Hic… Hic! We’ve all had them, and we all know how annoying hiccups can be! But when your baby has hiccups, you can’t get them to drink from the other side of a glass, ask them to hold their breath, or try any of the weird and wonderful ‘cures’. And you definitely shouldn’t make them jump! So, what can you do to prevent and stop baby hiccups?
firstly… what are hiccups?
Hiccups are the involuntary contractions of the diaphragm (the muscle below the lungs). When you breathe in, the diaphragm pulls down and when you breathe out, it relaxes and air flows out of your lungs. Sometimes the diaphragm becomes irritated and pulls down with a jerk making you suck air into your throat suddenly. When the rushing air hits your voice box, your vocal cords close suddenly… Hic!
Hiccups are common in newborns and babies under one due to their still-developing digestive system. Some of the same triggers that cause those annoying hics for us can cause your baby to hiccup. You’ll know, whether you’re breast or bottle feeding, that it’s really easy for your baby to swallow some air as they feed which can increase the risk of hiccups. You may find though, that your baby is prone to getting hiccups after they feed, which might be caused by reflux (reflux is normal, and as long as your baby is otherwise well you don’t need to worry).
Did you know that babies even hiccup in the womb? Feeling your baby hiccup can be exciting, like feeling those kicks and the odd somersault. You shouldn’t worry – it’s totally normal!
Take a look at our top tips on how to get rid of newborn hiccups below...
how to stop baby hiccups before they start
• Don’t overfeed your baby. Put simply, feed twice as often and half as much. If your baby’s stomach distends too fast or becomes too full, this can trigger the diaphragm muscle to go into spasms… Hic! It may take a while to work out the feeding balance which works for you and your baby.
• If you’re breastfeeding, try slowing down the feeding, stopping to wind your baby as you switch breasts. Listen to your baby while they feed. If you hear gulping sounds or hear them taking in air, your baby may not be latching on to your breast properly… Hic! We know that breastfeeding can be difficult to master but don’t give up! You may just need to review the latch and make sure your baby’s lips are tightly sealed around your areola.
• If you’re bottle feeding, keep the bottle at a 45° angle so the air moves to the bottom of the bottle and check you’re using the correct flow teat. If the teat flow is too fast, your little one might fill up their stomach too quickly causing irritation… Hic! If the teat flow is too slow, your hungry baby may become frustrated and try to suck harder and faster gulping in too much air… Hic!
• Feeding your baby in a more upright position when they’re relaxed and happy; and burping baby more often during feeds can also help prevent the hics. Try sitting them upright for 20 minutes or so after a feed to allow their food to settle and keep those pesky air bubbles from settling in their tummy. Straight after a feed is also probably not the time for bouncing games!
how to cure baby hiccups when they’ve already started…
If the hiccups begin while you’re feeding, simply rocking your baby or giving them a gentle back rub can stop baby hiccups. The goal is to try to get your baby to relax, which in turn should hopefully calm their diaphragm and stop the hiccups.
Hic.. Hic… Hic! If the baby hiccups continue for a few minutes after you’ve stopped feeding, continuing with the feed may help.
As we know ourselves, hiccups can come without warning, so if your little one is hiccupping without being fed or recently fed, keep them calm and relaxed. Try offering a little sip of water or let your baby suck on a dummy (remember, you shouldn’t give your baby a dummy until breastfeeding is properly established). If your baby is still hiccupping, don’t worry, they’ll probably stop just as easily as they started.
so, when should you seek help?
Most baby hiccup episodes only last a few minutes and though they can be uncomfortable, they are not painful or in any way life-threatening for your baby. You should seek medical attention however if your baby hiccups for hours on end, are uncontrollable, or happen very frequently. The cause may be harmless and simple, but if you are still worried have a chat with your midwife or health visitor.