Ask the Midwife How to Stop Hiccups in Babies

by Gail Chapin, Certified
Nurse Midwife

My ten-week old baby gets hiccups all the time. They donít seem to bother her, but I am wondering if there is anything I can do.

If your baby gets the hiccups, thereís a good chance she got them before she was even born. Lots of pregnant women report the sensation of short, jerky moves by the fetus. These are hiccups believe it or not!

Mothers-to-be who report feeling their fetuses hiccup often have babies with a hiccuping habit thatís most noticeable during their first few months.

What causes them? Infants tend to get hiccups as they gulp down formula or breast milk, filling their tiny stomachs with food and air. For toddlers or older kids, hiccups often occur when they eat too much or too fast. Excitement or surprise that causes a quick breathing-in reaction - say, jumping into a chilly pool - can also do it. These sudden intakes of air or liquid force the diaphragm to spasm, which makes the glottis (the opening between the vocal cords that regulates airflow) close quickly, creating the hiccup noise.

Hiccups tend to go away on their own in a few minutes. They rarely cause the infant any discomfort. If a bout strikes when an older child is eating solid food, sucking on hard candy, or chewing gum, remove the item from her mouth, since she could choke.

What should you do? Try giving the baby more breast milk or formula. If she is bottle-feeding, change the nipple size so she is not gulping formula because it is coming out of the bottle so fast. If you are going to lay a hiccuping infant down, be sure to position her on her side, not her back, with her head slightly higher than her tummy. A successful remedy for older children is to have the child hold her breath for a little while. This allows carbon dioxide to build up in the blood, which will stop the spasming of the diaphragm. Some other popular treatments include: swallowing several times without taking a breath or covering the hiccuping personís ears with moderate pressure and having her drink a glass of water. It also works to startle the person, who will gasp; this interrupts the airflow and rights the diaphragm.

Do you have questions about pregnancy, birth or womenís health? Send it to:

Gail Chapin, CNM
The Birth Place
14478 Molly Pitcher Highway
Greencastle, PA 17225
Or call, 717-593-9173.