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Your Newborn Baby's Breathing Noises

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Tips for Concerned Parents:

Watch your baby's breathing when she's well, so you can get used to how it looks. Time how many breaths she takes in a minute. It's probably faster than you imagined. Knowing what's normal for your baby's breathing will help you spot a potential problem more quickly.

When in doubt of what's going on, make a video of the breathing pattern that is worrying you to show to your baby's health care provider.

When to Worry About Baby's Breathing

Signs of potentially worrisome breathing problems in your baby include:

  • Persistently increased rate of breathing (greater than 70 breaths per minute or so)
  • Increased work to breathe. Signs of this include:
    • Grunting. The baby makes a little grunting noise at the end of respiration. This serves to try to open up blocked airways.
    • Flaring. The baby's nostrils flare during breathing, showing increased effort.
    • Retractions. The muscles in the baby's chest (under the ribs) and neck are visibly seen going in and out much more deeply than usual.
  • Cyanosis. This means the blood has remained blue and has not gotten sufficient oxygen from the lungs (such as with pneumonia). For true cyanosis, the blood all over the body should look blue. Check areas that get a lot of blood flow, such as the lips, the vagina of a female, and the tongue. Sometimes the hands and feet of newborns turn bluish, but the rest of the body is fine. This is not cyanosis, but a common response to changes in temperature.
  • Poor feeding. "Respiratory distress" is often accompanied by a noticeable decrease in feeding intake.
  • Lethargy. Your baby's energy level may be markedly decreased if she has a significant lung problem.
  • Fever. Most infections of the lung will cause a fever, as well. Always check your baby's temperature when you are concerned.

Breathing problems (such as noisy breathing) that only occur occasionally are normal. Worrisome breathing problems, on the other hand, are usually persistent.

However, when it comes to any breathing concerns, be sure to contact your pediatrician.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on August 01, 2012
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