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When a baby is born early, some body systems may need extra help for a while. A premature baby's nervous system may not be mature enough to send all the right signals at the right time. These babies often have a breathing problem called apnea. Apnea is a pause in breathing for 20 seconds or more. During the pause, there is a drop in oxygen in the blood. When this happens, your baby's heart rate might also slow down (bradycardia).
Babies with apnea may release a big breath and then have a period of no breathing or small breaths. Some babies turn pale and blue during an apnea spell. Your baby may only have one spell a day or could have a few spells an hour. Many babies stop having apnea spells when they reach their original due date. But if your baby was born very early, apnea spells may continue for a while, even months. One of the ways to treat this is to give caffeine to your baby.
If your baby still has apnea spells when it is time to come home, you may get a prescription for caffeine medicine for your baby. A nurse also may show you special ways to feed and hold your baby to help them breathe.
Worrying about your baby's breathing is very stressful. It may help you to learn as much as you can about your baby's condition and treatment.
Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.
Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:
Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:
Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:
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Adaptation Date: 11/23/2023
Adapted By: Alberta Health Services
Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services
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