When parents watch their babies breathe, they may notice them breathing at a different rate than that of adults. This is completely normal given that their heart rates are faster than that of adults. What may throw parents off is if their babies take periods during their slumber to stop breathing altogether. And because of the fear of SIDS, parents may wake their babies if they notice this happening to ensure that they are okay.

But what parents do not realize is that they are watching their babies demonstrate normal periodic breathing of infancy, something that is completely normal to babies.

Tell a parent that their baby stops breathing while they sleep and their brain immediately goes to thoughts of SIDS. This is because while parents may follow all the guidelines set forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics, they have no control over what happens to babies when they sleep. And while more often than not, babies are fine when they sleep, it is those times when babies do not wake that stick with parents. Therefore, making normal periodic breathing of infancy something that may be feared until it is understood.

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Here is an explanation of normal periodic breathing in infancy and why it is normal.

What Is Normal Periodic Breathing In Infancy?

Newborn and young infant breathing patterns are by and large, irregular. As such, parents may witness their babies breathing rapidly one moment and the next, not taking a breath at all. While this is unnerving to watch, parents can take solace, according to VeryWell Family, that as babies age, they will no longer do this.

Per the publication, when babies slumber, the rate at which they breathe will not be consistent. Quick breaths may be followed by shallow ones or even no breaths at all. When a breath is not taken, according to Fairview, it may be up to 10 seconds before the next breath is needed.

Most of the time, per the publication, this happens when babies are in a deep sleep. They do not need to be woken. The body will take another breath as needed.

Why This Condition Happens

Normal periodic breathing in infancy happens because babies’ bodies are still developing after birth. As such, they are still getting into a rhythm of how respiration works by filling the lungs with oxygen.

According to Healthline, the causes of this irregular breathing pattern are caused by several factors. Those factors include:

  • Babies breathe more through their noses than their mouths
  • Nostrils are small and can easily be plugged with mucus
  • The chest wall is easy to palpate and is made of cartilage versus bone
  • Breathing muscles are still being developed to their fullest capacity to help bring oxygen to the lungs
  • Babies may still have amniotic fluid in their airways depending on their age

While these all contribute to irregular breathing patterns, it is hard to determine which one is the main culprit. As such, parents just need to know that babies’ bodies know what they are doing. But if they notice airways that can be cleared, that can go a long way to a more rhythmic way of breathing.

Normal Periodic Breathing In Infancy Is Normal

Normal periodic breathing in infancy is not only normal, but it is common in newborns and young infants. However, because not many talk about it, it can be an unknown condition to many new parents.

According to ScienceDirect, over 50 percent of babies with no respiratory illnesses spend their REM cycle of sleep periodically breathing. Just about 30 percent did the same during NREM sleep.

For most babies, per the publication, the height of the normal periodic breathing of infancy will peak between two and four weeks of life. And by the time babies reach four months old, it should no longer be an issue as the breathing that babies do while they sleep has regulated itself.

According to ScienceDirect, while it is not common, babies can have irregular breathing up to six months of age. If it persists after this age, it may be necessary to speak with a healthcare professional to determine if there is something else happening other than just normal periodic breathing of infancy.

While irregular breathing patterns are normal in babies, there are times when these breathing patterns can be an indication of a problem.

According to Stanford Children’s Health, signs that there is more afoot than normal periodic breathing of infancy include:

  • Rapid breathing at more than 60 breaths per minute
  • Not breathing for up to 20 seconds at a time
  • Flaring nostrils
  • Grunting to keep oxygen in the lungs
  • Turing blue
  • Constant coughing or choking

If any of these conditions are present, it is recommended to speak with a healthcare professional to get to the underlying cause of the problem at hand.

Source: VeryWell Family, Fairview, Healthline, Stanford Children’s Health, ScienceDirect

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