Normal Newborn Breathing Patterns

If you've noticed your newborn breathing a bit irregularly, you may wonder if everything is normal with your child. However, newborns have distinct breathing patterns, and so what may seem unusual or alarming to you, is actually perfectly normal for your newborn.


Mom, baby and nurse
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Don't be at all surprised if your little cherub seems to be a noisy sort of breather. As babies breathe, they make all sorts of sounds, from snorts to grunts, gurgles to whistling. They can only breathe through their noses in the first couple of months of life. Noisy breathing itself shouldn't be anything to necessarily cause concern.

However, pay attention to other signs of respiratory distress and contact a doctor immediately if:

  • Baby's body turns blue all over, particularly check areas that get a lot of blood flow (the lips, tongue, and the vagina of baby girls). Blueing of the hands and feet can be fairly common.
  • Baby's breathing rate increasing significantly (more than 60 breaths per minute)
  • Struggling to breathe as shown through the nostrils persistently flaring and the baby's chest retracts unusually.
  • Poor feeding.
  • Lethargy.



Some parents bring their baby home, witness her sneezing frequently and jump to the conclusion that their baby must have an allergy to the family pet. Snowball or Fido are sent packing, but then the parents find there is no change in their baby's frequent sneezes.

Because baby's nasal passages are so very tiny, they are prone to sneeze frequently. They can only breathe through their noses, so they are frequently clearing them with a sneeze. It's simply a way for their bodies to clear the passage and indicates that their bodies are working just as they are supposed to.



When your baby is asleep, you'll notice her go through what is known as periodic breathing. This is a change in breathing rates and can also be perfectly normal. At times her breathing rate may be rapid, followed by periods of shallow breaths, and then even with brief pauses where she doesn't seem to breathe at all for a few seconds. As she ages, she'll grow out of her periodic breathing, but for now, it is to be expected and a part of typical newborn development.



It really is not unusual for your baby to seemingly have her "first cold" early on. Again, this goes back to how tiny her nose is and that it is bound to get a little clogged with lint, fuzz, spit up, and other gunk. What you really need to know: it probably bothers you more than it does her, and there may be no need to "help" her get her nose cleared. Sometimes the best approach is to simply let her be.

However, if you feel that she needs assistance, you may consider keeping her sleeping area free of dust, lint and pet hair, using saline drops and if absolutely necessary, a nasal aspirator. Talk to your doctor about what is recommended.


Baby Hiccups

Here too is another common habit of newborns that can be persistent. Mom may have experienced her baby having the hiccups in the womb, and things can be no different when the baby joins the real world. Feeding may help settle the hiccups, but you may just need to weather the storm, letting the hiccups pass in their own time.

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