Hiccups and sneezing are very common in newborns.
Hiccups occur as a result of contraction of the diaphragm muscle, which separates the chest cavity from abdominal cavity. Vocal cords are pushed nearer during contraction, which results in the characteristic hiccup sound.
Occurring frequently in the first months of life and less frequently until the age of 1 year, hiccup is a natural reflex, indicating that the infant is full, and everything is normal with her stomach growing and digestive system developing normally. It can usually occur when the stomach is full after feeding, when she cannot pass gas properly, when she swallows air, at times of rapid temperature change and when she is excited. The common conception that “belly is growing” is not completely unfounded. Hiccups start as early as the fourth gestational month in the mother’s womb, as the first respiratory action and hiccups after parturition help the development of heart and lungs. Hiccups are usually not a source of discomfort for infants, but are surely bothersome for parents. When the infant is unable to fall asleep due to hiccups, making her swallow may eliminate the spasm of the diaphragm muscle. If it persists, rub your finger on a lemon and have your infant taste it. Such unfamiliar and sour taste will cause a shock, making her hold her breath for a few seconds which may resolve the diaphragm spasm and cure the hiccups.
Sneezing, especially when it happens after bathing your baby, may cause concern that the baby may have gotten cold. You might be compelled to turn up the heater to make it extra warm in the apartment, putting on layers over layers of extra clothing to keep her warm, putting a hat on her head, which would in turn make the air dryer in the apartment. Dry air dehydrates the mucosa in the airways causing cracks, and microbes may contaminate these cracks causing illness. And the culprit would be falsely identified as “the baby got cold after bathing.” Which in turn compels the mother to bath the bay once a week during winter months to avoid illness. Getting cold is not a cause of illness; but microbes are. And sneezing is an indication that her tiny nose is clogged up and a reflex to help her unclog it. Infants’ tiny nostrils can get blocked very easily, causing difficulty breathing and nursing, as the baby must breathe through the nose when feeding. A few years back, I had received a phone call from a postpartum mother: “Nurse Ayşe, I had attended one of your seminars, and I had not problems beginning breastfeeding. But for the past two days, my baby is not taking my nipple. I have plenty of milk, and he advised I should harvest my breast milk and feed it using a baby bottle. But she won’t take the baby bottle also, so we are feeding her with a spoon.” I asked them to come for a visit, thinking that perhaps they were doing something wrong so I could try assisting her with breastfeeding the baby. When they showed up, I could tell from the way the baby was breathing that her nose was clogged up.
I applied a few drops of saline into her nose and cleaned her nose with a nasal aspirator. After that, the boor thing began breastfeeding and did not stop for nearly an hour! As you can imagine, infants are unable to clean nasal secretions like we can, and so mucus dries and crusts blocking the nose especially in winter months. And they might reach by sneezing even when someone opens the door and comes inside, as their tiny and sensitive noses can be easily blocked with the dirt and dust of this new world. Therefore, I would recommend cleaning her nose frequently with saline and a nasal aspirator to help her breathe and breastfeed easily. Because they are in lying position most of the time and nasal secretions flow back into the nasal passage, she may sometimes breathe noisily. Don’t be alarmed with the wheezing sound. They cannot clear their throat, like we can, by coughing away the secretions, and in this case also, saline can help eliminate the wheezing sound. If she has sniffles, however, it may be important, as the Eustachian tube has a large opening into the nasal passage while the tube itself is short. And because the infant is usually lying on her back, sniffles may increase the secretions which may flow into this canal and cling on the walls, providing an attractive spot for microbes and bacteria to grow, leading to an ear infection. Ear infections require attention in young infants. Because the ear is very close to the brain, inflammation may spread to the meninx, leading to meningitis. By applying nasal lavage with saline around the clock will prevent the secretion to become thicker, turning to a greenish color, and cling on the ear canal. Also, it may be advisable to place a pillow to raise her head a bit to help the secretion flow downward, and not toward the ear canal. You might notice some mucus in her stool during this time, but it is nothing to worry about; nasal secretion is also excreted in feces.