Are Breathing Pauses Normal in an Infant?

Many new parents check their baby’s breathing on a very regular basis. It’s common to hear parents say that they just want to make sure their little one is still breathing during the middle of the night, or the day even. Parents worry about SIDS, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and are overly aware of their baby’s breathing especially if any pauses occur. This can be quite scary, too, because parents expect normal, rhythmic breathing and if there is a pause, no matter how short, it can be terrifying.

Of course, the best way to handle this is to not drive yourself crazy by checking your baby’s breathing too often. You don’t want to disturb your little one when they are sleeping anyway so it’s best to relax and understand that SIDS is very rare and only 1 in 1000 babies are affected. The reasons why are still unclear and usually don’t have much to do with the various stages of sleep a baby goes through. The various sleep stages are usually to blame for the breathing pauses that occur in some infants as well as growls, snorts, noises, and the like. Most parents take a little while to adjust to their little one’s breathing patterns, but in time they relax and everyone gets better sleep.

So, you might be wondering, what’s normal?

Normal sleep may consist of something called “periodic breathing.” This is when the baby begins to breath faster and deeper followed by breathing that is slower and more shallow. During this type of breathing it is within normal ranges for the baby to pause for five or more seconds. To a worried parent this can seem like an eternity. Then, the baby will being breathing again taking deeper and deeper breaths. Although this makes many parents panic it truly is normal and as the baby matures so will their breathing patterns.

The best ways to make sure your baby is still breathing without waking them is to listen to their nose or mouth for the sound of breath, look at the baby’s chest for an up and down motion, and to feel the baby’s breath on your cheek.