There are many situations and patterns regarding your newborn baby that may make you concerned about her well-being. One of them may be her breathing pattern.
Variations in Your Baby’s Breathing Pattern.
The irregular nature and pattern of a newborn baby’s breathing can sometimes confuse parents and leave them wondering whether it is normal or a sign of some medical problem in the baby.
Breathing Pattern During the Day. The breathing pattern and rate in newborn babies may vary throughout the day while they are awake. Normal breathing rate in babies is 40 breaths per minute. But if the baby has cried, her breathing rate increases up to 60 breaths per minutes.
Breathing Pattern While Sleeping. The breathing rate in newborn babies while sleeping is about 40 breaths per minute. The breathing cycle of a newborn baby is quite different from adult breathing patterns.
Periodic Vs. Mature Breathing in Babies.
Periodic Breathing is Harmless. Newborn babies often exhibit periodic breathing. During periodic breathing, the baby’s breathing is initially fast, deep and then becomes slower and shallower, followed by a pause of 5-10 seconds in which the baby does not breathe at all and then starts off with fast deep breaths again. This pause period often makes new parents panic, though it is perfectly harmless for the baby.
Breathing Pattern Matures After a Few Months. After the first few months the erratic breathing pattern of your newborn babies changes into a more mature breathing pattern, with only occasional sighs.
There are three quick ways to check and reassure yourself that your baby’s breathing is normal:
Listen: Listen to your baby’s breathing sound by putting your ear next to her mouth and nose. You can also try to listen to her heartbeat by putting your ear gently over her chest.
Look: Watch closely for the up-and-down movement of your baby’s chest as she breathes.
Feel: Put your hand/finger next to your baby’s mouth and nose and feel her tiny breaths against your skin. You can also place your palm gently on her chest to feel her breathing movement.
Normal Breathing in Babies.
There are many kinds of breathing in babies that may cause concern, but are actually normal.
Noisy Breathing. Babies are primarily nose breathers and that makes them capable of breathing even while sucking. But nose breathing can be problematic when something is blocking it because newborn babies are not aware that they can open their mouth and use it as an alternate breathing route.
Stuffed Nose. The baby remains in water for months together until she is born and it is normal for her nasal passage to take some time to clear up. Though the stuffiness is essentially harmless but may interfere with her breathing and feeding occasionally. The doctors can suck out the liquid from the nasal passage, but it is not necessary to do so until medically needed.
Snorting/Sniffling. Any bit of dried milk or mucus hanging out in the nostrils remains exactly there until it dislodges or disintegrates, producing a whistle, a sniffle or even a snort while the baby breathes. As your newborn baby cannot blow her nose herself or ask someone to clear it, you should clear her nostril if it is bothering her, by suctioning it out. Do not, in any case, poke her tiny nostrils with anything.
Chest Congestion. Chest congestion is a kind of junky breathing which is caused by saliva or regurgitated milk. Holding your baby upright and letting her sleep upright in your arms can help in clearing her congestion.
Panting. Sometimes newborn babies may also exhibit rapid breathing or panting. A baby who has been crying a lot or is overheated may breathe more rapidly, but once she stops crying and is no longer too hot, her breathing rate becomes normal. If rapid breathing or panting is happening on and off and your baby does not show signs of any other illness, there is no reason to worry.
Choking. Sometimes babies take in too much milk in one go and choking may happen. This is generally harmless but persistent coughing or choking may need a medical examination by her paediatrician.
Hoarse Cry and Barking Cough. A blockage in the larynx (windpipe), often due to mucus, produces a hoarse cry and a "barking" cough.
Deep Raspy Sound. A blockage in the trachea (in the neck) produces a deep raspy sound during breathing. This sound is rarely due to blockage and more often because of a harmless condition called tracheomalacia. In this condition the soft and flexible tissues of the trachea make noise when the baby breathes in and out, but it doesn’t really cause significant trouble with breathing.
Deep Cough.A blockage in the large bronchi (divisions of the trachea, which lead into the lungs) produces a deep cough.
Whistling sound (wheezing). A blockage in the bronchioles (small airways that come from the bronchi) in lungs produces a whistling sound when the baby breathes in and out (as in bronchiolitis or asthma later on). Abnormal Breathing in Babies.
Your baby’’s breathing may be irregular, which most of the times is normal. However, it is important to know when "normal" becomes "abnormal."
Croup. This is a condition that is marked by breathing difficulty accompanied by a "barking" cough. It manifests as swelling around the vocal cords, is common in babies of all ages and can occur due to various reasons. With its seal-like, barking cough, it may sound terrible. Croup generally subsides on it’s own but if it causes respiratory distress it may need medical intervention.
Respiratory Distress. Signs of respiratory distress in babies are similar to those in adults like flaring nostrils. These signs indicate that the baby is struggling to take in oxygen and a bluish tinge in the skin may indicate lack of oxygen. Respiratory distress may need immediate medical attention.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is a big concern for most new parents and is responsible for maximum cot deaths in babies. Always put your baby to sleep on her back to keep her nasal passage clear. If your baby rolls on to her tummy while sleeping check her breathing and turn her over to her back.
Cyanosis. If your baby does not breathe for more than 10 seconds during the breathing cycle or starts to turn blue, immediately take her to the hospital. This actually means that the blood has turned blue because of not receiving sufficient oxygen from the lungs (as in case of pneumonia). Even if the baby starts breathing