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What to Do If Your Baby Has Hiccups

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 09, 2021

You might notice that your baby hiccups a lot — they might have even hiccuped when they were still in the womb. This is entirely normal and is usually no reason to worry.

What Causes Hiccups

Hiccuping is one of the first habits your child will develop. Hiccups are essential to your child’s brain and breathing development. 

Babies — and adults, for that matter — have no control over their hiccuping. Hiccups are a reflex that happens when the diaphragm causes a prompt opening and closing of the vocal cords. They usually happen when eating, drinking, or dealing with stressful events. 

Hiccups are common in babies. Most newborns hiccup quite often, which can be a sign that your baby is healthy and developing well. 

What to Do When Your Baby Has Hiccups

Babies are not usually bothered by their hiccups and can even eat and sleep when they have them. Usually, a bout of hiccups will go away on its own within 5–10 minutes, making treatment unnecessary. 

If you're concerned about your baby's hiccups, there are some strategies that might help them stop sooner or prevent them altogether:  

Burp your baby during feeding. Babies may start hiccuping during feeding because they have excess gas that's irritating their stomach. Propping them upright and gently tapping their backs can help.

Slow down feeding. If you notice that your baby always hiccups during feeding, you may be feeding them too quickly. Slowing down could lower the chances that your baby will get the hiccups.

Only feed when your baby is calm. Try to feed your baby before they get hungry and start crying. If your baby is upset during feeding, the milk or formula may not go down smoothly, which can irritate their esophagus.

Hold your baby upright after feeding. An upright position helps ensure that your baby's digestion goes smoothly. 

Make sure the nipple in your bottle is completely full of milk when you feed. If you feed with a bottle, reduce the air in the nipple before you feed your baby. The extra air can make hiccuping worse.

Get the right nipple size for your baby. If you bottle-feed, make sure your nipple flow is not too fast or too slow for your baby. The right flow can depend on how old your baby is, so you might have to change your bottle nipples every few months. 

Get a good latch. If you're breastfeeding, make sure your baby gets a proper latch over the whole nipple. 

You may need to see a doctor if your baby hasn't stopped hiccuping for an extremely long period of time or if they look uncomfortable while hiccuping. 

Be careful when using home remedies for hiccups. Many websites might tell you to use remedies that are appropriate for adults but not for babies. Your baby's esophagus and stomach are delicate, so be sure the remedies you're using are safe. 

Hiccups are normal and usually don't hurt your baby. In younger babies, hiccups are usually a sign that they need to be seated upright during or after feeding, that feeding needs to be slower for them, or that they need more time before or after feeding to relax. If your baby has a long hiccuping bout, this is no cause for alarm. Seek medical help if your baby looks like they're in pain or if they haven't stopped hiccuping for many hours.  

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Clinical Neurophysiology: "Event-related potentials following contraction of respiratory muscles in pre-term and full-term infants."

Flo Health: "How to Get Rid of Baby Hiccups? Newborn Hiccups Explained."

Pregnancy, Birth, and Baby: “Hiccups.”

UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital: “Your Baby at 1 Week.”

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