One of the things that seem to bother new parents is the frequent hiccups in babies. These hiccups may start when the baby is in the womb and remain a persistent feature even after the child is born. In fact pregnant women claim that they can feel baby hiccups as early as in the sixth week of pregnancy.
Regular hiccups in children are normal and are usually not a cause for concern. So why do babies hiccup so much? Before we can understand the reason for baby hiccups, let us first try to find out what causes hiccups in the first place.
The diaphragm functions by expanding to let the air into the lungs and deflating when the air is let out. The sudden contraction of diaphragm when sucking in air into the lungs is what causes hiccups.
This causes the epiglottis flap covering the food pipe to seal off the airway, thus shutting off the vocal chords and causing the “hic” sound. In babies, eating too fast, drinking milk or baby formula or sudden excitement can trigger off a series of hiccups. This is because in these cases the babies tend to swallow more air which can causes the diaphragm to tighten.
Most of the times the hiccups are observed when you are feeding the baby. You can stop the feeding and allow the baby to burp by holding him upright. This relives the pressure on your child’s diaphragm and stops the hiccups.
However if it does not stop you can still continue with the feeding and after some time you will observe the hiccups subsiding. Since the epiglottis covers the entry to the lungs, you do not have to worry about the baby choking on the milk while feeding. The baby hiccups can last for anywhere from a few minutes to even hours.
In most cases hiccups do not irritate babies and will probably stop on their own. However if your child gets fussy and cranky due to the constant hiccups you can try holding your baby upright on your shoulder and patting its back. Giving the baby something to drink like water or breast milk can stop the hiccups.
Do not feed the baby when it is excited and ensure that you give small amounts of food at a time. If your baby has an extreme case of hiccups then it may be a great idea to consult a doctor to rule out a possibility of Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD).