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Newborn, Parenting

Why Do Babies Get Hiccups?

Written by Brian Wu, MD
Health Writer, Author
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If you have noticed that your newborn has the hiccups — a lot! — you might be concerned and wonder just what is going on. Read on to find out about why babies get the hiccups as well as some practical suggestions for making them better.

What Is A Hiccup?

A hiccup, medically speaking, is also known as a synchronous diaphragmatic flutter (SDF) or singulitis. It is an involuntary movement of the diaphragm, the muscle which separates the lungs from the abdominal area. The small “hic” sound that you hear is because when the diaphragm does contract, it causes the vocal chords to close abruptly, which makes the typically hiccupping noise. Babies can do this anywhere from 4 to 60 times a minute! This will often happen when babies are feeding, whether they are fed by breast or by bottle.

Why Do Babies Get Hiccups?

So, why do babies get hiccups? There is actually quite a lot of debate over that question. Reasons that doctors have put forth include:

  • An overly full stomach; the newborn stomach is small and fills up easily
  • Swallowing too much air while breast or bottle feeding
  • Feeding too quickly
  • Stress
  • A sudden temperature change
  • An immature diaphragm (it has not fully developed yet)

If you are worried about why do babies get hiccups, the most important thing to remember is that hiccups are considered perfectly normal. As a matter of fact, many babies begin hiccupping before they are ever born, usually in the second trimester — and some moms can even feel it while they are still carrying! The hiccups will not hurt or distress your baby and after a few weeks, the amount that your baby hiccups will be greatly reduced.

However, there are ways that you can reduce hiccups in your newborn, such as the ones listed below.

What Can You Do To Reduce Hiccups?

If you want to reduce the amount of hiccupping in your newborn, there are many tricks that you can try, including:

  • Don’t wait until a baby is voraciously hungry before you feed them. This might cause them to try to feed too quickly, which can lead to overfeeding or too much air in the belly — both of which can bring on a round of hiccups.
  • Listen closely to your baby while they are breastfeeding; if you hear a lot of gulping sounds, they are probably swallowing a lot of air along with breast milk. If this happens, gently remove them from the breast, wait a few minutes and let them feed again. Slowing down a feed session can help reduce the hiccups.
  • Make sure that if your baby is breastfeeding, they are latching on the right away: they should not only have the nipple in their mouth, but about a large part of the areola (or dark area around the nipple) as well. This will make it less likely that they will swallow a lot of air.
  • Keep your baby in an upright position while feeding, whether they are fed from a breast or a bottle — and afterwards, make sure that they stay upright for at least 30 minutes. This position puts less pressure on the diaphragm and makes hiccupping less likely.
  • Hold the bottle at a 45 degree angle to the baby if you are bottle-feeding. This angle is ideal because it allows air bubbles in the bottle to rise to the top of the bottle — and away from the nipple. This can greatly reduce the amount of air a baby swallows while feeding.

Following these tips will usually make hiccupping less frequent. However, if the tips above are not helping and you feel like the hiccupping is excessive or is interfering with feedings, it is totally OK to call your doctor and report your concerns. As long as it is not excessive, however, it is good to keep in mind that hiccupping is normal and not harmful to your baby — and that with time, it will go away on its own!

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