an infant swing. Place the baby in the swing and strap the safety belt on them. Then turn the swing on the low setting for about ten minutes. The gentle sway of the infant swing will help to relax the baby, and in turn relax their diaphragm, stopping the hiccups. For safety reasons, do not leave your baby unattended in the swing, and make sure you can see them at all times.
There are over the counter drops usually given to babies for gas relief. The active ingredient in these drops is simethicone. It is safe enough to give your baby with every feeding, or when you think you baby is suffering from tummy issues. If you suspect your baby’s hiccups are caused by gas pains, the use of these over the counter drops might be helpful in alleviating their hiccups. This is especially true if your baby burps frequently, and also shows signs of gas pains. These signs usually are fussiness, and the baby pulling their legs upwards towards their tummy to get some relief from gas in their system. If your baby is doing this and they start to get hiccups, it is a simple remedy that is worth trying to use to bring them some relief.
Try Using “Gripe Water” to Relieve Hiccups
If your baby has been burped and you have tried letting them suck, but they still continue to hiccup, another option is to give the baby what is called “gripe water” to drink to alleviate the hiccups. This is a home remedy that consists of different herbs that help to alleviate tummy upset for a baby. Depending on the type it may have ginger, chamomile, or fennel to help aid in tummy upset, digestion issues, or colic. You can also make your own gripe water by making a “tea” with one of these herbs and then feeding your baby only a dropper full of it at a time. It can be given to a baby a couple of times a day to help prevent and treat tummy issues and hiccups.
Give the Baby Time
If you have tried these remedies, and the baby does not seem to be bothered by the hiccups, you can simply give them time. Rarely are infants actually in pain when they have hiccups. So unless your baby is in distress, it is completely acceptable to let them run their course and resolve on their own. It is very rare that an infant’s hiccups will continue to progress if left to resolve on their own. If your baby does continue to hiccup for a continuous period of time you can call your doctor’s nurse line and ask them for additional guidance. If they seem concerned, or you want reassurance, make an appointment to see your pediatrician. Underlying medical causes for persistent hiccups are extremely rare but possible.
Avoid Adult Remedies for Hiccups
There are dozens of remedies for helping to alleviate hiccups for adults and older children. No matter how tempting it may be to attempt them with your infant, do not. Some of them are not safe to use with an infant. For instance, most infants should not be drinking water or milk other than their mother’s milk. It is also not possible to get get a baby to safely hold their breath or breath into a brown paper bag. And while your baby may still startle easily if they are a newborn, it can cause them to cry excessively, bring in more air and make their hiccups worse. Instead, stick with methods that have been proven to be safe for use with infants, or consult with your physician if you feel there is something more that you should be doing or something is causing your child to hiccup that you are concerned about.