Newborn Hiccups – Why They Occur and How to Get Rid of Them?

For adults, hiccups can be annoying. Having water, holding our breath, distracting ourselves – we try every trick in the book to get them to stop. Although hiccups in babies are not harmful in most cases and last hardly for a few minutes, they can be as irritating as they are for grown-ups. This article will help you understand hiccups and tips on preventing and stopping hiccups if they do occur. 

 Why Do Newborns Hiccup?

The hiccups start in babies while they are still inside their mother's womb. While no one can really tell why do newborns get hiccups, or if there is just one thing that triggers newborn hiccups, they are spasms of a newborn baby's still developing diaphragm. 

Gulping milk too fast, swallowing of air, overfeeding – any of these can trigger newborn hiccups. Sometimes, a sudden change in their stomach temperature, having something cold after something warm, or vice versa, can also be what causes hiccups in newborns. 

How Long Do Baby Hiccups Last?

A newborn baby, until they start semi-solids or solids, can experience newborn frequent hiccups many times a day, and each episode can last up to 10 minutes. As long as your baby is not showing any signs of distress or discomfort, there is nothing to worry about. However, if the hiccups last longer or your baby seems uncomfortable, reach out to your baby paediatrician and understand the root cause of the hiccup episode and how to get it to stop. 

Can You Put a Baby Down While the Hiccups? 

Hiccups are nothing but spasms of the diaphragm; thus, although it is not dangerous or harmful to put them on their back while they are having hiccups, it might make them uncomfortable. Keeping them in your arms in an upright position is better, as hiccups can also lead to throwing up or vomiting. If this is the case of newborn hiccups after feeding your baby throw up while lying down, it can get messy, and the spit or milk can also enter their nose. Thus, holding them upright and comforting them through the hiccup episode is best. 

How To Get Rid of Baby Hiccups

Watching your little one in discomfort is not a great sight, and you might wonder how to stop newborn hiccups. Here are some tricks that work for many parents. 

  • Take a break, rub their back, and burp – If your baby has hiccups while breastfeeding, consider taking a break from feeding and burping your baby. Burping your baby is essential even during the feeding, and not just at the end, and this can help eliminate the chances of painful gas and uncomfortable hiccups.
  • Offer a breast – Suckling motions can help relax your baby's diaphragm spasms, thus if the hiccups are occurring not during the feeding time, comforting them with a breast can help them get rid of hiccups. 
  • Change your baby's position – This might not guarantee that your baby will stop hiccupping, but this works in a few cases. Changing your baby's position can help them relax and stop the hiccups. 
  • Let them stop on their own – Sometimes, the best approach you adopt is to let it pass. Hiccups are usually nothing to worry about, and within 8 – 10 minutes, they go away on their own. 

How To Stop Baby Hiccups in Breastfed Babies

  • Burp the baby more frequently, even while feeding. 
  • Switch the breast and give them a break if fast feeding or overfeeding is triggering the hiccups.
  • If, in your observation, swallowing air and latching seems to be the issue and triggers hiccups, speak to a lactation consultant and try to figure a better latch and position for breastfeeding out. 

How To Stop Baby Hiccups in Bottle-fed Babies

  • Similar to breastfed babies, stop in between and burp them more often. 
  • Position the bottle so that the air is on the bottom of the bottle, and there are no chances of your baby swallowing air along with milk/formula. 

Regardless of whether you're giving baby the bottle or the breast, these tips can help to stop baby hiccups

  • Don't put the baby down immediately after feeding. Instead, keep them upright for 20 – 30 minutes after feeding. 
  • Rub your baby's back for a few minutes. 
  • Pick them in your arm and move them in gentle rocking motions to comfort them.

What not to do for baby hiccups 

  • To combat hiccups in grown-ups, we have heard that startling them or scaring them works. DO NOT try this with kids. 
  • Similarly, other tricks like holding the breath, putting a wet cloth over the head, etc., can be dangerous for babies. DO NOT attempt those to stop hiccups. 
  • If your baby is less than 6 months old and has not started solids or semi-solids, DO NOT offer them water to stop the hiccups. 

How to Prevent Baby Hiccups

Instead of getting worried every time your baby starts to hiccup and run around trying to stop them, how about a few tips that can help you prevent them in the first place! 

  • We have established that overfeeding or feeding very fast can lead to hiccups. This generally happens when your baby is extremely hungry. Adjusting their feeding time to offer a breast or bottle before this stage is reached can help avoid hiccups. 
  • Get into a habit of frequent mid-feed burping. 
  • Newborn hiccups and gas are interrelated at times. Thus, if your baby is bottle-fed, get an anti-colic design that minimizes the chances of air swallowing while feeding.
  • Make sure your baby's latch on your breast is perfect. 

Experiencing hiccups several times a day is normal for newborn babies, and you have nothing to worry about. But if hiccups are accompanied by other symptoms such as difficulty breathing, vomiting, or discomfort, it is advised to check with your paediatrician.

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