The Wonder of Newborns

Drool, Spit, and More

Why Do Babies Hiccup So Much?

Infants are prone to hiccups because of a common and temporary malfunction of their diaphragm, explains Dr. Borgenicht. The diaphragm is that large muscle that sits between your chest and abdomen. Normally, it expands on the inhale and contracts on the exhale, but in some newborns, just the opposite happens -- the diaphragm contracts as they breathe in and expands as they breathe out, a glitch that can trigger hiccups but is otherwise harmless. As babies mature physiologically, hiccupping episodes become less frequent. If baby seems bothered by her hiccups, says Dr. Borgenicht, you can try stopping them by blowing on her face or taking her out into the cold air; either may cause her to gasp, and the sudden inhale may correct the movement of her diaphragm. Feeding baby may also reset the diaphragm.

Why Do Babies Drool?

Though it's commonly blamed on teething, drooling usually starts around the second month, a good five months or more before most babies cut their first tooth, notes Jennifer Shu, MD, coauthor of Heading Home with Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality (American Academy of Pediatrics). This increased saliva production has less to do with baby's teeth than with what he'll soon be chewing. The drool dripping down his chin is full of digestive enzymes, which will help break down the solid foods he'll start eating between 4 and 6 months. Incidentally, babies don't produce more saliva than adults. But they tend to let the saliva run out rather than swallow it, observes Dr. Shu. This is especially true when baby is teething -- and gnawing on things to relieve the pressure in his gums -- which may be why we link the two.

Why Do Babies Spit Up So Much?

In many babies, the esophagus is a two-way street, at least for the first few months, until the sphincter muscle at the top of the stomach strengthens sufficiently to keep food down, explains Dr. Shu. Picture your baby's stomach as a water balloon with the top untied, she suggests. If you fill it up and then lay baby down or squeeze him, or if an air bubble gets caught beneath the milk or formula and rises up, some liquid is bound to come out, says Dr. Shu. To minimize spit-up, hold baby at an upright angle, with his head higher than his stomach, during feedings and for about 20 minutes after, she recommends.

The good news is that most babies stop spitting up (or do it a lot less) as their stomach muscles tighten, they spend more time sitting up, and they begin to eat solid foods. In the meantime, as long as baby continues to gain weight and seems generally content, there's no need to worry, even if he returns a portion of most or all meals. If, however, your baby spits up frequently, and is failing to gain weight or seems to be in pain or distressed following feedings, he may have acid reflux; talk to your pediatrician, who may prescribe an acid-reducing medication. But in most cases, assures Dr. Shu, spitting up is a laundry problem, not a medical one.

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