Learning About Periodic Breathing in Infants

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What is periodic breathing?

Some babies can take a pause in their breathing for up to 10 seconds or a few seconds longer. Their next few breaths may be fast and shallow. Then they breathe steadily again. This is called periodic breathing. It is a harmless condition in premature and full-term babies.

What can you expect when your infant has it?

Your baby may have periodic breathing when he or she is sleeping. It happens less often as your infant grows. The condition should stop by the time your baby is 6 months old.

How can you treat it?

Periodic breathing is normal and doesn't need treatment.

Follow the doctor's guidance for safe sleeping. For example, place your baby to sleep on his or her back.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child stops breathing, turns blue, or becomes unconscious. Start rescue breathing or follow instructions given by emergency services while you wait for help.
  • Your child has severe trouble breathing. Signs may include the chest sinking in, using belly muscles to breathe, or nostrils flaring while your child is struggling to breathe.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child is rarely awake and does not wake up for feedings, is very fussy, seems too tired to eat, or is not interested in eating.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

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 call line 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.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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