New moms, there's good news for you -- those hiccups your baby keeps experiencing aren't hurting him, they're actually doing your job for you.
A new study has found that hiccups act as a burping mechanism to help feeding mammals take in more milk. The results will be published in BioEssays by Daniel Howes, an associate professor in the Emergency Medicine and Critical Care Program at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario and the director of the Regional Trauma Program at Kingston General Hospital,.
“We’re suggesting that hiccupping is actually triggered by the presence of air in the stomach," said Howes in a press release.
As a baby hiccups, he explained, it forces air into the lungs, closing the vocal cords and loosening the sphincter, which is above the stomach. This process creates a vacuum that helps push air from the stomach into the esophagus.
Parents of children who hiccup frequently are warned that this may be a sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease, and should get it checked out. But hiccuping until the age of one, and even in the womb, is considered normal.
Howes' potentially helps to explain why people hiccup at all, though in the case of adults, the involuntary response tends to happen after a large meal, too much alcohol, excitement and even temperature changes.
Though his research centres on babies, Howes hypothesizes that adult hiccups could be a warning sign for when we've eaten too much.