Common Baby Breathing Problems, Solutions - Respiratory Distress Syndrome

Taking care of your new born babies can seem like the toughest task you’ve ever encountered, as breathing problems in babies are common now. To add to your fears, certain behaviors in your child or even a slight sign of a baby in distress will cause worries like infant breathing rate and noisy breathing in infants. We know that there’s a Rachel Green in every woman, where even the slightest issue will drive you crazy. Fret not, as we’re here for you! This article will aim to help you identify what kind of baby breathing problems your newborn infant is suffering from and what to do about it.

What is Baby Breathing Problems?

The first thing to know is that respiratory illnesses are common in infancy, like a child breathing fast while sleeping or a baby wheezing sound. In fact, about one-third of all hospitalizations in the first year of life are due to respiratory problems.

Colds, flu, croup, and bronchiolitis are common lung problems in children that can occur during the first 12 months of life, and at any time during childhood. As the infant enters the world and accustoms to external environments, tremendous changes happen.

The child is biologically equipped to deal with these challenges, but sometimes things might go wrong with sudden breathing problems. There is no need to panic or worry – things like toddler snoring, infant breathing fast and baby breathing problems while sleeping are more common than you might think.

Common Baby Breathing Problems

There are a few baby breathing problems that are commonly found. If you should find your baby facing these breathing issues then follow the instructions or consult your doctor immediately.

1. Respiratory Distress Syndrome – RDS

Respiratory Distress Syndrome - RDS

One of the most common causes of breathing difficulties and infant wheezing is Respiratory Distress Syndrome in newborns or RDS. RDS disease is a newborn lung disease which is the appearance of infant snoring congestion.

RDS newborn disease can be caused due to premature delivery or other causes of respiratory distress syndrome. The signs of respiratory distress in children are apparent.

The symptoms of neonatal respiratory distress syndrome include:

  • Bluish color of skin due to infant respiratory distress syndrome
  • Prolonged stopping of breathing – newborn baby stops breathing for more than 10 seconds
  • Baby trouble breathing at night
  • Decreased urine output
  • Flaring of nostrils
  • Shallow breathing and grunting noises
  • Rapid breathing
  • Heavy congestion in the chest
  • Strange breathing movements like drawing the back of the chest muscles while breathing and so on.

RDS in a newborn may be accompanied by other diseases, so quick treatment is necessary. Warm, moist oxygen may be given, along with surfactants. At home, care must be taken to treat RDS syndrome. Babies must be handled gently, must have a calm setting, must have ideal body temperature and fluids and nutrition must be managed meticulously to stop respiratory difficulty.

2. Baby Apnea

Baby Apnea

Another common breathing problems in newborns are baby apnea. Apnea occurs when your baby stops breathing temporarily. This problem is almost exclusively in premature babies.

The central nervous system programs the lungs into breathing continuously. When the baby is born prematurely, this development is stunted and so the baby might stop breathing temporarily, for about 20 seconds or more or newborn breathing through mouth might occur, with breathing problems symptoms. This is followed by alternating deep and shallow intakes of baby’s breath.

This problem can be treated by appropriate medical action. Supervision is necessary so that the baby can be given immediate first aid in case of medical emergencies.

3. Baby Snoring

Baby Snoring

Another newborn baby breathing problem is of newborn baby snoring. Toddler heavy breathing while sleeping and snoring is most commonly caused by blocked nasal passages due to weather conditions or common colds accompanied by fast breathing in infants and trouble breathing.

Here, the nasal passage can be easily cleared with saline drops. This problem can cure itself as the baby’s nasal passage becomes larger with age, easing air into it.

An important note is that snoring can be a symptom of laryngomalacia, which refers to malfunctioned, sloppy tissue above the larynx which might block the airway opening and restrict breathing. The pediatrician might recommend sleep tests for the child to diagnose the disease in order to prescribe treatment.

4. Congenital Hypothyroidism

Congenital Hypothyroidism

Congenital hypothyroidism is a condition where the infant’s body does not secrete thyroxine, an important growth hormone. This hormone controls sugar metabolism, influences growth, and development, and is one of the most important hormones needed for a growing child.

A defect in hormone production leads to a swollen tongue or an enlarged tongue which might cause breathing problem after eating and a breathless feeling. The best treatment for this disorder is sustained medication and lifelong lifestyle changes so that your child can lead a normal life.

5. Gastroesophageal Reflux

Gastroesophageal Reflux

This refers to the baby spitting up meals or throwing up. This is caused due to a poorly coordinated gastrointestinal tract. The severity of the reflux can also cause gastroesophageal reflux disease of GERD, which is more complex.

In both cases, symptoms include:

  • Unusual breathing noises and grunting respiration
  • Raspy breathing in baby
  • Difficulty swallowing food
  • Refusing to eat
  • Recurrent vomiting
  • Gagging with feeding
  • Frequent wheezing
  • Abdominal pain
  • Chest pain and difficulty breathing

Home treatments for this ailment include holding the baby upright after breastfeeding, thickening bottle feeding with cereal after your doctor’s approval, feeding smaller amounts of food and elevating the head of the baby’s crib.

Baby Breathing Problems Solutions:

  • The first thing to do is to invest in an infant breathing monitor. This baby breathing monitor checks the infant respiratory rate and helps diagnose problems with the help of normal respiratory rate for a newborn.
  • Medication for infants also includes respiratory medication like bronchodilators which help open your baby’s air pathways to make breathing easier and cure diaphragm breathing problems.
  • Artificial surfactant help maintains the structure of the lungs and keeps them from collapsing, to prevent newborn wheezing after feeding.
  • Diuretics help drain excess fluid in the lungs and makes breathing easier.
  • Caffeine can be medically prescribed to reduce snoring and apnea in babies.
  • Oxygen therapy refers to giving your baby supplemental oxygen to help sustain internal organs and lung capacity.
  • If all other therapies fail, medical ventilation can be used. Here, a ventilator is used to circulate air into the air passage until the lungs are well-developed.
  • Surgery may be needed to correct problems which are congenital.
  • Noninvasive ventilation (NIV) can be prescribed, which refers to the use of ventilators which do not artificially invade the tracheal passage to treat premature baby breathing problems signs and newborn snoring.
  • Post-op procedures like breathing therapy may be recommended to restore normal newborn breathing and rectify baby breathing problems after birth.

What Causes Breathing Problems in Newborn Babies?

Breathing Problems in Newborn Babies

The lungs are among the last organs in the body to be fully developed. They are delicate membranous organs which need care and comfort. Thus, if the infant is born prematurely, there are more chances of breathing problems as the process of gestation is not complete and there might be some stages which are yet to be completed.

Additionally, climatic conditions, mother’s health, and nutrition can cause issues in baby respiratory rate, shallow breathing baby and noisy breathing in babies.  The mother has to take care of her health during pregnancy and refrain from smoking or drinking to ensure good health of her child and prevent baby irregular breathing.

Why do Babies Breathe so Fast?

Babies Breathe so Fast

All babies breathe naturally faster than children and adults which might seem like that the baby sounds wheezy. Newborn rapid breathing causes include the fact that the National Institute of Health (NIH) says that a newborn typically takes forty to sixty breaths per minute as the baby breathing pattern, as opposed to a normal adult’s twenty to thirty breaths a minute. Rapid breathing while sleeping is also common.

This might prompt the question – is it normal for babies to stop breathing while sleeping? The answer to that is a no. While a newborn baby panting in sleep or heavy breathing in newborn babies is okay, newborn breathing patterns do not suggest a complete stop in breathing. As the baby accustoms to life outside the mother’s womb, baby irregular breathing pattern and newborn baby breathing fast while sleeping might occur.

On the other hand, heavy breathing in newborn which is accompanied by labored breathing in infants might be a sign of baby congested breathing which is a result of fluid accumulation in the airways of the lungs. This might be an indication of pneumonia, which causes the baby breathing rate to increase, along with the baby struggling to breathe.

Other signs include breathing issues, inconsistent newborn respiratory rate, signs of breathing problems in toddlers, a persistent cough which require immediate medical assistance.

Why would a Baby be on Oxygen?

Baby on Oxygen

A baby having trouble breathing or a baby having difficulty breathing at night is put on oxygen support. When the baby finds it hard to survive on environmental oxygen, supplemental oxygen may be given to enhance longevity.

Prematurely born babies are usually kept on oxygen so that newborn breathing noises can be rectified, snoring in children can be curbed and neonatal respiratory rate can be brought back to normal levels.

Babies can also be given supplementary oxygen to help with lung problems in babies, lung disease in babies and poor breastfeeding caused by air hunger. If your baby is having a hard time breathing, consult a doctor as having difficulty breathing can be a symptom of other diseases.

If an infant is kept on oxygen for too long, bronchopulmonary dysplasia may occur, where the baby is having problems breathing because of corrosion of lung tissue and respiratory infection in babies due to supplementary oxygen. But do not worry, as this problem can be cured easily.

What is Respiratory Distress in Infants?

Respiratory Distress in Infants

Respiratory distress syndrome is caused in premature infants due to a developmental deficiency. It is rare in infants which may cause baby breathing hard while sleeping or toddler breathing fast, and can be cured by medical intervention. Medical supervision is needed, and a pediatrician’s help in curing the disease is mandatory.

If you find your 1-year-old breathing fast or your newborn breathing sounds congested, report to a doctor for signs of this illness.

Do Babies Snore?

Babies Snore

Yes! Just like adults, it is normal for snoring in babies and baby breathing heavy in sleep unless accompanied by other distressing symptoms. A snoring baby might be due to nasal congestion or small size of the nostril. Simple lifestyle changes can prevent snoring.

If the problem persists or gets worse, consult your pediatrician as it might be baby snoring with cold or other ailments.

What are some Warning Signs I should be aware of?

Baby Breathing Problems Warning Signs

While it might be unnecessary to call the doctor for every little thing your baby does, there are certain signs you need to watch out for. If you spot any of these warning signs in your baby, call your pediatrician immediately and let them know.

  • Your baby takes more than 60 breaths a minute.
  • There is grunting or wheezing at the end of each breath.
  • There is blue discoloration near the forehead, nose, and lips which might indicate that there is not enough oxygen supply.
  • High pitched rasping sound or a barking cough.
  • Your baby’s nostrils are flared and it seems to be choking.

What is Labored Breathing in Babies?

Labored Breathing in Babies

Labored breathing in babies refers to the slow, agonized breathing pattern which is not regular or systematic as opposed to newborn breathing fast. While a normal amount of labored breathing is common in babies, it becomes worrisome when accompanied by other warning symptoms and signs. A pattern of deep and shallow breaths is common in babies and not a worrying sign.

How do Babies Breathe in Womb?

Baby in Womb

Technically, the baby doesn’t breathe inside the womb. The mother inhales oxygen which is transferred to the baby’s metabolism through the umbilical cord. This is why the mother’s health is of importance during pregnancy, as the baby’s health depends on the mother’s. Mothers are advised not to smoke during pregnancy for this very reason.

In the ninth month of gestation, the baby makes breathing movements in order to prepare itself for the external environment where oxygen is available in gaseous form. This is why there might be breathing issues in premature babies, as opposed to the normal respiratory rate for infants.

When are Baby’s Lungs Fully Developed?

Baby's Lungs

The baby’s lungs are fully developed around the 35th week of pregnancy, a few weeks before the baby is about to be born. Babies born after this can be easily treated for breathing difficulties. In a premature baby lungs, not fully developed can cause problems.

Should I be Worried about Wheezing Noises from my Baby?

Wheezing Noises from Baby

This depends on what the cumulative symptoms are. The simplest explanation for wheezing noises can be a nasal blockage, which can be easily cured. Do not jump to conclusions that your infant is suffering from asthma, if your newborn has difficulty breathing in. Medical attention is required to diagnose asthma and prescribe treatment. It is difficult to diagnose asthma before the child turns 5. Wheezing can be a symptom of many other ailments.

Newborn baby breathing problems at birth are normal. As a new parent or caregiver, it is your duty to combat these problems in a calm way and ensure the comfort and health of your precious bundle of joy. Do not panic at any moment, and take rational steps. Consult your doctor for any queries that you might have. Remember, your baby is your responsibility.

*Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog post are a result of research by the author and the author alone. Please use your discretion before taking any decisions based on the information in this blog. The author will not be responsible for any damage caused. Consult a physician before taking any steps, and report your problems, if any, to a health care professional. This article may be subject to change without notice.