Hiccups are a normal and harmless part of new baby's digestive system. While they are sometimes an annoyance, hiccups are not painful for breastfed babies, nor are they typically a medical concern. For many breastfed babies, mild hiccups are a standard, daily occurrence and can be correlated to their breastfeeding sessions.Want to lose baby weight? Learn more about LIVESTRONG.COM's nutrition and fitness program!
Hiccups occur in people of all ages---often beginning with fetuses in the womb---as an ordinary and natural spasm or contraction of the body's diaphragm. Pregnant women may even feel a baby hiccup in the third trimester. There are theories that hiccuping in the womb is the fetus' preparation for breathing air with lungs. Many parents note their baby's frequent hiccuping with concern.
Everybody gets hiccups from time to time, but little is known about hiccups. Theories abound but there is little agreement as to their cause. According to the Dartmouth Journal of Undergraduate Science, what is known is that hiccups begin with the activation of the brain stem's hiccup central pattern generator, which also regulates cardiac and respiratory function. The hiccup signal causes a sudden contraction, causing a quick inhalation.
Breastfeeding and Hiccups
Because the diaphragm muscle is located close to the stomach, hiccups associated with breastfeeding are very common, according to Dr. William Sears M.D., Associate Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine and author of over 30 childcare books. Even though they are not usually painful, or a flag for other health problems, Dr. Sears says hiccups are sometimes "unsettling and startling for an infant." The good news is a baby's hiccups naturally tend to decline as the child and her digestive system mature.
If parents are concerned about the frequency of hiccups being anything other than normal, Dr. Sears recommends keeping a hiccup trigger log. This allows parents to recognize if feeding seems to trigger the hiccups, and at what point (during or shortly after the feeding) they occur. Logging the hiccups may demonstrate they fit into one of the following categories:
· Overfeeding: Filling the stomach too much can cause the diaphragm to go into spasms. Slowing down feedings and pausing to burp when switching from one breast to the other may ease hiccups caused by overfeeding.
· Swallowing air: The stomach may also be filling quickly if it is getting too much air along with milk. Reviewing or learning how to best latch the baby on to the nipple can help relieve breastfeeding hiccups.
· Mother's diet: If hiccups are very frequent, something in the mother's diet may be the culprit. Offending foods may include caffeine, soy products, peanuts, shellfish, chocolate, citrus fruits, wheat or eggs. If the hiccups are still problematic after diet changes, Dr. Sears recommends mentioning them to your doctor.
Cause for Concern
If you have any concern over the frequency of your baby's hiccups, talk with your pediatrician. According to La Leche League International, very frequent hiccups combined with other clues such as abdominal pain, frequent burping, frequent spitting up, sudden or inconsolable crying, arching during feeding, disinterest in nursing and "colicky" behavior can sometimes be a sign of gastroesophageal reflux (GER), a common and treatable condition. Breastfeeding can continue, and is often encouraged, after a diagnosis of GER. Learning new breastfeeding positions and strategies specific to this condition helps breastfeeding babies overcome the painful symptoms of GER (see References).