This post has been quality checked in line with our Editorial and Research Policy.

Can Babies Sleep with Hiccups? (Causes and Solutions)

Stephanie-Abi-Zeid.
  • This article has been written, researched, and medically reviewed by Stephanie Abi Zeid (Embryologist, Andrologist, B.S, MSc) for maximum factual accuracy and to ensure unique content.

It’s natural to be concerned if your baby has hiccups as you put them down to sleep.

So can a baby sleep with hiccups safely?

Babies can sleep safely on their back with hiccups because the hiccups themselves are harmless and do not affect the infant’s breathing. However, if the hiccups are present alongside breathing difficulties, spitting, and/or vomiting then seek immediate medical assistance.

But what actually causes hiccups in babies at night?

The main causes of hiccups in babies at night are overfeeding that puts pressure on the diaphragm; feeding your baby hot and cold food successively that results in the diaphragm contracting; emotional excitement that irritates the nerves of the diaphragm, and backflow of food up the esophagus.

So how can you stop your baby from hiccuping at night?

The most effective ways to get rid of baby hiccups is to burp your baby; sit the infant upright to release pressure from the diaphragm; use a pacifier to relax the diaphragm; massage your baby’s back to help relax the diaphragm muscles, or try gripe water (check with your doctor first).

However, there are some things that you should NOT do to try and get rid of your baby’s hiccups:

Do not startle your baby, stop your baby from breathing, pull their tongue out, give water to an infant under 6 month’s old, switch to a different baby formula, smack their back, or give honey to a child under 1 year old.

The rest of this article unpacks these answers in more detail to give you the complete guide to understanding and dealing with baby hiccups at night.

Related: click here to see the best mattresses to buy online for autistic children now.

4 Reasons Why Babies Get Hiccups at Night

Baby hiccups – or singultus – are caused by a compression of the diaphragm and the fast-closing of the vocal strings, and it is this quick closing action that makes the sound of hiccups.

Hiccups are a natural phenomenon in babies and infants, starting early in the mother’s womb, and most babies can sleep with hiccups without being disturbed [1]. 

You may have noticed how some babies lay comfortably on their back while hiccupping, and it does not affect their breathing in any way.

Although the causes of hiccups are not fully understood, we do know they can come about by the following triggers:

1: Overfeeding

When fed too much, a baby may also swallow air, causing the stomach to bloat, and stomach distention puts pressure on the diaphragm, creating muscle spasms that lead to hiccups.

2: Eating Hot and Cold Food Together

Rapid changes in esophageal – the muscular tube that connects the throat with the stomach – temperature can also cause hiccups in babies [2].

For example, giving your infant some cold milk followed by a serving of hot rice cereal shortly after is a food/liquid combo that irritates the nerves near the esophagus, thus causing the diaphragm to contract, and it’s the sudden change in temperature that triggers the baby’s hiccups.

3: Emotional Upset

Strong emotions or emotional upset can also cause hiccups by irritating or stimulating the nerves that control the baby’s diaphragm as they eat.

My baby nephew often gets hiccups when he’s fussy and crying before a feed.

Excitement, stress to unpleasant stimuli, and suddenly breathing in cold air are all triggers that generate hiccups. 

4: Gastroesophageal Reflux (GER)

Persistent hiccups may be a sign of gastroesophageal reflux (GER), which occurs when your baby’s stomach is full, and stomach acids – along with partially digested food and liquid – flow back up into the esophagus and irritate the diaphragm [3].

This condition usually happens in babies and infants because the muscle valve that keeps food in the stomach hasn’t fully formed.

To recognize GER in babies, I ask my patients to keep an eye out for any additional symptoms that come with hiccups, including:

  • Frequent coughing.
  • Spitting up and vomiting.
  • Gagging or choking.
  • Difficulty swallowing.
  • Irritability.
  • Sleep disturbances.

Click here to see 28 of the best designs for a 10-year-old girl’s bedroom.

8 Ways to Stop Baby Hiccups at Night

Here are 8 strategies that you can apply to prevent or stop baby hiccups at night:

1: Keep Track of When Your Baby’s Hiccups Occur

Although hiccups are usually harmless in babies, there are certain things parents can do to help prevent them, and I typically ask my patients to keep a diary or notebook to record when the baby starts hiccupping.

You should note what happens before the onset of the hiccups to help figure out what might be setting them off.

Once you identify the cause, you can make some modifications to how you feed or handle your baby to prevent and control hiccups.

For instance, if you notice that the hiccups only occur when you put your baby in the crib in a specific position, you can move them into another position.

2: Optimize Your Baby’s Feeding Patterns

If your infant hiccups frequently during or shortly after eating, it might be a symptom of reflux, caused by tiny bubbles of air stuck in their tummy, making them feel uneasy and irritable.

If you think reflux or gas is causing the hiccups, it is worth changing your baby’s feeding patterns, and below are a few adjustments that can help prevent or stop hiccups during bottle-feeding or nursing:

Adjust Feeding Time and Food Quantity

If your baby hiccups a lot during a nighttime feed, you may be overfeeding them or feeding too rapidly, so you can help relieve the hiccups by giving smaller portions more often [2]. 

Slowing down the feeding process stops the baby from getting too full and ingesting too much air, which in turn helps relax the diaphragm.

Burp More Often

Whether you breastfeed or bottle-feed, babies can start hiccupping if they have excess gas in their stomach, so remember to burp your baby more often to get rid of any excess air that may be causing the hiccups.

A good time to burp your baby with a gentle pat on the back is when you swap breasts or break off midway through a bottle-feed, and after each feed before putting them to bed.

Improve Breastfeeding Latch to Reduce Air Intake

If you are nursing, it is important to get a good latch so that the baby consumes less air and more milk, so make sure their lips have a tight seal around the areola of the breast and not only the nipple.

Pick the Right Bottle to Reduce Air Intake

If your baby is bottle-fed and experiencing a lot of hiccups, the bottle is probably to blame.

Check that the hole in the bottle’s teat is the right size for your baby because if the opening is too large, the milk flows out too fast for your infant to ingest safely.

Some bottle designs trap more air than others, which is why I recommend that mothers experiment with brands and types of bottles to minimize the amount of air trapped inside.

Furthermore, before giving the bottle to your infant, tilt it so that the milk covers the teat fully, as this approach keeps the air at the bottom [4].

You may want to consider an anti-colic bottle, which is designed to prevent your baby from inhaling too much air, thus resulting in fewer burps and hiccups.

Feed Your Baby Before the Crying Begins

Milk does not flow down easily if your infant is upset during a feed, causing esophageal irritation and hiccups, so try to ensure the baby is calm and peaceful beforehand.

Try not to wait until your baby is hungry and crying before you feed them, as it can increase the chance of hiccups.

Move Baby into an Upright Position

Gravity aids your baby’s digestion to a large extent, so if they get hiccups while lying flat, prop them upright to release any pressure from the diaphragm.

Moving your baby into an upright position helps dislodge trapped gas in the stomach, bringing an end to the hiccups.

Even placing your baby in a swing, car seat, or carrier with their head slightly elevated above their hips can help relieve the hiccups.

Avoid Heavy Activities After Feeding

Strong emotions, such as excitement, can cause the baby’s diaphragm to contract, resulting in hiccups, so the way to prevent them is to avoid playing with your child right after a feed.

The type of hard play to avoid includes bouncing up and down, grabbing, tickling, and other high-energy activities.

3: Use a Pacifier

When your baby starts to hiccup, give them a pacifier or dummy to suck on, as drawing on a nipple substitute helps relax the diaphragm and stop the hiccups.

Or use a washed pinky finger instead if you don’t have a pacifier handy.

4: Give Your Baby a Gentle Massage

Your infant may get hiccups when stressed, irritated, or just uncomfortable, and getting them to relax through massage can help relieve the hiccups.

Massaging your baby’s back helps relax the muscles and allows the diaphragm to work more efficiently, and upward motions are the most effective, especially when you prop your infant upright for about half an hour.

You can also apply some cream to promote a sensation of well-being while also helping to hydrate the baby’s skin.

5: Keep Your Baby Warm

Hiccups can occur when there is a rapid drop in temperature as babies are sensitive to temperature changes so keeping your infant warm soothes them and helps the hiccups go away.

A quick feel of your baby’s chest, tummy, and back tells you if they are cold.

A warm baby is less prone to hiccups.

6: Allow Your Baby Some Tummy Time

Another way to stop hiccups is to place your infant on their stomach or allow them to crawl, play, and move around on the ground.

Pressure against the tummy may help clear the air trapped in your baby’s stomach that is causing the hiccups, so gently rub the belly area in a circular clockwise motion to release the wind.

However, it’s better to avoid tummy time straight after meals to prevent stomach discomfort.

7: Try Gripe Water

Gripe water is a natural mix of herbs such as ginger, fennel, chamomile, or cinnamon that parents often use to treat colic and other stomach problems in newborns.

Since an upset diaphragm can cause hiccups, consider giving your baby some gripe water to expel the excess gas putting pressure on the diaphragm.

But first, consult your baby’s doctor before giving them anything new because some ingredients can adversely affect infants.

8: Call Your Pediatrician

Underlying medical issues can also cause an infant to hiccup, and they may be accompanied by more serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing, spitting, and vomiting.

If your baby’s hiccups occur regularly and interfere with eating, sleeping, or cause any discomfort, then make a doctor’s appointment, but if you notice any alarming symptoms, call a pediatrician about your concerns without delay.

Click here to see the 5 most calming colors to decorate a child’s bedroom with.

What NOT to Do When a Baby Has Hiccups

Never use the same strategies for infant hiccups as you would for adults, as they can distress babies and may even be dangerous.

Avoid using any of the following methods when a baby has hiccups:

1: Don’t Startle Your Baby

Never startle or scare your infant with loud noise in an attempt to stop the hiccups, as frightening babies can cause emotional upset and may be traumatic for the child.

Babies may forget frightening moments as they grow older, but they can remain in their subconscious forever.

2: Don’t Stop Their Breathing

In adults, holding a deep breath in for a few seconds can sometimes cure hiccups due to the build-up of carbon dioxide or CO2 in your lungs, which relaxes the diaphragm.

However, you should NEVER attempt to stop your baby’s breathing by pinching their nose to get rid of hiccups, as blocking an infant’s airway – even briefly – can be very dangerous.

Just a short interruption in breathing may cause suffocation because newborns do not establish the reflex to breathe via their mouths until about the age of 3-4 months [5].

3: Don’t Pull Their Tongue Out

Never pull your baby’s tongue while pressing on their forehead in an attempt to stop their hiccups as this method does not work, and you risk injuring and distressing your child.

Your baby can hyperventilate when experiencing unpleasant emotions, which can sometimes induce chronic hiccups.

4: Don’t Give a Child Under 6 Month’s of Age Water

Water is often the first thing that comes to mind as a cure for hiccups, but if your infant is under 6 months, the only liquid they should be drinking is breast milk or baby formula.

Because a baby’s kidneys are not fully developed, giving them water leads them to leak sodium along with excess water, and even a small amount can produce hyponatremia, which can result in brain enlargement and even death in a worst-case scenario [6].

5: Don’t Switch the Baby Formula

Some parents think switching to a different milk formula can eliminate baby hiccups, but this is not the case.

So don’t let advertising and manufacturers fool you when they claim their products can cure a range of baby issues.

6: Don’t Smack or Slap Their Back

Maybe you have used the back-slapping method on others or had it done on you, but slapping your little one on the back is not a safe way to stop hiccups in babies as their bones are too flexible and fragile.

Back-slapping babies can cause significant injuries, so softly pat – not slap – your baby’s back between the shoulder blades instead to make the hiccups go away.

7: Don’t Give Them Honey

In adults, a little honey stirred in warm water and placed on the back of the tongue before swallowing may cause the hiccups to cease by tickling the vagus nerve.

However, NEVER give honey to babies under one year old, as the germs from these spores can multiply and create toxins that may lead to infant paralysis.

8: Don’t Give Them Lemon

Another common hiccup cure is biting or sucking on a lemon wedge.

However, the citrus acidity can be hard on your baby’s stomach and may cause digestive problems, so wait until they are at least one year old before introducing lemons to allow their digestive system time to mature.

Click here to see 20 decorating ideas for children’s small bedrooms.

Baby Hiccups FAQs

Below are the answers to some of the most common questions regarding babies and hiccups.

Can You Pick Up a Baby with Hiccups?

It is safe to pick up a baby with hiccups.

Hiccups are a natural and harmless phenomenon in babies, and most infants rest peacefully on their backs while hiccupping as it has little effect on them, so just relax and wait for the hiccups to pass on their own as your baby sits or lies in the crib.

However, if the hiccups become intense and you are worried about your baby’s safety, it is okay to pick them up and try to feed them as a way to ease the hiccups.

How Long Do Baby Hiccups Last?

In newborns, hiccup bouts tend to be brief, lasting around ten minutes or so, and they can occur several times a day, so you can wait it out and let the hiccups go away on their own.

Once your child reaches one year old, their hiccups should be gone, but if they persist beyond that time – or your baby’s hiccups cause them discomfort or interfere with their sleep – then consult a pediatrician to identify the problem.

Conclusion: Watch Out for Other Symptoms

In the majority of cases, hiccups at night are normal for your baby and will pass on their own without the need for intervention.

However, if other issues like breathing difficulties, vomiting, and spitting are present alongside the hiccups then you should consult with a qualified medical professional for the best guidance because these may all be symptoms of an underlying condition.

Up next: click here to find out if it’s safe for babies to sleep in hooded pajamas.


Sources and References

[1] Cadman, Bethany. “What causes hiccups in babies in the womb?” Medical News Today, 2018, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322372.

[2] Meyers, Meredith. “Why Babies Get Hiccups (and How to Get Rid of Them).” The Bump, 2021, https://www.thebump.com/a/newborn-hiccups-why-babies-get-how-to-get-rid#1.

[3] Denham, Jolanda. “Gastroesophageal Reflux.” Kids Health, 2021, https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/gerd-reflux.html.

[4] Gibs, Harriet. “How can I ease my baby’s wind?” Baby Centre, 2018, https://www.babycentre.co.uk/x25005523/how-can-i-ease-my-babys-wind.

[5] Brennan, Dan. “What to Know About Mouth Breathing In Babies.” Webmd, 2021, https://www.webmd.com/children/what-to-know-about-mouth-breathing-in-babies#:~:text=Young%20babies%20don%27t%20develop,including%20the%20throat%20and%20nose.

Medical Disclaimer

No part of this website offers medical advice – always consult with a qualified medical professional for such guidance.

Image Attribution and Licencing

Main image: ‘Baby’ by eskaylim (Getty Images) used with permission under the terms of Canva’s One Design Use License Agreement.

Leave a comment