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Why Do Babies Have Hiccups?

Why do babies have hiccups

While nobody knows for sure why babies have hiccups, Cleveland Clinic and Dr. Liermann explain that newborn hiccups are far from uncommon, and aren’t usually something you need to be worried about.

What are newborn hiccups?

Hiccups are repeated spasms or sudden movements of the diaphragm, the muscle at the base of the lungs, that your baby can't control. They are most likely caused by irritation to the diaphragm, which makes the muscle start to spasm or cramp. That causes the vocal cords to clamp shut, creating that distinctive “hic!” sound you know.

Getting hiccups at an early age shouldn't be a cause for concern. In fact, developing babies can get hiccups even before they’re born, and many pregnant people have felt the telltale flutters in their bellies.

 “We don’t know exactly why, but hiccups may be caused by increased gas in the stomach,” Dr. Liermann says. “If babies overfeed or gulp air during eating, that could cause the stomach to expand and rub against the diaphragm, generating those hiccups.” 

Hiccups and GERD

More often than not, it is said that hiccups do not bother babies. But sometimes, hiccups can be a sign of gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), which causes stomach acid to back up into the baby’s esophagus.

As Stanford Children's Health advises, other reflux related symptoms can occur a bit differently in each child, and they can include:

  • Belching

  • Choking

  • Coughing often

  • Fussiness around mealtimes

  • Gagging

  • Getting ear infections often

  • Having coughing fits at night

  • Not wanting to eat

  • Rattling sound in the chest

  • Stomachache

  • Wheezing

If you notice multiple GERD symptoms in your baby, along with hiccups, or have any other health concerns, it is always best to seek professional advice directly from your healthcare provider.