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15 Signs The Baby Can't Breathe

Let me ask everyone a trivia question, what is the one thing that keeps a lot of very new mom and dad’s up all night checking? The one thing we are very concerned about and are always checking on? Of course, the answer is a lot of things, but the answer I am looking for is if the baby is breathing.

We worry all night that our baby will suddenly stop breathing. It is a real concern, while the rate of SIDS has decreased since the ‘back to sleep’ campaign has started, it is still to high for any parent to not be concerned about. While we do not know what causes SIDS, we do know that (obviously) at some point they stop breathing. We can not live without breath.

I lost a lot of sleep when my baby was a newborn, as I was constantly worried about her breathing. I will also never forget the first time she threw up and milk came out of her nose. She was already congested (as newborns are) and I truly felt that she was having a hard time breathing. It was one in the morning and I was seriously considering taking her to the hospital. Now, my husband helped calm me down by reminding me that since she was screaming her head off, she was breathing.

Sometimes, it can be hard to tell. Unless you watch their chest very closely or stick your finger under their nose, it can be heard to gauge if they are breathing or not, or even how well they are breathing. Well, there are 15 clear signs that your baby is not breathing, and immediate action needs to be taken.

15 Blue Baby

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Here is the one universal way to tell when your baby can not breathe, what colour are they? Are they the fleshy-pale pink? Or do they have a blue (or even purple) look to their skin? If their skin is looking blue or purple, this is a clear sign that they are not breathing. Even if your child is breathing, but their colour still does not look right, it probably means they are not getting enough air in their lungs.

The reason our skin tone is the way it is, is due to oxygen in our blood and working through our body. When that is cut off, our skin loses the colour, as the blood is not flowing. Our blood inside is actually a blue-ish colour. So, when you can see it from the outside, that is never a good sign. Get help immediately.

14 Very Still & Quiet

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Now, newborns do not move a lot, or do they? The truth is newborns are jumpy and noisy. They have the moro reflux going on, which is pretty constant jerking motions of their arms and legs. This happens because they are new to this whole ‘space’ thing, and are used to being tightly wrapped in the womb. Even if a baby is swaddled, you should still see movement in the head and the legs.

Newborns will constantly move, even so much as a movement every minute or two, if you watch close enough. If you do not see movement at all from your baby, and they do not respond to a little jostle from mom or dad, chances are something is very wrong and this baby needs medical care. If you are concerned about your baby breathing but do not want to wake them, place your hand gently on their stomach. This should be enough to get a movement out of them without waking them up.

13 Very Quiet

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I did not know that newborns were so loud. I mean, I am not talking about crying here, I am talking about all the congestion and grunting. Just like movement, newborns should be making regular noises to let you know they are OK, and breathing. Newborns have a lot of congestion, due to amniotic fluid still being in their system. This may make it sound like they are having trouble breathing, but it is actually a good sign that they are breathing.

Also, newborns grunt. I know this, because my baby’s grunts kept me up for most nights when I could have been sleeping. They make these little noises all night. If they are making these noises, everything is OK. If you are concerned, the same hand-on-belly trick from the previous post will work here as well. Just be gentle, and you won’t have a waking and crying baby. If you do wake the baby, at least you will know they are breathing.

12 Becoming Limp As A Noodle

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So, we already discussed one of the ways to make sure your baby is breathing is to look for movement. Any type of reflux or quick jerk from your baby is confirmation that they are breathing. If you are brave, and are OK with waking up your baby, you can pick your baby up. When you pick them up, pay attention to their reaction.

When an infant is lifted, this will undoubtedly trigger the moro reflux or any sort of quick jerk or movement. If you pick them up and they are completely limp, then something is wrong and they are probably not breathing or having extreme difficulty doing it. Limp will look very much like how it sounds, when you hold them by their torso, their arms, legs and head will all flop down.

11 Rigid

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On the other end of the spectrum, is when your baby goes rigid. This can also happen when they have stopped breathing or are having difficulty getting in air. If you pick up your little one, and they are completely stiff then something is wrong. They should not be able to hold out their arms, legs and neck that stiff for so long.

When you and your partner are expecting it is always a good idea to brush up on your CPR. It is also very important that you know the difference between adult and infant CPR as they are done very different. Look into classes in your area, and if you panic in the moment that is OK, call 911 and the dispatcher will walk you through the steps until the paramedics can get there.

10 Timing

Timing is very important when it comes to all aspects of your child not breathing. Getting help when there is a problem is something that needs to be done quickly. Being without breath for too long, no matter if they are brought back, can cause irreparable brain and organ damage. Timing is also important because it is completely normal for an infant to go as long as 15 seconds without taking a breath.

This is called ‘periodic breathing’, this is a pattern of breathing found in newborns where they will breathe very fast then slow, and then stop all together. It is normal for this pause in breathing to be up to 15 seconds. If they do not resume breathing after 20 seconds, do not hesitate and call 911 immediately.

9 Starts Choking

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The sound of a choking and gagging baby are never good, it send a child and an indescribable fear into the hearts of moms all over the world. If your baby starts making sounds like choking and gagging, then they are probably having difficulty breathing. The good news is that if your baby is making noises, then they are breathing, just not clearly.

The best thing to do is to pick your baby up and rub their back. Do not give them anything to drink, whether it be bottle or breast. It is always our first instinct when anyone has something stuck in their throat to give them a drink to wash it down, but this could make everything worse. If you are concerned, call 911 and have them already on the way in case it turns into a blockage. If it clears, then you can cancel them. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

8 Wheezy

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It is probably inevitable that at some point our little babies will get the common cold once in infancy. A cold can cause a lot of breathing concerns for mom and dads. Their little noses are plugged, and we are constantly trying to suck out all the mucus out of their little nose. This can make us think that they are not breathing. If this is the case, chances are they are breathing, it may be more difficult while they recover.

Now, if you hear a wheezing noise coming from their chest when they take in a breath, or breathe out, this is cause for concern. It is best to get them to a their doctor, or a walk-in clinic as soon as possible. This could indicate an infection that require antibiotics, or it could even indicate asthma or other breathing conditions.

7 Watch The Skin

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Another thing to watch is how the body is physically taking in breaths. If your baby is naked, or in just a diaper, then watch the skin around the collarbone and the ribs/stomach area. If they appear to be ‘sucking in’ that skin when they breathe then chances are they are having a hard time, and 911 needs to be called.

Breathing is one of the easiest things we as humans, do. It comes so naturally to us that we never even pay attention to it, we just do it. I bet right now, you are all super aware of your breathing, when you don’t give it a passing thought most of the time. The act of breathing should never be so hard that they are sucking in their skin, struggling to get a breath. If they are, call 911 or go to the emergency room right away.

6 Watch The Nostrils

Along with watching the skin, you will also want to watch their nostrils. Newborns and babies are nose breathers, they do not know how to breathe out of their mouth yet. This is actually very beneficial to them, they need to breathe out of their nose in order to eat from a bottle or the breast. If they did not breathe out of their nose, they wouldn’t be able to eat. Don’t worry, the do learn to breathe out of their mouth, usually when they get their first cold.

If the baby is flaring their nostrils, that is a clear sign that they are trying to get more air on. It means that they are not getting enough and need to expand the nostril to allow more air to come in. This can be hard to spot, so if you see any other cues on this list plus this one, then it is time to get help.

5 Fast & Furious Breathing

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So we already talked about the patterns that babies breathe in, and that it is normal for them to breathe fast, then slow, and then not at all for a few seconds. However, when you hear them breathe and they are only breathing very rapidly, that is another clear sign that something is wrong and they are having a hard time getting air in.

As adults, we also notice that when we deprive ourselves of breath too long, like underwater, or even when we are sick we breathe a lot faster. Our body either needs to make up for not breathing at all, or for not getting enough in one breath. This will cause our bodies to breathe a lot faster in order to get in as much air as possible. Rapid breathing is clear signal to get help for your little one.

4 Whistling

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Any noise that comes from the lungs when your baby is trying to breathe should be cause for concern. It may not be something serious, but it should always be taken seriously. I have said it many times, and I will say it many more it is always better to be safe than sorry, especially when it comes to the health of our baby. We discussed a wheezing noise as something that needs to be taken seriously, but whistling is another one.

If your baby is making whistling noises while breathing, it could be a clear sign that their air pipe is closing up. When it closes up, or is blocked, the air is pushed through a smaller opening which can be what makes the whistle noise happen. A whistle noise can happen on either an inhale or an exhale, and both are just as serious.

3 Not Crying

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The sound of our babies crying is never a good sound, it is one that a lot of parents do not want to hear. I like to look at the positive in everything, if my baby is crying then they are breathing. There is a reason why we wait anxiously for that first cry, because we are then reassured that our babies are breathing on their own and everything is OK.

If your baby is visibly upset, red face and making all the faces and cues they normally do when they are crying, but there is no sound, this is a good time to make sure they are breathing. Some babies do get to a point where they work themselves up so much that they hold their breath. My daughter does this when she is hurt, and a little ‘hack’ to bring the breath back to them is to offer a gently blow in their face. This kind of shocks them back to take in a breath.

2 Not Eating

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As I said before, newborns are born as nose breathers. This is very important in order for them to properly eat out of a bottle or off a breast. Is a natural survival tactic that they are born with. If their nose is blocked or if they are having trouble breathing, they will often refuse to eat. If they are suddenly refusing a bottle, or a breast than there may be something wrong.

If they are sick, this is to be expected, as they struggle with a blocked nose. What you can do here is to try and clear the nasal passage so that they are able to get in some air while they feed. If they are repeatedly doing this, and are not sick, there may be a respiratory condition going on and it will be very important to get them to looked at by a doctor as soon as possible.

1 Frustrated

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Have you ever had a cold? Isn’t it incredibly frustrating when you can not breathe out of your nose? I know it drives me nuts. It must be ten times worse for a little baby who can not express anything, or who can not take the same medication we can. If they are grunting or showing other signs of being frustrated, then it may be a good idea to get them to a doctor for a quick once over.

This is especially true if they also display any of the other symptoms on this list. It is important to get them checked for asthma. Also, if they can not breathe due to a cold, it is important to get them chocked. A cold in an infant can quickly turn into a more serious illness like pneumonia, and this can be very dangerous and even fatal.

Sources: babycentre.com, baby-medical-questions-and-answers.com

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