Newborn Baby Breathing Problems


Babies, especially during the infancy stage, breathe four times faster than the average adult human being; newborns breathe at the rate of 40 times per minute while adults normally breathe at 12 to 18 times per minute. Although babies have periodic breaks during normal breathing, they can experience serious breathing difficulties. Knowing the tell-tale signs of abnormal breathing can help you identify a problem and get professional medical help.

Types and Remedies

Panting, a common breathing difficulty among newborns, usually comes and goes. However, if your infant has persistent wheezing or heavy breathing, consult a doctor to rule out a serious conditions.

Fluids left over from the birthing process cause transient tachypnea of the newborn, or TTN, also known as “wet lungs.” Babies with TTN involving chest congestion can breathe normally when placed upright. Additional treatments and even life support such as a ventilator can help sustain a baby’s oxygen supply if breathing worsens.


Breathing problems in newborns can be difficult to diagnose because different conditions have similar symptoms. For example, asthma causes airways to tighten and produce excess mucus, making your baby wheeze. However, wheezing also happens when a baby has viral infection that causes nasal and chest congestion.

Babies with TTN cannot inhale oxygen normally. To make up for the shortness of oxygen, they breathe much faster — at least 60 breaths per minute — and harder. Babies with TTN usually whimper or grunt while breathing out. Other physical manifestations include flaring nostrils, sudden head movements, chest retractions, bluish color around the mouth and nose, and occasional coughing or sneezing during feeding.

Risk Factors of TTN

Doctors cannot diagnose which babies will have TTN before birth. TTN can affect both normal and premature babies. However, preemies delivered through cesarean section and born smaller than most infants have a higher risk of developing TTN than normal babies. A study conducted by Fatih University School of Medicine concluded that lower gestational age, cesarean delivery and male sex are risk factors for TTN. Newborns of Mothers who smoke during pregnancy and those diagnosed with diabetes have a higher of giving birth to babies with TTN than other mothers.


A baby with breathing difficulties may also have trouble suckling and swallowing milk. Your doctor may prescribe intravenous fluids to keep your baby hydrated and nourished. In the long run, difficulty breathing may lead to hypoxemia, which is an inadequate level of oxygen in the blood and even sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), though the causes of SIDS are unclear.


Preventing newborn breathing problems starts during pregnancy. If you smoke, avoid smoking while pregnant. If you have diabetes, monitor your blood sugar level during pregnancy. Don’t miss your prenatal checkups. Working closely with your doctor and following what your doctor prescribes you to do to stay healthy during pregnancy can help prevent the development of serious conditions, including breathing problems.



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