Baby hiccups have an insidious way of striking just as your baby is ready for lalaland—or is finally trying the green food you’ve put in front of them every night for the last thirty nights. Here’s what causes them; and how to cure them. Kind of.
“Hiccups in both adults and babies are stimulated by the phrenic nerve, which is attached to the muscle of the diaphragm,” explains Dr. Lisa Lewis, paediatrician and author.
“The diaphragm muscle helps us breathe, and any interruption of function this muscle may cause hiccups.”
Some hypothesise that this annoying quirk of human anatomy is in fact a remnant of ancient evolution and our link to frog gill systems.
Other experts have a far less useless suggestion; theorising hiccups to be like burping, the purpose a rudimentary way to expel extra air from the stomach—which would make sense because newborns are afflicted by hiccups way more than adults, guzzling faster than their underdeveloped digestive systems can keep up with.
“The gastrointestinal tract of a human operates through reflexes which aren’t
necessarily mature at birth,” says surgeon Dr. Christopher Hollingsworth. “Their immature gastrointestinal tracts need several months after birth to coordinate these reflexes.”
Unfortunately, bonafide cures are slim—unless you wanna scare the daylights out of your newborn after every feed (getting a fright is reportedly one of the only true-er methods of getting rid of hiccups).
In short, it’s all about prevention. Make sure baby is latched on properly to the nipple and feed at a 45 degree angle to keep milk and air bubbles flowing back up. If hiccupping does start, try soothe the (usually startled) baby with skin-to-skin contact, and gentle rocking. A relaxed bubs usually means a relaxed diaphragm, too.
If hiccups are persistent to the point of significant discomfort, have your paediatrician do a check.