What you need to know about baby hiccups


What are hiccups?

According to children’s health experts at the Nemours Foundation in the US, hiccups occur when the diaphragm (the dome-shaped muscle that pulls air into your lungs) gets irritated. When this happens, it pulls down in a jerky way, which causes a build-up of air in the throat. When the air rushing in hits the voice box, the vocal cords close suddenly and there’s a big hiccup.

Why do babies hiccup more often?

A new baby’s hiccups can be caused by various factors, explains Heidi Murkoff, author of the What to Expect When You’re Expecting series. Some babies hiccup when they get a fright, giggle too much or for too long, drink too quickly or gulp down milk.

The good news is that hiccups on their own aren’t harmful to your little one. However, they may be linked to a bigger, more serious issue such as reflux, which is uncomfortable for babies. “A wet burp or wet hiccup is when a baby spits up liquid when they burp or hiccup. This can be a symptom of acid reflux or, less commonly, gastroesophageal reflux disease – also known as GERD,” explains medical writer and researcher, Tayla Hoffman. If your child hiccups constantly and for long periods at a time, see your GP or paediatrician who can rule out any underlying health issues.

ALSO SEE: How to cope with your baby’s acid reflux 

Baby hiccups start early 

Did you know that some babies start hiccupping as early as 9-12 weeks gestation? In fact, some moms-to-be know exactly when their little one has a bout of hiccups as their tummies jerk and jolt around for a few minutes. A recent study published in the journal, Elsevier shows that although there isn’t one specific reason why your baby might hiccup more in the womb, some evidence points to the fact that hiccupping has a purpose in pregnancy.

The jerking motion of the hiccup causes an increase in amniotic fluid around the baby. This is important because a developing foetus needs to swallow a certain amount of amniotic fluid to help with the formation of the gastrointestinal tract.

How to treat and prevent baby hiccups 

Although hiccups aren’t bothersome to babies, they might be to you. If you’d like to stop your little one from hiccupping, “try and let your baby nurse slowly or suck on a bottle or pacifier which may quell the attack and relax the diaphragm” says Heidi. Overfeeding is also another common cause of hiccups, so when breastfeeding, try to slow down and burp your baby more often. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests burping your bottle-fed baby after every 50-100ml. If your baby is breastfed, you should burp her when they switch breasts.

ALSO SEE: How to burp your baby 

To prevent baby hiccups in future, try these tips: 

  • Feed your baby when she’s in a calm state
  • Don’t overfeed your little one and take your time with feeds
  • Keep your baby in an upright position when feeding and for a little while after
  • Avoid any vigorous activities (such as bouncing) after a feed
  • Don’t let your baby get too hungry before feeding her. This will help to prevent gulping down milk and swallowing too much air
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