Baby Hiccups? Here’s How to Solve ‘Em

Hiccups are a harmless quirk of human anatomy–a common digestive annoyance that manifests as early as in-utero. Babies, however, have no clue what these sudden spasms are, and can get a bit unsettled as a result.

Crying baby

Hiccups are contractions of the diaphragm (the muscle beneath your lungs that accommodates their expansion during breathing). They’re normal, and rarely a sign of an underlying medical issue; but they are annoying–even distressing for a baby. Here are a few ways to help relieve your little one’s discomfort:

Keep a hiccup diary

If you notice that your baby starts to hiccup after feeds, there’s usually one of two culprits: overfeeding, or air swallowing.

Try feeding twice as often and half as much–feeding large amounts can distend the stomach too fast; triggering spasms in the diaphragm.

Swallowing too much air during feeds–this usually happens when infants gulp too much too fast–can also distend the stomach and trigger hiccups. For breastfeeding, ensure baby is latched properly; for bottle feeds, tilt bottle at a 45 degree angle. Keep baby at a 30-45 degree angle during feeds, and for at least twenty minutes afterward to encourage burping–which minimises air pressure on diaphragm.

If your baby is suffering from persistent hiccups, it may be a sign of gastroesophageal reflux (GER), a typically temporary condition in which the stomach’s contents is regurgitated up into the oesophagus, sometimes causing hiccups (the reflux need not manifest as spitting up; the baby often swallows the milk and painful bile back down). Other symptoms include sudden night-wakings, and ‘colicky’ behaviour. If this sounds like your baby, mention your concerns to your doctor.

Whatever the cause behind the hiccups, though, the frequency of hiccupping will usually dissipate as your tot’s digestive system matures–around six to twelve months.