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How To Handle A Baby Who Breathes Heavily

Sleeping like a baby has new meaning to new parents. Newborns are very wakeful but can also get too loud in their sleep. Your baby can make various sounds in their sleep. These might include gurgles, grunts, or whistles.

In the early days of their life, your baby can only breathe through the mouth. Most times this is bound to be nosy breathing. This article is to educate you on how to handle a baby who breathes heavily.

If your baby has irregular breathing patterns, you might begin wondering whether everything is okay.

How do babies breathe?

It is concerning for a mom to notice their baby not breathing for a few seconds. Perhaps he is making some noise in their sleep. However, some of these behaviors are likely to be normal.

As your baby acclimatizes himself in the new world, especially breathing on its own, it is not usually in a consistent or rhythmic pattern. Babies breathe faster than adults, toddlers, and children. You usually take about 12 to 20 breaths a minute. Your baby might have as many as 40 to 60 in a minute.

There is more. Your infant’s breath might begin with fast and shallow breathing that seems like panting. It can slow down after a moment. In between, your baby’s breath might pause for about 5 seconds.

Luckily, there is no need to worry. As your baby grows bigger, his breathing will become consistent.

Watch newborn breathing patterns:

Normal heavy breathing for a newborn

Since newborns do not have fully developed lungs, they end up breathing heavily. They do not have full lung capacity. In the last trimester if the pregnancy, babies’ lungs grow alveoli to allow the exchange of oxygen. However, they are not that much.

As your baby grows into a full-fledged child, alveolus increases tremendously by millions. This is when their breathing gets normal.

Causes of abnormal heavy breathing in babies

Baby Breathes Heavily

Normal heavy breathing is no reason to worry. However, other instances might be causing your baby to breathe heavily. These include:

Hot environment

There are circumstances when your baby is too hot but they cannot tell you. When they are sleeping, you are likely to see them breathing heavily. The body tries to regulate temperature in a bid to compensate for high-energy output.

The baby breathes heavily in hot environments to help the body feel cooler.


This is a medical condition where the baby has rapid shallow breathing. This condition happens in adults too as transient.

Luckily, tachypnea normally goes away 24 to 48 hours after birth. The cause of this condition is because your baby’s lungs cannot efficiently get rid of remaining fluid. This makes the air sacs not to open completely.


This is an inflammatory condition caused by a bacterial or viral infection affecting the alveoli in the lungs. The alveoli are tiny air sacs in the lungs for the exchange of oxygen in the blood.

When your baby has pneumonia, you are likely to notice difficulty in breathing as well as fever and chest pain. This condition is treated with antibiotics after diagnosis by x-ray and sputum culture. Babies have low immunity and might need hospitalization when they catch pneumonia.


Heavy breathing can come about because of a deviated septum. Nasal septum is a cartilage dividing the nose. It is usually in the midline though it can also be off the center.

Some babies can live with such condition with no issues. However, there is a chance that your baby might experience heavy breathing resulting from the condition.


This condition happens when tissues above the larynx are not as firm as they should be. If your baby has Laryngomalacia, you will notice him breathing heavily then taking a breath in. This usually happens when the baby is crying or feeding.

Laryngomalacia usually occurs in babies during the first weeks of their life. However, the condition is likely to go away when the baby clocks 12 to 18 months. This is because the baby’s floppy cartilage has developed more tone. Therefore, there is no need to get treatment when your baby has this condition.

When to get worried about baby’s heavy breathing

Sometimes, inconsistent breathing is no reason to worry, you should know when the condition is normal and when it is not. Circumstances to raise alarm when your baby breathes heavily include:

  • Breathing more than 60 times each minute consistently
  • Rapid shallow breathing with wheezing
  • No breathing for more than 10 seconds
  • Heavy breathing with no cough or sneeze
  • A premature baby with quick and shallow breaths
  • Flaring of nostrils when the baby tries to breathe

Things you can do when the baby breathes heavily

Babies are prone to breathe fast but it is important for you to pay attention. Below are some few things you can try out:

Monitor your baby’s breathe

There are various ways to monitor how your baby is breathing. One tip is to place your ears close to the baby’s mouth and nose. Keep in mind that normal breathing in babies happens through the nose.

Alternatively, bring your eyes closer to the baby’s chest and watch his movement. Keep a timer handy and begin measuring the breathing rate for about 2 to 3 hours.

Take your baby to the pediatrician

The doctor will check the baby immediately after birth but it is important that take your baby to see a pediatrician after 3 to 5 days. It will help you know whether he is doing well. The doctor will ask you some questions regarding the baby’s behavior and a physical exam might be required.

Try to lower the temperature

If your baby suddenly begins to breathe faster, perhaps the environment might be too hot. The best thing to do is to turn the temperature down. Alternatively, the temperature should not be too cold as well. Always ensure that the baby’s environment has an optimal temperature.

Bottom line

Always take your baby to the physician when you notice him breathing heavily abnormally. The sings to look for include bluish skin color or flaring of the nose when breathing. Avoid taking chances with your baby.

Parenting is a whole new experience. Hope you have picked something from this article about how to deal with a baby’s heavy breathing. Sometimes it might be a normal growth process but you do not have to take chances with your baby. Always take your baby to a pediatrician when you are worried about how he is breathing.


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