What causes hiccups in newborns?

Hiccups are a very common occurrence in newborns 1. Hiccups can be violent and seem to spring up at random times 1. They may be concerning for parents, but they are not harmful to the baby.

What Are Hiccups?

Hiccups are convulsive, spontaneous tightenings of the diaphragm 1. They occur at the same time as the tightening of the larynx and closure of the glottis, arresting the inflow of air.

Causes of Hiccups

The exact cause of hiccups is unknown 1. Experts believe that newborns who get hiccups may drink their breast milk or formula too quickly 1. Drinking too quickly can cause a baby to swallow air. Sometimes during a feeding a baby can be upset, which can also cause her to drink more quickly and thus induce hiccups 1.

How Long Do Hiccups Last?

Most hiccups last for just a few minutes 1. Sometimes they will come and go all throughout the day, lasting a few minutes, an hour or all day. Sometimes the hiccups come and go randomly 1.

Very rarely, hiccups will last longer than 48 consecutive hours 1. These are called "persistent hiccups.” Even more rarely, hiccups will last longer than a month 1. These are called "intractable hiccups." These types of rare hiccups can cause fatigue, lack of sleep and weight loss 1. If your newborn experiences either persistent or intractable hiccups, he must be checked by a doctor 1.

Is Your Newborn in Pain?

Fortunately, hiccups will not hurt your newborn 1. Most newborns do not even seem bothered by hiccups, even though hiccups can be violent or loud 1. Most of the time, parents are bothered by the hiccups more than the newborn 1. As long as your newborn is smiling, eating, sleeping and happy, you have nothing to worry about.

What Can You Do?

To help prevent hiccups in newborns, try to get your baby to drink more slowly by watching the bottle carefully or watching her breastfeed 1. If she begins gulping quickly, gently withdraw the bottle or breast so she can calm down. You can then begin feeding again. Also, burp her more frequently than normal. If hiccups do begin, gently pat your newborn to encourage her to relax 1. You can even try distracting your newborn by walking around and showing her new things in your yard or home.