How To Handle A Baby Who Gasps While Sleeping

Does your baby gasp in his sleep? It might be a result of many things ranging from a normal condition or possibly a sleeping disease. This article is prepared to give you advice on how to handle a baby who gasps while sleeping.

It’s evident for panic to set in the first time you see this condition especially when you are a first time mom. Seeing anything unusual happening to your little angel is stressful. However, a quick search online and you will discover that you’re not alone. Even a visit to the pediatrician will reveal that it’s a normal thing which usually happens to babies.

It comes handy to know some reasons why your newborn might be gasping while sleeping. This article has possible causes and a few things you can consider to prevent it from happening. 

What causes baby to gasp while sleeping

Developing respiratory system

Occasional gasping during sleep is normal in babies. One reason to explain for this is the fact that your newborn has not yet fully adjusted to life outside the womb. So, his body cannot function just like yours.

Have you noticed your six months baby occasionally gasping and breathing heavily while sleeping? This can go on for a week. The first thing you would do is to get him to a pediatrician to learn from the expert about what’s happening to your baby.

Here you will learn that it’s obvious, the baby’s respiratory system is still developing. It means you cannot expect your few months baby to sleep soundly like your ten-year-old child. Babies usually get irregular breathing especially preemies.

According to pediatricians, it’s normal for babies to gasp in sleep as long as they can breathe normally again after gasping. The moment you notice your baby not breathing for more than 10 seconds after gasping, never hesitate to visit the doctor. Otherwise, the baby should be okay.

Baby might have laryngomalacia

This is a condition where the tissues of the larynx above the vocal cord get softened. The softening makes the tissues floppy. This might make them fall over the airway opening partially blocking it.

The exact cause of laryngomalacia is unknown however it’s a common cause of chronic inspiratory noise in infants. The condition is also a common cause of congenital lesion in the larynx.

Newborns with laryngomalacia show symptoms after a few weeks after birth. Some of its symptoms include noisy breathing. When this condition gets worse, it might result in conditions such as:

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    Choking and gagging while feeding
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    Gastroesophageal reflux
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    Difficulty in feeding
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    Poor weight gain

For most newborns, laryngomalacia is not a severe condition. They don’t have any problem with breathing, feeding or growing. In this scenario, the children can outgrow the condition at 18 to 24 months. Severe laryngomalacia requires medication or surgery.

You’re bound to get scared is your child develops this condition. There’s a risk of him stopping to breathe without warning. Luckily, only a handful of children develop severe laryngomalacia to affect their breathing, feeding and healthy growth.

However, you have to get worried if you notice your child not breathing for about 10 seconds regardless of whether they have laryngomalacia or not. Look out for signs like turning blue around the lips coupled with noisy breathing or pulling of the neck or check with no relief even after repositioning. 

Gastrointestinal reflux

Does your baby suffer from acid reflux? It’s a sign that acid and other contents in the stomach are repeatedly flowing back into the esophagus. During normal digestion, the LES valve opens for food to pass into the stomach. The valve closes when food gets into the stomach. It prevents food and stomach acid from escaping.

A weakened LES valve doesn’t work at the right time. Food and stomach acid escapes and flows back into the esophagus. On this happening regularly, your baby is likely to develop acid reflux symptoms.

Interestingly, every child experiences a form of acid reflux at some time. Thus, the repetitive nature of this problem warrants a diagnosis in infancy and childhood. Acid reflux in babies has symptoms including:

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    Recurrent vomiting
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    Persistent cough
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    Abdominal pain

By 12 to 24 months, acid reflux comes with more symptoms. These include weight loss, hoarse voice, refusal to eat, and stunted growth.

Infant sleep apnea

Have you thought that it’s only adults who supper from sleep apnea? Well, babies are also susceptible to sleep apnea. This is a breathing disorder which happens during sleep. Sleep apnea is where an infant suffers reductions and pauses in breathing during sleep. This usually happens in rapid eye movement sleep (REM) stage.

Your baby has higher chances of sleep apnea if born prematurely, overweight or with congenital disabilities. Some of the symptoms of this condition include turning blue, pauses in breathing going up to 15 minutes.

The primary causes of this condition are developmental and the existence of current medical conditions. More than often, the pediatrician will recommend taking the baby to a sleep specialist.

When to get concerned

Any parent is most likely to get horrified at the sight of their baby gasping. The immediate reaction would be to call 911 or rushing the baby to the emergency room. It’s not a wrong decision. However, take time to observe your baby without panicking. If your baby shows no signs of struggle, you can consider the following solutions.

Observe your child

Wake up the baby if you notice any sign of struggle. If there’s none, just observe him. Look at the way he breathes and try counting home many seconds per grasp or wheeze. If it requires spending the whole night doing that, go ahead. These observations come handy when talking to a pediatrician.

Make a recording

Do you notice your baby regularly gasping? Well, record him on video for showing to the pediatrician. The doctor might not diagnose right away, but the video will come handy.

List all symptoms

Study your baby and take notes. Notice anything unusual happening to him. Does he gasp or does anything strange in sleep? List them down. These will come handy at the doctor’s for faster and more precise diagnosis.

The moment you notice baby not breathing for more than 8 to 10 seconds, turning blue after a few seconds or gasping after waking up, never hesitate to call 911 or your doctor.

The takeaway

Noticing your baby gasping is normal and no cause for panic. However, if you’re bothered by the condition, go ahead and seek professional assistance.

Panicking can come the first time you see your baby gasping, but with time you will realize there’s nothing to get worried about. Those are some of the essential lessons of motherhood.

Have you ever noticed your baby breathing weirdly while sleeping? What was your reaction? How did you go about the ordeal? Let us know in the comments.

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Joscelyn Booker

Hello, I'm Joscelyn. I’m a 30-something wife and working mom of two kids, a boy and a girl. I juggle work, kids’ activities, caring for the family and of course blogging. I enjoy sharing my thoughts on motherhood. We don’t have to try hard at being perfect mothers.