Baby Hiccups: What Causes Them, Plus 4 Natural Remedies
Hiccups can happen to anyone — even your newborn. For you, a case of the hiccups might be a minor inconvenience. But for your little one, baby hiccups can be uncomfortable and even a little scary.
The baby experts at Mustela are here to help. In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about baby hiccups and even give you some natural remedies to help get rid of the hiccups and keep your baby happy!
What Are Baby Hiccups And Are They Normal?
It doesn’t matter if it’s you suffering from hiccups or your baby, the mechanics are exactly the same.
When your baby breathes, their diaphragm — a dome-shaped muscle between the lungs and the stomach — pulls down to let air into their lungs and help them inhale. The diaphragm then relaxes so that air can flow out of their lungs in an exhale.
Sometimes, though, something irritates your little one’s diaphragm and causes it to spasm repeatedly over a period of time. These involuntary spasms force your baby to rapidly suck a small amount of air into their throat.
Once in the throat, that fast-moving air hits your baby’s voice box, causing it to contract and close suddenly. This results in the distinct “Hic!” sound that gives the activity its name.
While hiccups sound unpleasant, the reality of them is much less severe. It’s true that some hiccups can be strong, but most are little twinges that may make your little one laugh. And some are so slight your baby may sleep through them.
But even if your baby has a more serious case of hiccups, they aren’t in any sort of danger. So rest easy — baby hiccups are a natural occurrence and are completely normal!
What Causes Hiccups?
The exact cause of hiccups is still a mystery, but there are several theories that explain how the trigger may differ from person to person and baby to baby.
One modern theory holds that baby hiccups result from too much air trapped in their tiny stomach during feeding. The hiccup is a way for your newborn’s body to release that excess air.
Another older theory claims that hiccups result from irritation of your baby’s esophagus. This theory suggests that your newborn’s body naturally regurgitates tiny amounts of milk out of the stomach, where it aggravates the esophageal lining and causes it to spasm.
Some doctors believe that non-digestive factors (such as feeling nervous or excited, stress, or a sudden change of temperature) can play a role in causing baby hiccups.
Whatever the ultimate cause may be — and it could be different from one baby to the next — there are a number of natural remedies you can try to rid your little one of this minor irritation.
Natural Remedies For Baby Hiccups
For baby hiccups, never use the common “cures” you may try for a case of adult hiccups. These include:
- Holding your breath
- Drinking water quickly
- Having someone surprise you
- Inhaling smelling salts
- Any other “folk remedy” that a friend of a friend swears by
These activities can be extremely dangerous for your newborn, and there’s absolutely no scientific proof that they even work.
So what can you do? Here are the safest and best natural remedies for baby hiccups.
1) Wait It Out
Nine times out of ten, your baby’s hiccups will stop on their own. So if they aren’t bothering your little one, wait it out and they’ll run their course eventually.
If your baby’s hiccups don’t stop on their own or they regularly continue for an hour or more despite your best efforts, talk to your pediatrician. While it’s rare, baby hiccups can be a symptom of a more serious medical issue.
2) Burp Your Baby
If you notice that baby hiccups occur soon after your little one starts feeding, take a break and burp them. Hold them upright with their head on your shoulder and rub or gently pat their back.
This natural activity helps to get rid of the excess air in your baby’s stomach that may be causing the hiccups.
If they’re still hungry after their hiccups stop, feed them a bit more and burp again as needed.
3) Help Them Relax
When your baby is tense, aggravated, or even just uncomfortable, they may develop a case of hiccups. Getting them to calm down can make the hiccups go away.
Here are some ways to help your little one relax:
- Make sure their diaper is clean
- Keep them warm
- Hold them so their head is above their hips
- Give them a massage
- Sing to them
- Sway gently
- Facilitate skin-to-skin contact
- Give them a warm bath
- Take them for a drive or a ride in a stroller
- Put them in a baby swing
- Rub some cream on their skin
- If they’re old enough, give them a toy
Bonus tip: try gently massaging your little one with Mustela’s Baby Oil to keep them calm and relaxed. This soothing oil encourages a sense of well-being in your baby while moisturizing their skin!
Taking your baby’s mind off their hiccups goes a long way toward remedying the situation.
4) Give Them A Pacifier
Whether your baby’s hiccups happen during feeding or at random times throughout the day, you can help the spasms stop by giving your little one a pacifier.
The action of sucking — and even the comfort and familiarity of the pacifier itself — can help your baby’s diaphragm relax so the hiccups disappear.
How To Prevent Hiccups
Sometimes, the best way to deal with hiccups is to prevent them from happening in the first place. Try these suggestions to keep hiccups at bay.
1) Pay Attention
One of the best ways to prevent baby hiccups is to pay attention to when they start.
For example, you may notice that the hiccups occur a few minutes after your baby starts feeding. Or you may notice that the hiccups happen after you lay your baby in a certain position.
Once you identify when the hiccups start, you can work backward to identify the likely cause. Then you can make adjustments to how you feed your baby or how you hold them to prevent hiccups.
2) Check Your Baby’s Bottle
If hiccups are a major problem even after you’ve adjusted your feeding and holding behavior, your baby’s bottle might be the culprit.
Some bottles trap more air than others. This air can find its way into your baby’s stomach, where it can cause a hiccup response.
Try a different brand or bottle design to see if that helps prevent the buildup of air.
3) Make Sure Your Baby Is Calm While Being Fed
A calm baby is a happy and hiccup-free baby. To avoid the agitation that can lead to a bout of hiccups, make sure your baby is relaxed when you feed them.
For others, keeping your little one calm may mean doing one or more of the activities in the Help Them Relax section above before you settle down for a feeding.
4) Avoid Energetic Activity After Feeding
Baby hiccups can develop even after feeding time is over. For this reason, avoid energetic activity for 20 minutes or more after your little one stops eating.
Steer clear of bouncing up and down or high-energy play that may irritate your newborn’s tummy and cause their diaphragm to spasm.
5) Keep Your Baby Upright
Gravity plays a big role in helping your baby’s digestion. That’s why it’s important to keep them upright — with their head above their hips — for 20 to 30 minutes after every meal.
When you lay your baby flat, gravity pulls the milk toward the center of their stomach rather than toward the bottom where it can be properly digested.
Even holding your baby or putting them in a swing, car seat, or carrier so that their head is slightly elevated above their hips allows gravity to work with their body for better digestion — and hiccup prevention.
A Comfy Baby Is A Happy Baby
Learning how to get rid of your baby’s hiccups might take some time. Every baby is different, so what works for one might not work for yours. Don’t get discouraged!
Experiment with the natural remedies on this list and try soothing skin care products, like Mustela’s Baby Oil and other gentle baby products, to help your little one relax. Soon, your baby will be happy and hiccup-free!