Hiccups might seem like a troublesome condition -- particularly when they startle your baby and make him feel unsettled. However, a case of the hiccups is usually a harmless -- and painless -- digestive issue. There are a few triggers that can take place during feeding times that can bring on a case of the hiccups.
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Just a Hiccup in the Road
A hiccup is just a strong spasm of your baby's diaphragm, which is the muscle that moves up and down when he breaths in and out deeply. Hiccups probably aren’t a new occurrence for your infant; he was likely experiencing them in your womb. Your baby's diaphragm is located very close to his stomach, so what is happening at feeding time can potentially affect his diaphragm, too, making the muscle start to spasm. Fortunately, as your baby's digestive system matures, the frequency and severity of hiccups will decrease.
If your munchkin continues eating long after he's full, this could be contributing to his hiccup problem. When his stomach gets too full, it begins to distend (stretches out a little), which can cause his diaphragm muscle to begin to spasm. Help your youngster slow down a little by pausing to burp him when you switch from one breast to the other. Wait for a few moments to pass and then continue feeding. The short break will give his stomach a few moments to begin processing the milk and also help him to register that he’s not running on empty. Breastfeed more frequently while reducing quantity each feeding session to help reduce hiccups.
The Air In There
Too much milk isn't the only way for your baby's stomach to become a little distended. Air is another culprit that can contribute to the hiccup episodes. If he is swallowing too much air during breastfeeding sessions, you might need to make a few small adjustments to ensure the only thing being swallowed is dinner. Take a look at the way your baby is latching on during her next feeding to ensure he is forming a tight seal around your areola -- not just your nipple. The sounds you hear during feedings can also let you know what's going on; if he is making a substantial amount of gulping noises, he might be sucking in air from nursing too quickly. Try to begin feedings before your baby is frantic for food. Keep him upright for 15 to 20 minutes after a feeding to allow any air that sneaked its way in to rise and enable him to burp.
More Than a Nuisance
Hiccups that take place on a regular basis -- even when your baby is latching properly, feeding only until he is full and burping up any swallowed air -- can signal the possibility of an underlying issue. Gastroesophageal reflux (known as GER) and gastroesophageal reflux disease (known as GERD) are conditions whereby some of the contents of his stomach are regurgitated into his esophagus. This can bring on pain and hiccups. However, hiccups aren't usually the only symptom of GER. Other indicators that your baby might have this condition include coliclike behavior, pain-related night-wakings, spitting up frequently and pain in his abdomen after breastfeeding. If making changes to your baby's feedings does not help to eliminate the hiccups, or he is experiencing any of the other symptoms associated with GER, talk to your health care practitioner about your concerns.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- HealthyChildren.org: Burping, Hiccups and Spitting Up
- KidsHealth.org: What Causes Hiccups?
- La Leche League International: How Do I Position My Baby to Breastfeed?
- La Leche League International: Breastfeeding the Baby with Gastroesophageal Reflux
- KidsHealth.org: Gastroesophageal Reflux
- HealthyChildren.org: Hiccups, Spit-ups and Burps
- HealthyChildren.org: Infant Vomiting