The Wonderful Reason Babies Hiccup So Much

The Wonderful Reason Babies Hiccup So Much

[♪ INTRO] *hic* Ah, hiccups. We’ve all been there. Usually, they’re no big deal – unless
you’re one of the 4,000 Americans admitted to the hospital every year for hiccups, or you’re that Iowa
farmer who hiccuped for 68 years straight. Still, even the occasional bout of hiccups
can be annoying. And as you hold your breath or gulp down water to try to make them stop, you may wonder: Why is this happening to me? Well… scientists don’t really know. But teeny little baby hiccups might provide
a clue. Hiccups mainly involve the diaphragm (that dome-shaped muscle below your lungs that drives your breathing) and the glottis (the opening between your vocal cords). Basically, they occur when your diaphragm
spasms, causing you to rapidly inhale. That forces your glottis to audibly slam shut. And everyone experiences them at some point
— they’re one of the first things we do in
the womb. Fetuses begin hiccuping at just nine weeks
old. And they continue to hiccup a ton (between 8 and 14 times per hour!) until they’re about 24 weeks old. Then, things settle down somewhat. Though, young babies still hiccup a bunch, especially if they were delivered early. For example, preterm newborns (those born
before 37 weeks) spend an average of 15 minutes a day hiccuping! Which got scientists at University College
London thinking that there might be a developmental
purpose behind all this convulsing. So for a study published in December 2019, they outfitted 13 newborns with a cute cap
of electrodes and monitored their hiccups. They found that every time a baby’s diaphragm
contracted, it triggered two large brainwaves, then a
third brainwave. The third wave is the most interesting, because it looks similar to the brainwave
created when we hear a noise. So, the researchers think the babies may be
hearing the “hic” and connecting it in their brains with the sensation of their diaphragm contracting. This may allow their brains to form neural
circuits which help them sense what’s happening with
their internal organs. The fancy scientific term for this ability
is interoception, and it’s how you know you’re having trouble
breathing, or your stomach feels full, or your heart
is beating fast. Creating these nerve connections between the brain and the diaphragm could also help
them learn to control their breathing. The same scientists think something similar happens when fetuses kick in the womb. Basically, those kicks may help them create
mental maps of their bodies so they can sense where their
legs are, and, eventually, learn to make voluntary movements. So why do adults hiccup if our brains don’t need to learn how to breathe anymore? That’s a good question. It could simply be that we can’t get rid of this reflex after it’s served its purpose. But who knows? There aren’t a whole lot of studies of run-of-the
mill occasional hiccuping in adults since, well, it’s not really something doctors are concerned
about. So maybe if scientists investigated hiccups
more, they’d find these spasms have a weirdly amazing purpose in adults, too. Thanks for asking about hiccups, Michelle
and Anne! And thanks in general to all of our patrons
on Patreon. We have the most wonderfully nerdy community
of supporters! If you’d like to join them, you can learn
more at And if you’re already a patron and have
a weird question like this about how the world works, drop
it in our QQ inbox! We not only read those questions, we make some of them into videos like this
one. So your question could be next! [♪ OUTRO]

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100 thoughts on “The Wonderful Reason Babies Hiccup So Much

  1. Or they’re just an evolutionary relic, and babies’ brains react to the hiccup sound because it’s a sound, and brains react to sounds.

  2. I can stop my hiccups if I slow down and focus on having uninterrupting breathing. Only takes like 20-30 seconds.
    Doesn't work if you stop focusing too quickly or are not fully paying attention to your breathing.

  3. I read it's to do with oxygen/,carbon dioxide imbalance. We experimented as teenagers at school, to stop hicups breath in out out fast and deep until you become dizzy, then hold your breath as long as you can, repeat after a couple of mins if unsuccessful.

  4. I start hiccuping every 3rd time I hit juul basically. Not joking. Cigarettes don’t have the same affect tho 🤔

  5. My daughter had the most godawful hiccups in utero from about 8 mos on. They'd last for hours at a time and even woke me up some nights. Drove me nuts… but it was a short trip.

  6. When I eat too fast, with food kinda stuck in a jam, my body involuntarily hiccups. As if my body thinks I might suffocate & trying to hiccup & shake the food free.

    But sometimes eating spicy food also causes hiccups in people…

  7. I remember I had a psychology teacher in highschool who believed hiccups were a mental issue. That people only did it as a subconscious action. That it was caused due to a phycolagical reaction to lying or something like that. I remember most of us thought she was full of herself. Specially when we came back the next day with like science links and reports on it and she would refuse to look at them cause she was so sure she was right.

  8. The purple background looks great with my beautiful boi’s purple to black aesthetic. It feels really mmmfph. 👌

  9. God I hate when this show says. "Why does this happen? Well we dont know…" then it becomes all subjective. But money is money I suppose

  10. Is there any validity to the following, or is it baseless and not a valid theory?

    I've heard that hiccups are an evolutionary holdover. Our body is trying to switch from lungs to gills. That is why they are effected by not breathing, not sure using lungs, and drinking water is similar enough to using gills.

  11. I only ever get hiccups when I have something lodged in my throat, pressing on some nerve or something. So I've always assumed hiccups were an attempt to dislodge whatever was there, with the gaps being while our body waits to see if it worked.

    Of course, the hiccups aren't generally strong enough to do that, which is why I have to drink a liquid to wash it whatever it is down. But maybe it was more useful to our evolutionary ancestors.

    So I was expecting that the fetus would be trying to clear the airway, not make a mental map. I have to think that was a secondary purpose that happened after hiccups evolved, as there are many ways interoception might be practiced.

  12. I get such strong hiccups sometimes when I eat that I fear I will aspirate what’s in my mouth and choke to death. Very real concern and scary as well!

  13. My father once had hiccups for a week straight, and it may have been the angriest I ever saw him. Totally ruined a family vacation.

  14. I heard hiccups were because we evolved from fish; that fish use the same muscles to flush water across their gills.

  15. Did your jumper have purple or green sleeves? I can't tell if it's just the colour or if the green has been replaced with the purple background

  16. I find that almost all hiccup disappearing tricks don't work however I have one that seems to work every time. Just take a lot of small sips of water while holding your breath. At least ten. I swear it works much better than anything else.

  17. Tons of scientists actually do ask.
    They can be a sign of tumors autoimmune and autoinflammatory diseases or also brain stem strokes or transient ischemic attacks.

    Hiccups are really only considered serious if they persist for more than a day or longer.
    Anyway just food for thought.

  18. Buuuuuut… what if it's them flexing their diaphragm to strengthen it? Also, didn't you guys do a video a while ago saying hiccups are related to our oxygen levels in the blood?

  19. Well, adults seem to hiccup when they eat too much too fast so maybe the reflex is triggered to try and get them to realign with their internal organs (in this case the stomach) as babies do?

    What do you’ll think?

  20. It'd be interesting to see if this happens in born-deaf babies if hearing the hiccup is supposedly part of the feedback loop

  21. Our dog used to hiccup almost every day for the first few months we got her (she was a rescue) now she almost never hiccups – maybe it's stress related?

  22. Surely in the womb hiccups help the baby strengthen thier diaphragm or in someway prepare them for their first breath, once you are born the reflex is just activated erroneously from time to time

  23. Another reason there aren't a whole lot of studies about run of the mill hiccups is probably that you can't exactly bring in a bunch of people and induce hiccups, and when someone has hiccups, they most likely won't last long enough for someone to get to the lab to be studied.

  24. maybe while in the womb its making the diaphram stronger for breathing when the baby is born, or natures way of testing if stuff works

  25. So, has anyone else sat and watched a sleeping dog hiccup?
    Do cats hiccup? What about birds? What about lizards, frogs and fish?
    Could it be an artifact of breathing air—by helping (to develop the ability to) expel water from the throat?

  26. Unfortunately, when I get hiccoughs, the only way to get rid of them is to go to sleep. It's really annoying to get them in the morning, knowing I'll be hiccoughing the rest of the day. (Please, don't tell me cures. I've heard them all.)

  27. My daughter hiccupped in my womb.turns out she was sucking her thumb in my womb and sucked it for 8 years after she was born until i told her shes gonna get crooked teeth😁

  28. Here’s a potentially good poll/topic to research:

    “Do you get a strong urge to defecate when you are alone in the woods? Why?”

  29. I wonder what the explanation for this weird, burp, hiccup combo thing that happens sometimes. It's just a single hiccup, but it sometimes make me immediately swallow some air and it feels like I'm swallowing a rock. It's quite annoying.

  30. Could hiccups within the womb used to strengthen the diaphragm so the baby can use their lungs once they are born?

  31. I snort really hard when I have the hiccups. It works 90% of the times. Doesn't work if I get smoke hiccups.. (Hiccup for every inhale)

  32. For whatever reason I can consciously choose to stop hiccuping. The first one catches me by surprise but then I can just stop as easy as blinking. I have no idea how or why.

  33. Hey, I genuinely get hiccups every single day for 11 years now. It's one random, loud hiccup between 25 & 50 times a day. The doctor said "It's just a hiccup" but I feel like it might cause long term damage :/ dunno. I am at peace with them now – it's taken a long time to be comfortable with them

  34. Yes. Yes i am a baby. For a full day sometimes.

    I had em in the whomb. A hell lot, violently. My mom really noticed. Whole belly shook.

  35. I can reproducably show, that hiccups are cause by an irritation of certain areas of your throat/trachea. I can trigger and hiccups and make them go away predictably, by causing and undoing irritations there.
    The only thing I can’t do yet, is find a system behind which irritation triggers it and which doesn’t. (E.g. it seems to be very different for smokers or not that sensitive people.)

  36. This is how many of them watched this video in the hope of just to see the girl in the thumbnail………………:)


  37. I found I can't get a hiccup if I really want to have one. One day, I just decided to look forward to it and found that my hiccups would disapear. If anyone else tries it, let me know!

  38. Nothing I ever tried works better than Angostura bitters-some people pour it on a slice of lime-I just take a slug right out of the bottle and boom!-hiccups gone.

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