What to do when a baby hiccups and how to prevent it in the future

Hiccups are common and normal in babies.

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Hiccups are common and normal in babies.
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Ariel Skelley/Getty Images

  • Once the hiccups start, the most simple and effective way to get rid of newborn hiccups is to wait it out and let them run their course.
  • If you want to try and prevent hiccups before they start, try slowing the baby down during feeding. If they’re drinking too quickly, babies can take in too much air, which can cause their stomach to swell and irritate the diaphragm, as a result.
  • Newborn hiccups are rarely a cause for concern. But if they seem to be lasting for days, causing other signs of distress in your baby, or they frequently occur in a baby older than 12 months, it’s a good idea to consult a doctor.

  • This article was reviewed by Sara Siddiqui, MD, who is a clinical assistant professor with the Department of Pediatrics at NYU Langone.
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Newborn hiccups are normal and rarely a reason for concern. Here’s what you need to know about what causes hiccups in newborns and when you should consult a doctor.

What causes newborn hiccups

Hiccups can actually start while your baby is still in the womb. The reasons for fetal hiccups are not yet known, though some theories indicate they are linked to lung development as the baby practices breathing by taking in amniotic fluid.

Newborn hiccups, on the other hand, are better understood. They can occur when the diaphragm spasms, forcing air out through the vocal cords. Newborns can get an irritated diaphragm from eating or drinking too fast or by a prolonged period of crying, says Dr. Gina Posner, a board-certified pediatrician at Memorial Care Orange Coast Medical Center.

What to do about newborn hiccups

Once the hiccups start, the most simple and effective way to get rid of newborn hiccups is to wait it out and let them run their course. “It usually makes the parents go crazy because they feel bad for their baby, but the babies usually don’t get bothered by it at all,” Posner says.

Hiccups are not harmful to babies, and attempting to stop them isn’t necessary. They usually last about 10 to 15 minutes, though they can last up to an hour or two, Posner says.

If you want to try and prevent hiccups before they start, try slowing the baby down during feeding. If they’re drinking too quickly, babies can take in too much air, which can cause their stomach to swell and irritate the diaphragm, as a result.

If you’re feeding your baby from a bottle, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends burping them after every two to three ounces of milk intake. If you’re breastfeeding, you can burp them when you switch breasts.

When to see a doctor

Newborn hiccups are rarely a cause for concern, Posner says. But if they seem to be lasting for days, causing other signs of distress in your baby, or they frequently occur in a baby older than 12 months, it’s a good idea to consult a doctor.

Moreover, if your baby is extremely fussy and has prolonged periods of crying with hiccups you should also consult the pediatrician.

Though rare, frequent hiccups can be a sign of gastroesophageal reflux (GER), which occurs when stomach acid and partially digested food come back up through the esophagus. Most babies will outgrow GER by nine to 12 months of age, but if your baby is frequently and forcefully spitting up, refusing feeds, or crying and arching their back during feedings, you should seek medical attention as these can be signs of complications from reflux.

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