Newborn hiccups are very common and usually harmless, but they can be worrying for new parents. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about newborn hiccups, from causes and prevention to remedies and when to see a doctor.
What Are Newborn Hiccups?
Hiccups occur when the diaphragm involuntarily contracts, causing air to rush in and the vocal cords to snap shut, making the “hic” sound we’re all familiar with.
In newborns, hiccups are very common, especially after feeding. This is because babies swallow a lot of air when they eat, and their underdeveloped digestive system has a hard time expelling the excess air.
Newborn hiccups are usually caused by:
- Swallowing too much air while feeding
- Overfeeding or feeding too quickly
- A sudden change in temperature or environment
- Digestive issues like acid reflux or gas
Hiccups are harmless in babies and often a part of their development. The rhythmic contraction of the diaphragm may even help babies strengthen their breathing muscles.
However, hiccups can be uncomfortable or distressing for some babies. As a parent, you naturally want to help soothe your little one.
When Do Newborn Hiccups Start?
Babies can get hiccups as early as when they are still in the womb! Fetuses begin hiccuping as early as 11 weeks into pregnancy as they swallow amniotic fluid, which stimulates the diaphragm.
After birth, newborns may hiccup for a variety of reasons as their bodies continue to develop. They have tiny stomachs and frequent feedings, so they tend to swallow a lot of air, which can lead to hiccups.
Most newborns start getting hiccups:
- Within the first few days after birth
- Frequently after feeding or during burping
- Episodes last less than 5-10 minutes
- Some babies hiccup daily, even multiple times a day
Hiccups tend to peak around 1-2 months of age as babies feed more and their digestive systems mature. They usually taper off around 3-4 months as babies get better at feeding and swallowing.
Are Newborn Hiccups Normal?
Yes, hiccups are very normal and common in newborns. Over 90% of healthy babies get hiccups, especially after eating.
Some key things to know:
- Hiccups are harmless and part of babies’ development.
- They occur as the diaphragm and breathing muscles strengthen.
- Episodes are temporary and resolve on their own.
- Babies don’t appear distressed or bothered.
- Hiccups decrease over time as the digestive system matures.
As long as the hiccups are infrequent, short-lived, and don’t appear to bother your baby, they are perfectly normal and nothing to worry about!
When Should I Be Concerned About Newborn Hiccups?
While hiccups are common and harmless in most cases, there are some instances where you may want to consult your pediatrician:
Call your doctor if your baby’s hiccups are:
- Prolonged – each episode lasts more than 30-60 minutes
- Frequent – occurring over 10 times per day
- Associated with vomiting or difficulty breathing
- Causing visible distress like crying or gagging
- Accompanied by other symptoms like fever, cough, changes in feeding patterns
Premature babies are more prone to severe hiccups that interfere with breathing and feeding. Call your doctor immediately if your preemie has prolonged hiccups.
While rare, some medical conditions can cause chronic hiccups in newborns:
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Urinary tract infections
- Electrolyte imbalance
If your baby’s hiccups seem abnormal or severe, see your pediatrician to rule out any underlying conditions.
What Causes Hiccups in Newborns?
There are a few common causes of newborn hiccups:
Swallowing Too Much Air
Gulping down air while feeding or crying is the most common trigger for newborn hiccups. Bottle-fed babies may swallow more air if the nipple flow is too fast. Breastfed babies can also swallow air if their latch is uneven.
Overfeeding or forceful feeding can cause babies to ingest excess air, leading to hiccups. Feeding too quickly doesn’t give them a chance to burp, so air gets trapped in the stomach.
Conditions like acid reflux and gas can cause hiccups in babies. The involuntary diaphragm contractions of hiccups may be an attempt to relieve discomfort.
Temperature changes, overstimulation, or strong emotions can trigger hiccuping spells in newborns. Crying can also cause babies to gulp air.
Immature Digestive System
Babies have small, underdeveloped stomachs and digestive systems. Hiccups help newborns strengthen their breathing muscles and may aid in digestion.
Preterm birth, low birth weight, and genetics may contribute to hiccups in some babies. But for the most part, they are simply a sign of normal growth and development.
How to Get Rid of Newborn Hiccups
While hiccups go away on their own, here are some tips to try and relieve your baby’s hiccups faster:
Take a break during feeds to burp your baby. Try burping halfway through and at the end of a feeding to expel excess air from the stomach.
- Gently pat and rub baby’s back while holding them upright over your shoulder.
- Repeat any time baby seems gassy or uncomfortable after eating.
Ensure baby is latching properly without swallowing extra air. Hold them upright during bottle feeds. Breastfed babies should latch deeply with a wide open mouth.
Small sips of cool water can help disrupt the hiccup reflex. Always use a bottle nipple or dropper, never pour water into baby’s mouth.
Sucking on a pacifier requires coordinated breathing and swallowing, which may help stop hiccups.
This over-the-counter remedy has herbs that help relieve gas. Give 1⁄2 teaspoon diluted in 1-2 ounces of water.
Rhythmic motion can soothe and calm your baby. Try rocking, swinging, or going for a walk or drive.
Soothing shushing sounds mimic those from the womb and can help relax your newborn and potentially stop hiccups.
Gently massaging or stroking baby’s back, tummy or chest can ease hiccups by stimulating the vagus nerve.
Being close to mom’s chest helps regulate baby’s breathing, circulation, and digestion, which may alleviate hiccups.
Fennel has antispasmodic properties that may relieve hiccups. Steep seeds to make fennel tea and give 1-2 ounces.
Wait it Out
If your baby doesn’t seem bothered, just wait! Hiccups will stop on their own within a few minutes. Distraction can also help.
Never shake your baby or try to forcefully stop hiccups, which can harm your child. Avoid home remedies like breathing into a bag that may suffocate your newborn.
How to Prevent Newborn Hiccups
You can reduce hiccups in your newborn by:
- Burping frequently during and after feeds
- Feeding slowly and avoiding overfeeding
- Keeping baby upright during and after feeds
- Ensuring proper latch while breastfeeding
- Limiting artificial nipples until breastfeeding is established
- Avoiding sudden temperature, environment, or position changes
- Using a slow-flow nipple designed for newborns
- Treating any underlying conditions like GERD
- Keeping baby calm and comfortable after feeds
While you can’t always prevent hiccups entirely, these tips will help minimize episodes. Hiccups will also naturally decrease as your baby’s digestive system matures.
When Will Newborn Hiccups Stop?
Newborn hiccups tend to peak around 6-8 weeks of age as babies feed more frequently. The frequency and duration of hiccups will decrease as your baby gets better at feeding, swallowing, and digesting:
- By 2 months, hiccups should last less than 10 minutes
- Between 3-4 months hiccups reduce to a few times per week
- By 5-6 months, babies rarely hiccup more than 1-2 times per day
- After 6 months, hiccups happen occasionally just like in older children and adults
If your baby is still hiccuping constantly after 6 months, consult your pediatrician to rule out acid reflux or other problems.
Newborn Hiccups: Key Takeaways for Parents
- Hiccups are harmless and very common in newborns, especially after feeding.
- Allow short hiccup episodes under 5 minutes to resolve on their own.
- Try remedies like burping, gripe water, pacifiers and motion to help soothe baby.
- Prolonged or severe hiccups may signal an underlying issue so call your doctor.
- Prevent hiccups by pacing feedings, proper latching, and keeping baby upright during and after feeds.
- Hiccups will decrease around 3-4 months as the digestive system matures.
Knowing newborn hiccups are normal and temporary can help you stay calm. Focus on feeding techniques to reduce air ingestion, and try gentle remedies to ease baby’s discomfort. With time, you’ll learn your little one’s hiccup patterns. But don’t hesitate to call your pediatrician if you have any concerns.