How To Get Rid Of Baby Hiccups
Seeing a baby in distress is a feeling that every parent knows and hates. As with pets, babies cannot tell us what's wrong and this can lead to a lot of distress as we struggle to know how best to help them.
And seeing as we all know just how frustrating the hiccups can be, this is something that no one enjoys to see their young children go through. If your baby keeps hiccupping and burping then, what can you do?
Of course, there are many home-remedies and old-wives' tales that promise to hold the answer. Maybe you're considering leaping out on your baby in an attempt to terrify them into stopping! Hopefully, you don't need us to tell you why this isn't a great idea
So instead, let's turn to good-old science for the answer. Don't worry: it's perfectly normal for your baby to have hiccups from time to time and there are plenty of very easy treatments to help them.
What Causes Hiccups?
Hiccups are caused by spasms that affect the diaphragm. The diaphragm meanwhile is a sheet of muscle that lives just above your abdominal cavity and just below your lungs. Its job is to help us breathe by flexing to squeeze the air out of the lungs.
It then lowers itself, expanding the lungs again and forming a vacuum for air to rush back into. Most of the time it does all this just fine, but sometimes it starts to ‘twitch' uncontrollably.
This is why many babies will experience the problem when they have had too much to drink, or if they have been crying a lot (which is all the time).
When this happens, the baby's stomach can swell up with milk, or their lungs can become tired and both these things can then lead to the twitching.
Your job as Mum or Dad then is to get your baby to relax again! Fortunately, there are a few ways you can do this.
Curing Infant Hiccups in a Few Simple Steps
To get your baby to calm down and to stop hiccupping, try following these steps:
First, sit down with your baby and hold them in the colic position. For those unfamiliar with this term, it means that the baby will have their belly facing downward and you will be cradling their jaw between the thumb and index finger. This helps to expand the abdominal cavity, thereby creating more space for the diaphragm.
Gently drape your baby's body over one thigh while still holding them in this position. You should have their head in one hand and their rear end in the other to prevent them sliding off and dropping onto the floor. Their weight will now be applying very slight pressure to the diaphragm across your knee.
Now you are going to very slowly rock your leg back and forth or up and down. This way you are essentially massaging the diaphragm while at the same time soothing and relaxing your baby.
While doing this, try singing or humming to your baby. This is important because as your baby screams they will be gulping in more air.
It's very frustrating having hiccups. We get it. But if your baby keeps screaming and crying then they are only making matters worse. Singing will also help to calm you down and when you do that, your baby senses the change and often calms down too.
More Strategies for Solving Hiccups
One of the easiest options for solving hiccups is simply to feed your baby. This has a ton of different benefits. Firstly, when your baby concentrates on suckling, they will forget their hiccups and they will naturally relax their diaphragm.
Likewise, the milk will help to soothe their stomachs and in the short term, this combination can easily be enough to cure hiccups in a large number of cases.
At the same time though, when you feed your baby milk, it will be digesting magnesium. Magnesium has plenty of different roles in the body, but one of the most potent and important is its ability to help us relax and feel calmer.
This is why we often drink warm milk before we go to bed – because it has the effect of preparing us for sleep.
Speaking of relaxing that diaphragm, a great option is often to give your baby a warm bath. You remember the last time you got into a warm bath: you probably felt your entire body relax and release tension!
Well it's no different for your baby, only in this case you're hoping they'll release the tension from their diaphragm specifically. It will certainly often calm a baby down and as we've discussed, that's half the battle!
Hold Your Baby Upright
Another option is just to hold your baby upright. This can help to prevent reflux as well as hiccups and helps everything to move in the direction that it's supposed to be headed. The power of gravity!
Use a Pacifier
Another option is to use a pacifier. This is a great way to distract them, stop them crying and get them to use that suckling motion again.
A common baby hiccups remedy is to use ‘gripe water.' This is a combination of herbs and water that some people believe can help with a range of stomach upsets. The herbs vary but tend to include the likes of ginger, fennel, chamomile and cinnamon. There isn't much evidence to support this one, but it can't hurt to try!
Like we said earlier, it's horrible seeing your baby suffer and persistent hiccups is something we wouldn't wish on our worst enemy! Thus it's easy to get into a bit of a ‘flap' when we see our child suffering from hiccups and to become upset and distressed ourselves.
This only worsens the problem because it draws attention to the issue and causes more stress and tension.
Think about your own hiccups. When do they go away? It's when you forget about them! So try to teach your baby that hiccups aren't anything to be upset about and hopefully they'll calm down.
Could Colic be the Problem?
When a baby cries intermittently and with no obvious cause, this can point to a number of things that might be wrong. In cases where the bouts last for a few hours a day though, this might point to colic.
And yes, colic can also correlate with and cause hiccups. The two are closely linked, and hence why the ‘colic' position is recommended for helping your baby. So, if your baby is crying, hiccupping and won't settle, then this is possibly the explanation.
It's also possible that hiccups may have caused your baby's gas, seeing as hiccups might cause an infant to swallow air repeatedly. This is another reason it's so important to help your baby if they seem to keep hiccupping!
What is Colic?
The precise cause and mechanism of colic is not fully understood, but it essentially boils down to wind. It affects about 5-25% of infants at some point in their lives and normally begins at about 2-3 weeks, lasting until the baby is 4-6 months old. It can also be a problem for older babies.
The understanding is that colic is caused when gas builds up in the abdominal cavity, leading to pain and discomfort. The risk of colic seems to be greater for babies whose mothers smoked when they were in the womb.
What do you do if your baby has colic? Fortunately, it's a relatively harmless condition and will pass on its own with time. If you want to help comfort your baby in the meantime though, you can try the following home remedies
Again: a warm bath will help your baby's colic but what's more, it can also help to soothe them more generally and send them off to sleep. Warm water is a great muscle relaxant as well as being comforting.
If now isn't a good time to bath, then you can wrap your baby in a warm blanket. A slightly damp blanket around the stomach will do an even better job, essentially acting as a hot water bottle. You can also use hot water bottles filled with lukewarm water for older children.
Gently push your baby's knees in towards their stomach while they're lying flat on their back. This process is very similar to the process of massaging their stomach with your own knee.
The easiest way to get rid of trapped wind in a baby is simply to burp them. Hold your baby over one shoulder and lightly tap their back to help them dispel the trapped wind.
This is an anti-flatulent powder that you can add to some water. It will also aid digestion and can help to relieve trapped gas.
Chamomile tea is very comforting and is a great treatment for all kinds of gassy stomachs. Of course, this is more suitable for older babies and you need to be careful to ensure it isn't too hot. Feed to your baby in small doses (think a teaspoon) only.
Peppermint tea can also have a similar effect at calming the stomach. Try giving your baby just a couple of drops. Note as well that breastfeeding mothers can drink these teas too to provide their babies with some of the benefits.
There are also a number of things you can do as a Mother or Father to prevent hiccups from occurring in the first place.
One example is to try and prevent overfeeding. Babies aren't quite as good as adults when it comes to knowing when they've had their feel and when it's time to stop gulping down food. A little like a shark, they can sometimes find themselves going into a kind of feeding frenzy!
This gulping can then result in hiccups and that is why it is so important to take regular breaks and to make sure that your baby wants to keep on feeding. This is true whether breastfeeding or using a bottle.
This also comes down to learning your baby's ‘feeding signals'. They will tell you if they want more or if they're just drinking because the option is there: you simply have to listen carefully, and this is something you'll learn with time – don't worry, you'll get it!
It can also make a big difference to think about the position your baby is in when they are feeding. If they are leaning back too much, or if their stomach is impeded, then this can cause them to swallow awkwardly and can cause them to get the bloated feeling that might lead to hiccups. Just the same as you need to sit up straight when you eat!
Another tip is to try feeding your baby more frequently but in smaller quantities. If you are used to feeding your baby in a few sittings, try adding in a few more. This way, they'll be much less likely to overfeed in future.
Similarly, take time out after a meal to keep your baby upright to help all that food go down. Burping your child regularly can also help a great deal!
Help! My Baby Still Won't Stop!
If you have tried all these things and still your baby is hiccuping, then you might find yourself going mad. Don't panic: in the vast majority of cases, the hiccups will be self-limiting, meaning they'll disappear all on their own. And while it can be upsetting not being able to help, just comforting and soothing your baby is often enough.
Over time, you'll become more familiar with what is causing these hiccups and how you can treat them. And if you don't start to notice trends emerge, consider keeping a diary so that you can look for triggers and correlations.
With all that said, if you are concerned because your baby seems to get hiccups continuously, or because their hiccups won't go away, then consider consulting with a physician to be on the safe side. Likewise, if you suspect you baby has colic, then ask for their advice and they may be able to help.