We have all experienced that involuntary spasm that produces a cough-like sound. Hiccups take place when the diaphragm contracts involuntarily and suddenly causing a person to quickly draw in air. This air is suddenly stopped by the opening between the vocal cords closing resulting in the cough-like sound of a hiccup. Hiccups are rather common and babies aren’t spared from them.
Babies have been known to experience hiccups in the womb. This can happen as early as 6 weeks post conception though in those early stages the mother may not it. In later stages of the pregnancy, the baby’s hiccups are extremely noticeable. Whenever the baby hiccups, the bump usually jumps from time to time, mostly every few seconds as though the mother is having a hiccup. This occurs often in the second and last trimester; almost every day and is not something to worry about unless it is excessive and accompanied with other changes in the baby’s movement.
Newborns infants and toddlers also experience hiccups. They are thought to be a result of the diaphragm being irritated or stimulated. Some pediatricians believe that it hiccups can be triggered by sudden drops in temperature or feeding.
What to do
They are many treatments thought to get rid of short term hiccups with some originating from centuries ago. If your baby has hiccups, try the following:
- Gently rub the baby’s back. Though old measures such as shocking the person with hiccups are thought to work, babies should be handled gently.
- Putting the baby on the breast or giving them water to drink if they are old enough has been known to help get rid of hiccups.
- Give the child something to suck on
- Change the baby’s position to help them burp and relax
- Hiccups can occur during feeding. If this happens, give time for them to stop before you continue to feed the baby then try to make feeding leisurely and calm.
- If the hiccups are long-term, talk to your pediatrician. Observing the baby for any other symptoms also helps in determining the cause.
When to worry about hiccups
Hiccups are a normal occurrence in people across all ages right from babies inside the womb to grownups. They are often short term and go away on their own or with a little intervention. Their frequency also decreases as the baby grows older. There are however instances when hiccups may require more attention. Though rare, hiccups have been known to last as long as 48 hours. Babies can have hiccups frequently but if they are excessive and uncontrollable especially after age 1, you should talk to the pediatrician about it. This is particularly important of the hiccup bouts are accompanied by coughing, irritability and spitting up. Though rare, long-term hiccups can be caused by an underlying disease. These diseases include:
- gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- conditions of the respiratory system such as asthma and pneumonia
- conditions that irritate the nerve controlling the diaphragm (vagus nerve) such as meningitis
- metabolic conditions
- Conditions affecting the brain such as encephalitis or brain injury.
Often when these diseases are present, there will be other symptoms accompanying the long-term hiccups but it doesn’t hurt to have your baby checked even when he is presenting persistent hiccups only.