Mother holding her newborn baby with hiccups.

Why do babies get hiccups?

Newborn hiccups happen every now and then.

“A hiccup is part of a natural process,” said Ameera Nauman, MD, a pediatrician with OSF Medical Group – Pediatrics. “Hiccups in newborns are normal. Generally, they’re very mild, and they usually go away after a few minutes.”

What causes hiccups in babies

A bout of hiccups occurs with a spasm of the baby’s diaphragm. The diaphragm is a sheet of muscle below the lungs. When it contracts, air is drawn into the lungs. When it relaxes, air is pushed out and you get a hiccupping sound.

Usually, those movements occur in an even, controlled rhythm. But, when that rhythm is interrupted, the vocal cords tense up and suddenly close, which is the reason for a hiccup.

“With newborns, hiccups mostly happen because of eating,” Dr. Nauman said. “The baby might eat a little too fast or a little too much. Their belly gets full and starts to touch the diaphragm and cause those spasms. Sometimes, they ingest air while taking a bottle or breastfeeding. Sometimes, there’s a little reflux involved.”

How do you get rid of a newborn baby’s hiccups?

Find the cause of your baby’s hiccups

> Talk to your pediatrician

When adults get hiccups they might turn to an array of time-honored home remedies: drink a glass of water, hold their breath or breathe in and out of a paper bag.

How to stop baby hiccups looks a little different. After all, Dr. Nauman said, “You can’t give a 6-month-old child a glass of water to drink.”

Burping is the best way to get rid of baby hiccups. If breastfeeding, burp the baby when switching breasts. If bottle feeding, burp the baby about halfway through.

“Sometimes, the baby needs a break so their tummy has time to digest. When they stop feeding and relax, they’ll stop hiccupping. “

Steps to prevent baby hiccups

Another thing to do is try to prevent hiccups from starting in the first place.

Adults have learned the basic things that trigger hiccups. They know to avoid eating or drinking too much or too fast, gulping drinks or sucking too hard from a straw. They’re aware that excess caffeine or alcohol can cause a fit of hiccups, too.

Babies and kids need help learning the ropes.

“With a baby bottle feeding, make sure it’s full of milk and there’s no air in the nipple,” Dr. Nauman said. “If breastfeeding, make sure the baby’s lips are really latched on. When they’re finished feeding, don’t lay them right back down. Keep them up for 15 or 20 minutes to help them better digest. Rubbing their back is soothing and helps alleviate hiccups.

When to call the doctor

A baby’s hiccups don’t cause any physical damage. Even if they go on for 10 minutes or more, they generally are not a cause for concern. But if hiccups persist, a parent should be vigilant.

“Hiccups can be a little more concerning if the child also has other signs, such as being really fussy or arching their back a lot while feeding or after feeding,” Dr. Nauman said. “Sometimes the baby might spit up a lot. If they have a lot of reflux, keep an eye on how they’re gaining weight.

“If you’re concerned or your baby is uncomfortable, then call your pediatrician. Generally, hiccups are very mild and they go away. But if you’re concerned with persistent hiccups, discuss that with your pediatrician.”

Last Updated: May 29, 2024

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About Author: Katie Faley

Katie Faley is a Writing Coordinator for OSF HealthCare. She graduated from Illinois State University with a degree in English Studies. Before joining OSF HealthCare in 2021, she worked in magazine editing, digital marketing and freelance writing.
Katie is often found listening to ‘60s folk music, deciding on a new skill to learn, losing track of time in a library or spending time with her family and friends.

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Categories: Birth & Maternity