What are Hiccups?

 Hiccups are a very normal phenomenon of the body, even though they can be annoying and appear without warning at the wrong time. In adults it is sometimes obvious why a bout of hiccups have started. Perhaps because of that chilli laced dinner or because of a cold fizzy dink or beer going down too quickly. But hat about a baby, what can cause hiccups and what do they possibly mean?

Baby Hiccups during pregnancy

Are some babies just good hiccuppers? Many pregnant women say that they can feel their baby hiccup regularly and for long periods of time in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. This sometimes feels like the baby moving but has such a regular rhythm that it is obviously hiccups.

Foetal hiccups like this are very natural and some babies seem to have more of a disposition to it. Doctors postulate that the hiccup reflex is useful in strengthening the abdominal and diaphragm muscles prior to birth and can help prepare baby for breathing outside the womb.

Newborn hiccups, the first few weeks after birth

Many parents find that their newborn baby has frequent bouts of hiccups too, this is not surprising as they are likely just continuing to experience the same reflex as they did in the womb.

There are so many changes in the baby's body after birth and numerous different newborn reflexes show themselves, that your baby may not even notice the bouts of hiccups as they are not yet completely aware of what it happening to them or the sensations that they are experiencing.

If your newborn does seem to be distressed when hiccups last for a while, do your best to comfort them. If it is just one of those newborn reflexes then this is little that you can do beyond giving them a soothing hug.

Hiccups beyond the newborn stage

Some possible explanations

After you have spent a few weeks with youre baby and are past all of those newborn experiences you are likely to see some patterns to your baby's hiccups when they do occur. Remember it is you who knows you baby best, often you just need to think about when the hiccups are occurring, to able to spot a pattern.

With that in mind, see if any of the following common theories behind hiccups ring any bells:

  • Hungry Baby - it is thought that some babies tend to hiccup when they are hungry, this perhaps being a reaction to the adult equivalent of an empty and rumbling tummy. Does your baby tend to hiccup before they are due for a feed? and do they stop once well into a feed?
  • Needs to burp - if the baby has a lot of air in their stomach that they have not been able to get up with a good burp, then this can cause hiccups. In this case its best to try to help the little one bring up that extra air.
  • Cooling down quickly - it is thought that hiccups can be brought on by relatively quick drops in baby's temperature, perhaps in a similar reaction to shivering.
  • Reflux - after feeding or bringing up some milk may give your baby the hiccups. At this point a little more milk or a treatment like gripe water may help calm the reflux.

Most of all you should remember that hiccups are a perfectly natural thing to happen, and a likely thing to happen as a baby's immature body adapts to regular life. Most of the time you baby will not mind the hiccups, will sometimes laugh at them and will certainly not miss a feed because of them.