13 Early Signs Of Pneumonia In Babies New Parents Need To Know About

If only babies came with an instruction manual - how much easier a new parents’ life would be! Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. From the moment the baby is born (even in the moments that make up those 9 months of pregnancy), there are just too many things that can go wrong. It isn’t fair!

There are two key ingredients that can make up a recipe of success for new parents. These include knowledge, and staying calm in the face of something going wrong. While it is easier said than done to put the knowledge into practice when a newborn baby is sick, it is the right way to start.

Keeping informed and gathering information you need on possible illnesses and injuries that can happen to newborn babies is going get you off to a good start. Of course, much of this knowledge will be forgotten along the way, but storing it somewhere will help you stay calm when a problem arises.

A rather common problem for newborn babies is the onset of pneumonia. This is when there is an excess of fluid in the lungs. It can present in different ways, different times, and can strike different age groups differently.

Keep your head above water with some early signs of pneumonia in babies. Also, keep in mind, that general knowledge doesn’t replace a doctor’s opinion. If in doubt, consult a professional!

Continue scrolling to keep reading

Click the button below to start this article in quick view

Start Now

13 Short, Rapid, Shallow Breathing

There is nothing easy about breathing with fluid in the lungs. This is what pneumonia is and this is why it is so difficult to breath when it develops in the lungs. This is particularly true for newborn babies. Their lungs are already struggling to adapt to the external world, so they are quite vulnerable to pneumonia.

If the breathing of a newborn baby alters, and stays altered for a long time, it may be pneumonia. Sometimes, babies might exert a lot of energy (remember, even just being awake makes newborn babies tired!), their breathing may become shallow. This often happens before newborns go to sleep, just because of energy exertion. However, if the breathing remains shallow and continues over a long period, it is worth monitoring and checking with a doctor.

12 An Unpleasant Fever

A newborn baby can develop a fever for many reasons. Given the fact that they spend 9 months warmly and comfortably incubated in a lovely, cosy uterus with an amniotic filled bubble keeping them safe, things are pretty vulnerable on the outside. Babies' immune systems aren’t born with superhuman strength. Rather, they have to develop. And the only way to develop is to be exposed to germs and fight them off.

Unfortunately, not every fight is a fair one, or one easily won. For this reason, babies are susceptible to catching a cold. This is especially true for babies born in the colder, winter months. Fevers generally do go away on their own and the suffering that comes with it builds immunity for later in life. However, if the fever is a nasty lingering one, it may result in pneumonia. Not always, but there is that chance!

11 Wheezy Sounding Breaths

Throughout the course of the day, babies are going to have different rhythms of their breathing. Sometimes they will breathe rapidly if they are feeling stimulated and excited. Sometimes they will breathe deeply and heavily when they are starting to feel tired. It is normal for the pace of breathing to change, but it it doesn’t change back to what sounds ‘normal’, there may be cause for concern.

Wheezy breathing can happen for many reasons. Perhaps bubs is a bit congested from the cold weather, or maybe they sucked in too much air. There can be non-concerning reasons for wheezy breathing. But here we are talking about wheezing breathing that is consistently shallow and doesn’t go away within a few hours. Even a few hours of wheezy breathing isn’t much fun! If your newborn’s breathing is consistently wheezy for a long period, it is worth getting a doctor’s opinion.

10 Belly Breathing

Generally, as humans we breathe through our nose and mouth, with oxygen filtering through the lungs. While the stomach does rise and fall as a result of the inhaling and exhaling motions, it is the energy of the lungs causing this to happen. This is why when babies ‘belly breathe’ and the energy is coming directly from the belly when breathing, it may be a sign of pneumonia.

Belly breathing basically happens because the lungs have too much fluid in them to breath normally. Therefore, the stomach picks up some of the slack and puts in extra movements to assist the flow of oxygen. You will notice this if the baby’s belly is rising and falling in short, rapid dips. The sound of the breathing will also be more shallow and rapid, unlike when the oxygen comes from the lungs.

9 Unwillingness To Feed, Or Poor Feeding

There can be many reasons a newborn baby doesn’t want to feed, not necessarily related to pneumonia. Therefore, this one needs to be taken into consideration if it is combined with some of the other possible symptoms we’ve discussed. For instance, a baby with a fever who is coughing and doesn’t want to eat is more likely to have pneumonia than a baby who is healthy and well, just not particularly hungry.

If your newborn baby is refusing to breastfeed and has previously had a great track record of feeding, there may be cause for concern. Be wary not to mistake weaning and refusal to eat solids for a sign of pneumonia, unless there is a fever or cough present. Just remember, some days your baby will have a bigger appetite than others.

8 What Looks Like A Cold Or Flu

The scary thing about pneumonia is that it can grow from what starts as a common cold or nasty flu. These things on their own, as unpleasant as they are for a newborn baby (or anyone for that matter!), are effectively self-healing and build the immune system. Pneumonia, on the other hand, takes more to cure and is destructive for the lungs and immune system.

So if your baby develops a cold or flu, which will happen as part of life, it is important to note how long the healing process is taking. If the cold or flu lingers for weeks on end, never improving, and results in a super nasty sounding cough, it is worth consulting a doctor. The healing process does differ for everyone, but mother’s instinct will tell you when something isn’t right.

7 Too Much Sleepy Time

A lethargic baby is rarely a good sign. Of course, newborn babies do need to rack up around 14 hours sleep a night in those first few months, so it can be hard to define where lethargy begins. The general signs of lethargy, in babies too, are not responding to noise and stimulation, not wanting to eat a lot, and just constantly looking tired. Newborns, too, can develop bags under their eyes!

Pneumonia can be linked with lethargy, but of course there are other things that make a newborn baby lethargic. If your newborn has had a cold or fever and developed a consistent cough that goes with their lethargic look and behaviour, this may be a sign of pneumonia. If the baby is constantly tired for a prolonged period and loses interest in things going on, have a chat with a medical professional.

6 Wet Sounding Coughs

It is funny how coughs can have a sound but they can’t be seen at all. Sometimes coughs sound really dry, as though all the air and moisture has been sucked out of the body with each cough contraction. Other times coughs are wet sounding, as if there is excess moisture coming out each time one coughs. This is exactly what happens with pneumonia.

Since pneumonia is essentially a buildup of moisture in the lungs, it does make the cough sound rather wet. A wet cough is characterised by a kind of gurgling when the person coughs. For newborns, this sounds kind of like something is caught in the throat, like a big spit bubble, as well as a rumbling around the lungs. All in all, it isn’t a pretty sound!

5 Lips Turning Blue

Babies have adorable lips. They have sweet, plump lips full of gorgeous color. It is a shame, then, if anything is capable of taking away this color and hue from their cute, chubby baby face. Unfortunately, pneumonia has the potential of turning a baby’s lips blue when it is severe and in the worst stages.

This is more likely to occur in winter, as the color blue is a response to not absorbing enough oxygen to keep the blood warm. Basically, it is caused by cold blood running through the body. Therefore, this result of pneumonia is more likely to happen if it is caused from a cold or fever. If your baby’s lips do happen to turn blue, immediately try to warm them up to help the oxygen flow through the body. While doing so, seek medical attention.

4 Tummy Troubles

One of the most unpleasant things a new parent can go through is tummy troubles with their newborn baby. Not only are these things, like vomiting or diarrhoea, totally disgusting and smell awful, they are also quite emotionally traumatic. There is nothing worse than seeing an innocent little baby in distress, feeling uncomfortable, and spurting out at all ends...and not being able to do much about it.

One of the reasons behind tummy troubles can be pneumonia. The infection in the lungs and excess moisture can wreck havoc on the digestion system and make a total mess, both inside and outside. Tummy troubles aren’t one to mess around with. If it goes on for more than a day or two, it is time to see a doctor. Get that baby healthy again!

3 An Achy Head

Babies can’t express that they have a headache in the same way that we adults do. Rather, they will cry and scream. But the trick here is that they could be crying or screaming for any old reason. So it is hard to tell if it is pneumonia based on an achy head.

An achy head associated with pneumonia mainly comes from pneumonia associated with a fever. The achy head part can be identified from a warm forehead and a high temperature. Babies with a headache will be more sensitive to noise and more irritable when awake for a prolonged period. They may also be annoyed by bright lights or too much overstimulation. Of course, don’t use a potential headache as a definitive sign of pneumonia, rather in conjunction with other possible signs we have already discussed.

2 Nasal Congestion

The body is connected in some amazing ways. Something that is happening in the lungs can directly affect what is going on around the facial area. This is true for pneumonia. The fluid in the lungs that causes pneumonia blocks the oxygen from flowing as freely as it normally does. This makes it harder to breath and harder to pass movement around the body’s internal workings. As a result, nasal congestion can happen.

If your baby has had a cold or flu which resulted in a really stuffed up nose and lots of snot coming out all over the place, keep an eye on it. If the nasal congestion doesn’t go away in a reasonable amount of time, there may be something more going on in the body. Keep an eye on the color of the snot as well - white is fine, but green means an infection may be lurking in the lungs.

1 Irritable Crankiness

Babies are meant to be bringers of joy and have endless smiles on their cute little faces, right? Well, this isn’t exactly always the case. For many reasons, babies can enter irritable and cranky moods. They can have moments of tantrums and expressing themselves through cries and screams. Their little faces can screw up into nasty balls of frustration. And there can be many reasons behind these meltdowns.

If your little baby has pneumonia, it can cause very bad mood swings. Keep in mind, as frustrating and upsetting as this is for you, it is understandable. Poor bub’s body is trying to fight off this ugly infection inside the lungs and get the body back to normal. This is a big effort for a body that was safely in a womb not that long ago!

Sources: Babycenter.com, Kidshealth.org, Parents.com

More in Did You Know...