Baby hiccups occur due to the contraction of the baby's diaphragm, along with the prompt closing of the vocal cords. During this process, the air leaves the vocal cords forcefully and creates the sound of hiccups. The exact cause of this isn’t known, but baby hiccups are often linked to eating, drinking, and strong emotions including stress or excitement.
Unlike adults, however, hiccups in babies usually don’t affect them. Many babies are able to sleep uninterrupted during a hiccuping bout, and hiccups don’t interfere with the breathing of the baby.
Baby hiccups after eating
Your baby may develop hiccups after eating or drinking, especially if they swallow air during the feed (either breastfeeding or formula feeding). Hiccups in newborns may also occur if they overfeed or eat too quickly. All these factors may cause the stomach of the baby to expand, which pushes against the diaphragm and triggers a spasm, leading to baby hiccups.
If your newborn has hiccups frequently and they cause distress, it may be due to gastroesophageal reflux (GER). In this condition, the esophageal sphincter isn’t developed properly and partially-digested food mixed with stomach acid may regurgitate through the esophagus (food pipe). As the stomach content passes through the baby’s diaphragm, it can trigger spasms and hiccups.
Hiccups in a newborn usually don’t cause any harm. Unlike for adults, hiccups are less uncomfortable for babies and tend not to provoke any distress. So, what can you do for baby hiccups? Many times, baby hiccups get better by themselves. If the hiccups aren’t disturbing your child, simply leave them to get better on their own. When the hiccups in your baby aren’t due to feeding, you can give him or her a pacifier to suck, which helps relax the diaphragm and stop the hiccups.