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Baby hiccups – What are they and how do I deal with them?

What are baby hiccups?

Hiccups in infants are caused by spasms of the growing diaphragm. Newborns are especially prone to the hiccups after a good feed because they may have gulped down the milk too quickly or swallowed a little air. Hiccups are pretty common and don’t normally last for too long.

How can I prevent my baby from getting the hiccups?

Working out the cause of the hiccups can be quite tricky as there could be a number of things that cause them. You can however, follow a few things to try and avoid them.
1. Feed on time – Don’t wait until your baby is wailing to feed them. Make sure you feed on time as the calmer he/she is, the less likely it is that they gulp down air and the easier their digestion will be.
2. Keep your baby upright – After your baby has been fed, try and keep them upright to let the milk go down.
3. No activities after feeding – After eating, babies don’t want to do too much because they need to let their food go down – very much like us adults. Wait a good 30 minutes before you encourage them to do anything energetic.

How do I get rid of the hiccups if my baby gets them?

Your babies hiccups will go eventually and more often than not they will go on their own. However, if you see your baby is distressed or fed up of them, here are a few tips to try and get them to go a bit sooner:
1. Change his/her feeding routine – If your baby is having trouble with their digestion, it is a good idea to try to give them shorter, more frequent feeds.
2. Rub their back – When the hiccups are in full swing, sit your baby up and rub their back for about 20 mins along with soothing sounds to make them relax.
3. Wind them – If your baby gets the hiccups in the middle of a feed, take a break and try winding. This will get rid of any excess air in the stomach that might be causing the hiccups. If your breastfeeding, try and burp your baby in between the breast swap. If your bottle feeding, try and burp them every 2-3 minutes.
4. Make sure they are latching on properly – Often babies get the hiccups because they are swallowing too much air, due to not latching properly. If you think this is the case, make sure that his/her lips are covering the areola (pigmented skin surrounding the nipple) and not just the nipple.
5. Try gripe water – This has been used for decades and generations. It is a fantastic combination of water, cinnamon, fennel, ginger and camomile. It really helps with your child’s digestive problems. You can find it in most pharmacies.
6. Introduce a pacifier – A lot of parents choose not to give their baby a pacifier but if your child is constantly getting the hiccups, then introducing one might be a good idea. Sucking on the nipple can help your baby relax his/her diaphragm which could ease the hiccups.

What should I avoid if my baby has the hiccups?

There are so many suggestions/myths on the best way to get rid of the hiccups. What may work for adults, and older children, doesn’t necessarily work for babies and some practices can be very dangerous.
Here are some things you should NOT try:
1. Don’t startle/frighten your baby – Many people say scaring gets rid of the hiccups. This won’t work with your baby and will most likely just upset him/her and make them cry (whilst still hiccuping).
2. Don’t put a wet towel on their head – This is a pointless exercise and doesn’t do anything to relieve the hiccups. It will just make your baby wet and probably more irritable.
3. Don’t get them to hold their breath – It is very difficult to make a baby hold their breath so some parents resort to pinching the nose and closing the mouth. Don’t do this. It can be very dangerous.
4. Don’t shake your baby – Never, under any circumstance shake your baby. It is extremely dangerous and will not get rid of the hiccups.

As mentioned, hiccups normally go on their own. It is important to be patient and soothing with your baby. Even if they don’t understand your language yet, through your body language and tone, they will understand that you are there for them and they will take great comfort in that.
If your child has prolonged bouts of hiccuping and is visibly upset, then you should take them to the paediatrician as soon as you can. There could be something which you are missing.
If your child’s hiccups persist frequently (not necessarily upsetting them) even after their first birthday, it is worth consulting your doctor.

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