Mom bottle-feeding her baby.

Everything You Need to Know About Baby Hiccups

Newborns do some weird things. As they’re beginning to discover the world around them, this can make for quite an entertaining parenting experience. However, it can also create startling moments that have you running for your pediatrician’s office. To help ease your mind about one bodily phenomenon, here’s everything you need to know about baby hiccups.


Why Do Babies Get Hiccups?

Everyone experiences the hiccups at some point in their life and when they do, the cure is usually to wait it out. Just like in adults, baby hiccups occur because of spasms in the diaphragm, which is a large muscle that aids in breathing. This leads to a sudden closure of the vocal cords, which forces air out quickly. The forced air leaving the vocal cords is what produces the hiccupping sound.

The truth is that in many cases, baby hiccups occur for no underlying reason. However, there are some circumstances that can cause the diaphragm to spasm, thus producing hiccups.

A few of the biggest causes of baby hiccups are overfeeding, swallowing a lot of air, or eating too quickly. All of these situations can distend the stomach, thus putting excess pressure on the diaphragm, which can trigger baby hiccups. As long as your baby doesn’t experience associated distress, there’s no reason to be concerned.

What to Know About Fetal Hiccups

It can come as a surprise to many expecting mothers, but fetal hiccups can also occur. This can be startling, as they happen in quick, repetitive instances that can be felt as motion. Sometimes, fetal hiccups are mistaken for kicks. You’ll be able to differentiate the two because hiccups usually happen in groups and are quite rhythmic. Fetal hiccups occur as your baby begins to practice breathing. During this time, amniotic fluid enters their lungs, which contracts the diaphragm and produces a tiny hiccup.

Although this sounds alarming, fetal hiccups are normal as your baby continues to try out their newly discovered abilities. In fact, hiccups in the womb are an indication that they’re hitting developmental milestones and should be seen as an exciting advancement in your pregnancy!

Track the frequency of hiccups as you get closer to your due date. They should begin to decrease throughout your third trimester. If you notice that hiccups increase during the weeks leading up to your due date, call your doctor. While it’s not always the case, issues with the umbilical cord could lead to an increased frequency of hiccups as you progress towards delivery.


How to Handle Baby Hiccups

Baby hiccups can be adorable, but may cause new parents to be concerned for their infant’s wellbeing and comfort. If there are no other symptoms present with your baby’s hiccups, try one of the following remedies.

1. Burp Your Baby

Hiccups that occur shortly after nursing may be caused by the speed or intensity of feeding. Eating too quickly can increase the amount of air that’s swallowed during nursing or breastfeeding, which can trigger the onset of hiccups. If you notice this happening with your newborn, try to burp them more often. This not only slows the speed of ingestion, but it can also help release trapped air in your baby’s digestive system.

After your baby has consumed about two or three ounces, stop for a burping break. If you’re breastfeeding, burp your baby in between switching breasts. A few gentle pats on the back with a bouncing motion can help alleviate indigestion and reduce hiccups. If your baby is already hiccupping, burp them to alleviate pressure of excess air on the diaphragm. You may also want to try to make it a habit to feed your baby when they’re calm, before intense periods of hunger set in.

2. Try a Pacifier

A pacifier may help reduce the likelihood that your baby begins burping during non-feeding periods. Some babies may simply be more prone to tightening or restricting their diaphragm, but a pacifier can help relax the muscle. For some reason, the sucking motion that occurs with a pacifier has a positive response to hiccups.

3. Use Gripe Water

Gripe water is a type of herb blend that’s sold over the counter. It’s often used as a treatment for babies who experience colic or upset stomachs. Gripe water is made from a combination of herbs and water and has been used as a natural remedy for several infant ailments over the years. However, always talk to your pediatrician before you give your baby anything aside from breast milk. They may recommend avoiding this natural remedy, as there’s no real scientific evidence in favor of its efficacy.

The herbs used in gripe water include things like chamomile, ginger, cinnamon, and fennel—all of which have some great natural properties. If you get the okay to try gripe water from your pediatrician, make sure that you read the list of ingredients carefully. There are several store-bought options that add unnecessary ingredients like additives, sucrose, and even alcohol! If you’re not sure whether or not a brand is okay, get further clarification from your doctor or try a different at-home remedy.

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4. Change Positions

Having a strong latch can reduce the amount of air that’s swallowed during breastfeeding. If you notice that your baby hiccups after feeding in one position, try changing it up during your next nursing session to see if that helps. There are several different breastfeeding positions, each of which offer unique benefits. So do a little experimenting to find something that’s comfortable for you and optimizes your baby’s latch.

5. Give it Time

If your baby is 12 months or younger, the best remedy for hiccupping is to just let them happen. Baby hiccups are pretty common, and, in almost every circumstance, they’ll stop on their own. You can see your doctor if you think they’re excessive, but if your baby is cleared from underlying medical conditions, try to find some joy in your little one’s hiccups. They’re pretty adorable and are a natural part of development. However, if your baby’s hiccups don’t go away on their own, it’s important to talk to your doctor.

When your baby experiences a few hiccups, it’s usually nothing to be concerned about. Everyone gets them from time to time. However fun it may be to try some of the age old “remedies” for hiccups on your friends, there are a few things you should never do with a newborn. For example, don’t try to scare the hiccups away. There is no scientific evidence that this works in adults, but it can be traumatizing for babies. You should also avoid trying to stop hiccups by pulling their tongue or having them drink something while upside down—both of which can be dangerous and are extremely unlikely to have any positive effect.


Preventing Baby Hiccups

Since many cases of baby hiccups occur at random and without any apparent cause, prevention isn’t always possible. There are a few ways you can help reduce the occurrence of hiccups that are caused by eating. Some of the best strategies for preventing hiccups caused by nursing include:

  • Reducing the size of feedings
  • Keeping your baby upright after feeding
  • Repositioning the bottle to reduce air intake
  • Ensuring a strong latch to reduce the amount of air swallowed
  • Engaging in regular feeding to reduce urgent/fast feedings


    When to See Your Pediatrician

    Another cause of baby hiccups is gastroesophageal reflux (GER). If your baby is hiccupping a lot and seems to experience distress with each occurrence, they may be a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) or another medical condition. GERD occurs when refluxes cause the acid within the stomach to rise into the esophagus, thus putting strain or pressure on the diaphragm that triggers a hiccup. While this is more common in adults, babies can and do experience it. However, if your baby has GERD, hiccups will be accompanied by at least one or more additional symptoms. Some of which include:

  • Spitting up
  • Irritability
  • Crying
  • Signs of discomfort
  • Arching the back
  • Coughing


Baby hiccups are generally nothing to be concerned about, but if you suspect something’s wrong, it’s always better to be safe and schedule an appointment with your pediatrician. To help reduce the chances of hunger-related hiccups that happen when your baby tries to swallow breast milk too quickly, supplement nursing sessions with a breast pump. They’re a great way to help ensure your baby is getting the nutrients they need for a healthy development. Byram Healthcare offers a wide selection of breast pumps through insurance to new and expecting moms. Browse our breast pump comparison guide and get started with our easy, three-step ordering process today.