Hiccups in babies

Hiccups in babies

Most new parents are freaked out by their little ones’ frequent periods of hiccupping. Perhaps this is because we know how uncomfortable hiccups are for grown-ups. However, hiccups in babies is a fairly normal thing. In fact, many babies already hiccup in the womb, from as early as 21 weeks in the pregnancy. Mom will feel rhythmic little movements that seems to last a while. It is important to note that these movements do not count as normal movements for baby and cannot be used to determine that baby is doing well (so still chat to your doctor if baby’s normal movements seem less than usual).

Most babies seem not to be bothered by their hiccups. It bothers their parents endlessly though.

Why do babies hiccup? 

The diaphragm is a muscle between the abdomen and the chest. In babies, this muscle is still immature, and it can easily get stimulated or irritated. When it contracts, it sucks air into the oesophagus. In response the vocal cord contracts which produce the hiccupping sounds.

Hiccups can easily be triggered by feeding, or if baby has swallowed air. Some even believe that it helps baby to get trapped air out of the tummy.

How do you get rid of hiccups in babies?

Hiccups mostly only last for a few minutes at a time and then resolve on their own. Although there are many theories on how to treat hiccups, there is very little evidence on what works best. Different things may also work for different babies. You can try these tips:

  • Sucking may help to relax baby’s diaphragm, so give your baby a little top-up feed or offer a pacifier.
  • Burp your baby, as the amount of air in baby’s tummy may be a trigger for hiccups. For babies who swallow a lot of air during feeding, it may be worthwhile burping halfway through a feed. If your baby does swallow a lot of air it may be worthwhile to have his/her latch assessed (if you are breastfeeding), or to do paced feeding (if you are bottle feeding baby).
  • You can give your baby the homeopathic tissue salt Mag phos (no 8), one tablet three times a day. Dissolve it in a spoon of cooled down boiled water and rub the paste in baby’s mouth. This can be especially useful if baby pulls up his legs while cramping, or seem to have some projectile vomiting and explosive winds.
  • Pregnant mom’s feeling baby hiccupping in the womb a lot can also take Mag phos, especially if they themselves are experiencing frequent cramps in their legs.

What not to do?

There are many common folk remedies and myths on how to treat hiccups, many of them potentially harmful.

You should not push on baby’s fontanelle or eyeballs, or pull on her tongue. Don’t give traditional remedies not recommended by a trained healthcare professional. You should also not give your baby water or tea to drink to get rid of hiccups. Babies younger than 6 months should drink only breast milk (or then baby formula if not breastfeeding).

When to contact your doctor

It is unlikely that hiccups will cause harm. But speak to your doctor in the following cases:

  • If hiccups seem excessive, and last for long periods
  • If your baby seems very cranky and unhappy otherwise
  • If baby has signs of reflux like excessive posseting and crying bouts during and after feeding
  • If baby also coughs
  • If a child still hiccups frequently after the age of one year
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Christine Klynhans is a midwife and lactation consultant with a firm believe that gentle parenting can change the world. She has worked in midwifery since competing her B.Cur nursing degree in 2004, and has a special passion for education and for writing. She currently works in a well-baby clinic and give antenatal classes and breastfeeding support. She enjoys working with parents of babies and toddlers, aiming to help them find gentle solutions to their parenting problems and assisting them in incorporating healthy habits and natural health alternatives into their daily lives.