Hiccups are caused by a sudden contraction of the diaphragm, which draws air rapidly into the esophagus. The characteristic squeak occurs because the epiglottis closes rapidly shutting off the influx of air.
Young babies frequently get hiccups after a feeding. In most cases, hiccups do not bother babies and require no treatment. They will resolve in 5 to 10 minutes. Because hiccups bother adults, it can be hard to do nothing while you wait for them to go away. However, this is one of those situations where patience is clearly a virtue!
If hiccups occur during a feeding, they may bother your baby. In that case, change his position or hold him upright and see if a burp will make him feel better. If this doesn’t work, give your baby an ounce or two of sugar water (1/4 tsp sugar to 4 ounces of water). Hold him upright for a few minutes, and try feeding him again if he seems hungry.
Hiccups bother children more than babies. They usually occur after rapid eating, overeating or the ingestion of carbonated beverages. If hiccups last more that 5 minutes, give your child a teaspoon of granulated sugar. Have him swallow the sugar in one gulp. Repeat this two or three times over 10 minutes if necessary. If the hiccups last more than two hours or your child is very uncomfortable, call your doctor.
- Howard J. Bennett, M.D.