Our guide on how to stop hiccups in a baby outlines why hiccups start, several methods to ease them, and when to consult a doctor about them.
Newborn babies often have hiccups, especially in the first few weeks and months after birth. What are the causes of baby hiccups and why not to worry if your child is often hiccuping?
Babies have hiccups in the womb
From the 9th week of pregnancy onwards, the unborn baby can get hiccups in the womb. The reason for this are breathing exercises in which the embryo raises and lowers its chest. The amniotic fluid is pumped through the diaphragm to train the muscles for the later “correct” inhalation and exhalation. Excess air escapes in the process and leads to hiccups in the belly of the expectant mom.
Hiccups are harmless but can sometimes become bothersome and uncomfortable. To put it simply, symptoms of hiccups originate in the diaphragm. This flat muscle separates the chest and abdominal cavities. It is the driving force in diaphragmatic breathing, which is also often called abdominal breathing, but this is not medically correct. The diaphragm contracts downwards and the volume of the chest increases. This creates a negative pressure that sucks air into the lungs through the open glottis. When the diaphragm relaxes, the air flows out of the lungs again.
Hiccups in infants as a protective mechanism and exercise
In infants it can especially happen after breastfeeding come to hiccup or feeding. The reason for this is the not yet fully developed diaphragm muscles that control breathing.
Malfunctions cause these muscles to contract irregularly. This causes the baby to inhale, but the lid of the larynx closes immediately. The air flow then collides against this barrier and creates the hiccup. At the same time, no more air can escape and the upward flow of milk is stopped.
The hiccups are therefore a very useful protection mechanism for the baby from swallowing and the reflux of stomach contents into the mouth. At the same time, the diaphragm and rib muscles are trained.
This may be used to train the little ones’ breathing reflex. According to another theory, the reflex prevents fluid from entering the windpipe. Infants are also more likely to hiccup in this case. According to a Canadian researcher, this could have the purpose of getting air out of the stomach, similar to burping. This creates space for the little ones to be able to absorb more milk while sucking. In adults, the hiccups probably have no function, by the way.
How to stop hiccups in a baby
Since the baby has known the hiccups since early pregnancy, it has got used to it and does not find it painful or annoying. Plus, sooner or later he’ll go away on his own. How can you get rid of hiccups? If you still want to know how to stop hiccups in a baby, you can try the following methods. If you notice that your baby is irritated by this, you can still help out. All of the following ways ensure that the diaphragm relaxes and breathing is controlled again:
- Offer your baby something to drink. Usually it is enough if you put it on again or pour a little water out of the bottle. In addition, you should let your baby make an ample “burrow” after every meal.
- Relaxation can also drive away the hiccups , so you hold your baby in your arms, sing something to him, caress him or gently massage the soles of his feet.
- Since hiccups can also be triggered by temperature fluctuations and the cold , make sure that your baby is always dressed warmly and equip your changing table with a heat lamp. A warm pillow in the cot can also help the diaphragm to relax again.
- Finally, a somewhat strange-sounding tip: blow your child’s face very lightly. As a result, it changes its breathing rhythm and the hiccups may soon stop.
If the hiccups persist for more than a day or keep returning, you should see a doctor. Persistent hiccups can indicate serious medical conditions that need treatment. It can also lead to an insufficient supply of oxygen.