The What & Why of Hiccups

Hiccups are sudden, repeated, involuntary contractions of the diaphragm muscle. As they occur, your vocal cord openings snap shut to check your intake of air, which causes that funny 'hicc' sound.

Babies start to hiccup in the womb as early as 9 weeks of pregnancy and once born (particularly if born before their due date), can spend up to 15 minutes each day hiccuping. Until recently, why people hiccup has not been fully understood, but new research at University College London now suggests that it triggers electrical activity in the brain that helps babies learn how to regulate their breathing. It's a reflex that doesn't disappear in adulthood, although for most of us, bouts of hiccuping are thankfully relatively rare as we get older.

In my Baby Massage course I explain that hiccuping is one of several states in which we do not give massage, as pressure on a diaphragm as it contracts involuntarily causes discomfort. I also explain the physical reflexes (involuntary movements) that babies might exhibit during massage, and what the root cause of them, developmentally, might be. I'll now be linking hiccuping and reflexes together in my lesson plan!

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