It’s a sound familiar to all of us mamas of newborns out there: something like a squeaky toy crossed with a chirping bird. Baby hiccups!
The look of slight surprise on your little one’s face when they get the hiccups can be genuinely adorable.
But are infant hiccups ever a problem?
Actually, the majority of the time babies are pretty unfazed by hiccups.
When we adults get an occasional attack of the hiccups, it can be annoying and feel uncomfortable.
Babies under one-year-old, however, experience hiccups as a normal part of everyday life.
Would you believe that newborns spend up to 2.5% of their time hiccupping!
But every so often you might notice that hiccups are disturbing your baby, and there are a few simple things you can do to put them at ease.
So let’s take a closer look at the weird and wonderful world of baby hiccups: why they happen, when they can cause discomfort, and what you can do to help soothe infant hiccups.
Why do babies have hiccups?
Hiccups – in babies and adults – are one of the body’s most mysterious reflexes.
Scientists still aren’t sure exactly why they occur.
However, we do know something about the mechanics behind that peculiar little sound.
It’s all to do with a dome-shaped muscle called the diaphragm that sits at the bottom of your chest.
This muscle relaxes and contracts to let you – and your baby – breathe easily.
Occasionally, something can happen to irritate the diaphragm and make it contract very quickly, and when this happens you get a matching contraction in the vocal cords (that’s the part of your throat that allows you to sing so beautifully in the shower).
This sudden closing of the vocal cords is what makes that hiccup sound.
Scientists haven’t come up with a definite answer about the reason for frequent hiccups in newborn babies.
Hmmm – sounds like someone needs to spend more time researching cutely hiccupping babies… Sign us up!
Amazingly, babies are even known to hiccup while they’re still growing inside you.
After around the sixth month of pregnancy, you may have felt some fluttering sensations in your belly.
Easy to mistake for kicks at first – but if you stay very still and feel the twitches coming from one place, there’s a good chance they’re hiccups.
Are hiccups bad for newborns?
As we’ve seen, a newborn hiccups a lot. It’s up there with sleeping and crying as one of their favorite activities.
Frequent baby hiccups are totally normal up until your little one has their first birthday party.
Around that time, you’ll probably start to hear fewer of those tiny chirps.
Babies aren’t usually unduly disturbed by a bout of hiccups.
They often sleep through them, and their breathing is rarely affected.
So, if your baby is hiccupping but overall seems happy and comfortable, there’s likely nothing to worry about.
If you’re hearing a lot of hiccups around feeds, though, it’s possible that a little bit of digestive upset is behind them.
Below, we look at some things you can try when feeding to prevent or stop baby hiccups.
But, mamas, if you’re concerned that your baby seems really uncomfortable with their hiccups, don’t hesitate to get your doc to take a look.
Especially if your little one is crying a lot around feeding time and spitting up more often than usual.
It may be that baby has a digestive problem like GER (gastroesophageal reflux), which is very easy to treat once it’s diagnosed.
How to stop baby hiccups: 6 tips
Infant hiccups that come out of nowhere usually disappear again after a few minutes. In this case, you can just sit back and enjoy the cuteness to the max.
And, mama to mama, please don’t try any of the “traditional cures” for hiccups that you might use with an adult.
Poor baby won’t appreciate being given a shock!
So, how to get rid of baby hiccups? Here are some tips to try:
1. Burp your baby
You can try burping every 2 to 3 ounces, for formula feeding, or when you switch between breasts while breastfeeding.
2. Feed regular, small amounts
You may feel that the hiccups happen when your baby guzzles lots of milk all in one big feed. If that’s the case, try switching to smaller feeds at frequent intervals.
This can help your little one not to swallow too much air.
3. Keep your baby calm
Mama, we hear you: “that’s easier said than done!”.
Sometimes babies just aren’t up for calm.
But if you can keep them as relaxed as possible during a feed, that could prevent the hiccups from starting up.
Try feeding just before they get really hungry and start to cry, so they’re a little more chilled for their meal.
4. Try a different bottle
If your baby gets a burst of hiccups during a formula feed, it could be that the design of the bottle is the culprit.
Some types of bottles are just more prone to trapping air than others.
Why not try asking the community on Peanut??
You might discover a new bottle that suits your baby better.
5. Go easy on the bouncing
We all know how much fun it is to toss that baby in the air and hear them squeal.
But doing that right after a feed is a recipe for gassiness, hiccups – and possibly messier consequences.
Consider saving the bouncing and energetic playtime for later, when their little belly is less full.
6. Let baby suck on a pacifier
For hiccups that start spontaneously and don’t seem feeding-related, you could try letting your baby suck on a pacifier for a little while.
This can help relax the diaphragm (the dome-shaped muscle we mentioned earlier) and may ease the bout of hiccups.
Hiccups and happiness
Mama, when your newborn hiccups, you can tell whether they’re happy and comfortable or whether they’ve got some tummy upset that needs attention.
We know you’ve got it covered.