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Health & Baby

Your Newborn Baby's Breathing Noises

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Newborns tend to have an irregular breathing pattern that alternates between fast and slow, with occasional pauses. If your baby makes noises when breathing, take note of what they sound like. This will help determine if there is a problem in the breathing passages and where:

  • Whistling noise: A small blockage in the nostrils tends to make a whistling noise that clears when you suction it out.
    • Newborn babies breathe out of their noses, not their mouths. This is a good trick, as it allows them to breathe and eat at the same time. However, their little noses have small air passages, so a little bit of mucus or dried milk can make the breathing passage even smaller, causing a whistling noise or occasionally, difficulty moving the air in and out.
  • Hoarse cry and a "barking" cough: A blockage in the larynx (windpipe), often due to mucus, makes a hoarse cry and a "barking" cough. This may be a sign of croup, an infection of the larynx, trachea and bronchial tubes.
  • Deep raspy sound: A blockage in the trachea (which is in the neck) makes a deep raspy sound during breathing. This sound is rarely due to a blockage, because the trachea is pretty big. More often, it is caused by a harmless condition called tracheomalacia, in which the tissues of the trachea are soft and flexible and make noise when the infant breathes in and out. This doesn't really cause significant trouble with breathing. This noise is louder when the infant is lying on his back and improves when he is upright.
  • Deep cough: A blockage in the large bronchi (divisions of the trachea, which lead into the lungs) makes a deep cough.
  • Whistling sound (wheezing): A blockage in the bronchioles (small airways that come from the bronchi) makes a whistling sound when the infant breathes out (as in bronchiolitis or asthma later on).
  • Fast, labored breathing: Fluid in the smallest airways (the "alveoli") causes pneumonia, an infection due to a virus or bacteria. Pneumonia causes fast, labored breathing, occasionally cyanosis, a persistent cough, and crackly sounds ("rales") when listened to with a stethoscope.

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