Health Information and Tools > Patient Care Handouts >  Learning About Respiratory Problems in Newborns

Main Content

Learning About Respiratory Problems in Newborns

Respiratory system of newborn, including lungs and airways to lungs.

What are respiratory problems?

When a newborn has respiratory problems, it means that the baby is having trouble breathing. If your baby was born early, the lungs may not be not strong enough to do the work they are supposed to do. Or a breathing problem might be caused by an infection, such as pneumonia. Or your baby may just need a little extra time getting used to life outside the uterus.

The doctor and nurses will do tests and watch your baby closely to find the cause of the problem.

Your baby may need special care, such as being in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). This may be scary for you. But the hospital staff understands this. They will explain what happens and will answer your questions.

How are these problems treated?

Your baby may get oxygen to help with breathing. It is given to the baby through a tube in the nose or throat.

The doctor may use a ventilator. This machine helps your baby breathe. To use the machine, the doctor puts a soft tube through your baby's mouth into the windpipe.

Often the best treatment is time. Your baby's breathing problems may go away within hours as the lungs begin to work as they should.

What can you expect?

  • You may see tubes and wires attached to your baby. This can be scary to see. But these things help the doctor treat your baby. The tubes supply air, fluid, and medicines to your baby. The wires are attached to machines that help the doctor keep track of your baby's vital signs. These include temperature, blood pressure, breathing rate, and pulse rate.
  • It may seem that your baby is getting lots of tests. All of these tests help your doctor keep track of your baby's condition and give the best treatment possible.
  • The hospital staff will give your baby the nutrition that your baby needs. The doctor may feed your baby through a soft tube that goes through the nose and into the stomach. Or the doctor may use an IV that goes through the belly button to do this.
  • Your baby will be kept comfortable and warm.
  • It's hard to be apart from your baby, especially when you worry about your baby's condition. Know that the hospital staff is well prepared to care for babies with this condition. They will do everything they can to help. If you need it, ask for support from friends and family. You can also ask the hospital staff about counselling and support.

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.

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.