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.
If your baby still has apnea spells when it is time to come home, you can use a home apnea monitor. A nurse will teach you how to use the monitor and what to do if the alarm sounds. Usually the babies begin to breathe again on their own. If not, you can gently rub your baby, and usually the breathing starts again. A nurse also may show you special ways to feed and hold your baby to help him or her 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. While using a home monitor, you will be an active part of that 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 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.
Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:
Call your doctor or nurse call 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 call line if:
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
Enter Y113 in the search box to learn more about "Apnea in a Premature Baby: Care Instructions".
Current as of: May 12, 2017
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
& Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Jennifer Merchant, MD - Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine
©2006-2017 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
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.