9 baby breathing problems to look out for

When it comes to breathing, adults are seasoned professionals. Whether we’re busting moves at a Zumba class, taking a nice of whiff of an almost-done beef stew, or sucking in a long-delayed gulp of air during those final breathless minutes of a scary movie, inhaling and exhaling is as normal for us as blinking. Babies are different, especially newborns. During Baby’s first few weeks, you might have noticed changes in their respiratory rate or even some odd noises. While babies are learning to breathe, they often have irregular breathing patterns. Patterns like breathing very quickly for a while, or going through periods where there are more pauses in their breathing can be normal. As long as they’re behaving normally, and the color in their faces hasn’t changed, breathing changes like these are nothing to worry about. It takes time for babies to get the hang of breathing, but as a new parent, you should keep a close eye out for these six respiration red flags.

  1. Deep cough
    A low or deep cough that lingers on instead of going away after one or two coughs might mean that your baby has a blockage in the large bronchi. This airway leads directly to the lungs, so any obstruction here is a serious matter.
  2. “Barking” cough
    This hoarse cry can sound like a bark and is often the result of mucus in the windpipe. It might just be a common cold but if the cough persists, you should get your baby checked for croup, which is a viral infection of the larynx and bronchial tubes.
  3. Rapid respiration
    Sometimes a baby’s breathing rate will briefly pick up. But if you notice your baby’s breathing get fast enough to reach more than 70 breaths per minute without taking a break, take them to the doctor immediately, as this can be an early symptom of pneumonia, or another serious infection.
  4. The wheeze
    When the small airways in the lungs are clogged, this can lead to wheezing sounds when babies breathe in and out. That blockage is most often due to mucus or tissue swelling, and it’s commonly known as bronchiolitis: an infant equivalent of bronchitis that can be contracted from a virus.
  5. The whistle
    Unlike adults, newborn babies breathe most prominently through their nostrils. If you hear a slight whistling coming from your child’s nose, chances are there’s either some mucus or dried milk blocking one of their nostrils.
  6. Heavy rasping
    A common cause of heavy rasping is tracheomalacia: a condition in which a baby’s trachea is floppy and softer than normal. This usually happens fairly soon after birth. Breathing often changes with changes in position, and may improve while sleeping.
  7. Grunting
    If your baby regularly makes a grunting sound when breathing, it’s a sign that they are having trouble breathing, and is trying to keep oxygen in their lungs.
  8. Nasal flaring
    Nostrils widening every time they take a breath in are a sign that they are having trouble getting enough air, and should be evaluated by a doctor.
  9. Retractions
    When the sternum is sucking in further than usual, or the skin under the breastbone, above the collarbone, or around the ribs is being pulled in more than usual, this is also a sign of trouble breathing.

  • “Breathing Problems.” Stanford Children’s. Stanford Children’s Health, 2017. Web.
  • “Children’s lungs.” British Lung Foundation. British Lung Foundation, 2017. Web.
  • “Neonatal respiratory distress syndrome.” MedlinePlus. U.S. National Library of Medicine, April 27 2015. Web.
  • “Respiratory Problems in Babies.” AboutKidsHealth. AboutKidsHealth, October 18 2009. Web.
Get the Ovia Parenting app
Get our app at the Apple App Store Get our app at the Apple App Store Get our app at the Google Play Store Get our app at the Google Play Store