When Do Babies Take Their First Breath
During pregnancy, babies receive 100% of their oxygen from their mother.
As she inhales, oxygen enters her bloodstream then flows to the placenta, and is transported to the baby through the umbilical cord.
Carbon dioxide and waste products from the baby travel back through the cord to the placenta. From there they are transferred back into the maternal system to be disposed of.
Babies get everything they need for their growth and development through this amazing system.
But what about when your baby is born? When do babies take that first breath and how do they adapt to breathing for themselves? Lets explore this more.
How Can You Ensure The Baby Gets To Breathe Properly
The following tips can help :
- Let the baby sleep on his or her back: Sleeping on the back is the best sleep position for a baby. It ensures that the esophagus stays lower than the trachea and does not allow regurgitated food from accumulating at the opening of the trachea. Putting the baby to sleep on the tummy or side can cause regurgitated food to gather near the opening of the trachea, thus leading to breathing problems and even choking.
- Keep the babys crib empty: Do not stuff the infants crib with soft toys and other bedding. Your babys sleeping area should be bare. Placing objects around increase the risk of obstructing the babys breathing.
- Keep baby away from stuffed toys or animals: Keep baby away from pollution, dust etc., and avoid using perfumes or spray if the baby is allergic.
- Sleep with the baby in the same room: Pediatric experts recommend parents and babies to sleep in the same room, with the baby in his or her crib, till the age of six months and preferably till one year. It helps you detect any complications or problems with breathing.
- Keep baby away from smoke: Smoke, especially tobacco smoke, can cause inflammation of the infants airways and increase the risk of sleep apnea . For this reason, make sure the babys room is free of smoke and even dust. Never smoke or let others smoke around the baby.
Ways To Support Babies In Their Newborn Transitions
The first moments after birth are incredibly precious as you meet your baby for the first time. While your newborn is adjusting to life outside the womb, you can support this transition by:
- Skin to skin. This helps regulate your babys heart rate, breathing, and temperature, whilst also providing much-needed reassurance and familiarity. If mums arent feeling up to providing that initial skin to skin, dads can have skin to skin too
- An early feed. Feeding within the first couple of hours of life allows your baby to conserve precious energy reserves
- Keeping baby warm. Similarly, keeping your newborn nice and cozy will prevent a loss of energy from trying to regulate body temperature.
The first hour after birth should always be about you and your baby getting to know each other and helping your baby make this incredible transition.
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What Is A Normal Baby Breathing Pattern
Babies and adults differ a lot in their breathing patterns. This world is a new experience for your newborn, and they are just learning to breathe . The pattern of breathing in your baby can be pretty irregular, but thats usually okay.
A typical newborn can breathe fast several times and then stop breathing before taking a breathe again. This is called periodic breathing, and its pretty standard in healthy babies. Dont worry your baby WILL grow out of it.
How Do Babies Breathe In The Womb
Although babies do practice breathing movements in the womb to train their muscles, they dont actually breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide like you do. Instead, oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange happen via the umbilical cord and placenta.
The placenta seeps up oxygen molecules circulating in your blood and passes them along the umbilical cord to your baby. Babys waste products including carbon dioxide then pass back through the umbilical cord and placenta to your bloodstream for disposal.
Outside of the womb, of course, things function very differently. The lungs distribute oxygen to the bloodstream when you breathe in and remove carbon dioxide from the bloodstream when you breathe out.
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Fast Facts On How Babies Breathe In The Womb:
- In the earliest weeks of pregnancy, a developing baby looks more like a ball of cells than a person. In these early weeks, theres no need to breathe.
- The umbilical cord is the main source of oxygen for the fetus.
- As long as the umbilical cord remains intact, there should be no risk of drowning in or outside the womb.
Several biological systems and processes play a role. They include:
What Does Normal Newborn Breathing Look Like
Newborns dont breathe the same as adults or even older children, simply because theyre learning to breathe on their own for the first time. Newborns, up until the age of about 6 months, tend to breathe quite fast which can be alarming for those who arent expecting that. Studies show that newborns can take as much as 40 breaths per minute, compared to an adult who may take between 12 and 20 breaths per minute. They also may have long pauses between breaths, sometimes as long as 10 seconds, before their breaths increase again. It can all be a bit alarming for any new parent who has never experienced that.
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When Should I Worry About My Newborns Breathing
There are indeed some telltale signs accompanying a breathing emergency in your baby. I will list some of the more common and obvious things you will see, although if you are genuinely concerned that your little one is having a breathing issuedont wait and call your doctor or 911. Dont worry mom, your common sense paired with your instincts will rarely lead you down the wrong path.
When To Take The Baby To A Doctor
Take the baby to the doctor in the case of:
- Extremely rapid breathing:If the respiratory rate is more than 60 per minute or the above signs of depression between the thoracic cage as well as intercostal recession is present, then the baby could be breathing at least 80 times per minute. Such rapid breathing is medically called tachypnea .
- Grunting: A grunt is a loud breathing sound which is audible. If the baby grunts with every breath, then it could indicate respiratory distress .
- Stridor: It is the sound you hear when the baby inhales and is audible when you stand close to a baby. This is the effort made by the baby while inhaling and indicates upper respiratory tract inflammation and is known as stridor. One of the treatment options is to use a humidifier. This viral condition is very common in winter. The raspy breath could be due to congenital anomalies in the respiratory system . In rare cases, it can be due to a congenital condition .
- Blue coloration of skin: The color of the skin turns blue around the fingertips, cheeks, and the lips, indicating a severe respiratory problem called cyanosis. A baby with the condition could have low blood oxygen levels and even cardiac complications that need immediate medical care .
Timely diagnosis and treatment are necessary to correct any breathing problem that the baby has.
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Skin Color And Newborn Breathing
Another good indication that your baby is breathing well is his or her skin color.
- Pink skin = good perfusion of tissues = good breathing.
- Blue hands, feet, and around the mouth are actually normal in newborn babies too. This is called acrocyanosis and is often seen the first few days of life while newborns transition to life outside the womb.
- Blue INSIDE the mouth is not normal and suggests that baby is not breathing well. 911 should be called immediately if this occurs at home.
Luckily, breathing issues will resolve on their own as your babys brain and spinal cord mature and muscle tone strengthens. You can help your baby breathe best by laying baby on his or her back on a firm, flat crib or bassinet to ensure babys airway is open.
Periodic Breathing And Newborns
Another normal breathing pattern in newborns is called periodic breathing. You’ll notice this marked pattern when your baby is asleep.
When they sleep, babies cycle through rapid breathing, shallow breathing, and short pauses that last between five and 10 seconds.
While it might seem unusual to you, this breathing trend is nothing to be concerned about. It does not affect your baby’s coloring or heart rate.
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What Causes Transient Tachypnea
The exact cause of transient tachypnea in newborns isnt always known. The condition may be caused by the inability of the newborns lungs to expel or absorb amniotic fluid during and following delivery.
Babies born by cesarean delivery are more likely to develop this condition. A cesarean delivery doesnt allow the fluid to be squeezed out of the babys lungs, which commonly occurs in the birth canal during vaginal delivery.
Other factors that may contribute to the development of transient tachypnea include:
- being born to a mother who has diabetes
- rapid vaginal delivery
- delayed cord clamping
Male babies and those born at a larger birth weight are also more likely to develop this condition.
Healthy Newborn Respiratory Rates
Typically, a newborn should take 4060 breaths per minute. A single breath is one inhalation and one exhalation.
However, a 2016 study of 953 healthy, full-term newborn babies found that their respiratory rates varied significantly. The average respiratory rate 2 hours after birth was 46 breaths per minute, but around 5% of babies studied took 65 breaths per minute or more at 2 hours old. This suggests that a slightly faster breathing rate may be common and healthy in some cases.
Babies who are very upset may breathe faster while crying. Generally, their breathing will return to normal when they have calmed down.
Respiration steadily slows as a baby gets older. The typical breathing rate for a child aged between 1 and 3 years is 2440 breaths per minute.
A fast respiratory rate, or tachypnea, tends to be more common than a slow respiratory rate in newborns. Tachypnea often means that a baby is not getting enough oxygen and is compensating by breathing more frequently.
Many issues can lead to labored breathing in newborns. Some
- gestational diabetes in the mother
Newborns have a higher risk of respiratory problems than older babies or children. Some other causes and contributing factors include:
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Newborn Breathing Patterns: Whats Normal
Many new parents become focused on their newborns breathing. He just stopped breathing for 8 seconds is that normal? She was breathing regularly, then started breathing really fast is she okay? Its completely normal to have these worries, as it is frightening to see your little one stop breathing for any length of time. So how do we know whats typical and when its time to call the doctor? Let Mommy Sleep Night Nurse Kathleen Hager, RN, BSN breaks it all down for us here in Newborn Breathing Patterns: Whats Normal?
image credit: RTD Photography
Health Complications Of Mouth Breathing
Everyone should breathe through their nose for good health. As air passes through the nasal path, it is filtered to remove toxins. It also reaches the lungs at optimal pressure, a factor that helps in oxygen extraction and nitric acid release for proper circulation.â
When your child breathes through their mouth, fewer toxins are filtered, which can inhibit circulation. This affects the transfer of oxygen throughout the body, impacting your child’s wellbeing by causing:
- Oral health problems such as dry mouth, which reduces saliva and causes bacteria to stay longer on the teeth. This increases the risk of gingivitis and tooth decay.
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Get To Know Your Newborn’s Breathing
One of the best things that you can do is simply spend time with your baby and quietly listen to them breathe. Whether they are awake or asleep, make note of the different noises that they make.
Your baby’s breathing sounds can vary depending on what they are doing, such as eating, sleeping, or just being quietly awake. Getting to know those different sounds can save you from mistakenly becoming convinced that something is wrong.
If you have a hospital birth, rooming-in can be advantageous when it comes to learning more about your new baby. If you have questions, a nurse will be readily available to help.
Whats A Normal Respiratory Rate In Adults
A normal respiratory rate in healthy adults is roughly 12 to 20 breaths per minute. Your respiratory rate is an important vital sign. It can potentially indicate a more serious condition, such as cardiac arrest.
If your respiratory rate is below average, it could indicate central nervous system dysfunction. If your respiratory rate is above average, it could indicate another underlying condition.
Some variation in respiratory rate occurs naturally as we age. As we get older, we become more prone to diseases and health conditions. Some organs are closely linked to your respiratory health and can change your respiratory rate.
The normal respiratory rate for children varies by age.
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Why Do Preterm Babies Have Trouble Breathing
Preterm babies havent had as much time produce surfactant a substance that keeps the air sacs in the lungs from sticking together when exhaling. Surfactant also helps the lungs to inflate and prevents them collapsing in on themselves, which makes breathing harder.
Some babies born at this point, however, will still struggle to maintain breathing for themselves and might require respiratory support from a breathing machine or ventilator.
The lungs arent considered mature until around 36 weeks. Generally the longer the gestation, the better it is for the health of newborn babies, as they are better equipped to deal with their new world.
Baby Breathing Patterns And Sounds While Sleeping
Also surprising? If you thought your partners snoring was as bad as it gets, then just wait until you hear the many noises that come out of your baby when he or she sleeps. ?
The sounds a baby makes while sleeping can vary widely, Hollier says, adding that normal sounds can include gurgling, whistling, grunting or a soft snore. Some babies are very quiet and still during sleep, while others may be noisy and more active.
One of the reasons your newborn is a loud sleeper is because they breathe through their nose, which affects the kind of sounds they make while snoozing. This is important when it comes to breast- or bottle-feeding, because it allows babies to eat and breathe at the same time.
But those tiny noses make for even smaller air passages, which results in a lot of different noises, including raspy sounds and excess sneezing.
Try to remember that just as adults make noises in their sleep , so do babies.
If your babys breathing while sleeping still seems off, its worth monitoring. Some babies, particularly preterm or underweight babies, may have some form of sleep apnea. As much as 84 percent of babies weighing less than 2.2 pounds have sleep apnea and about 25 percent of babies weighing less than 5 percent have sleep apnea. Its rare in full-term babies, though these conditions may increase the likelihood of sleep apnea:
- Acid reflux
- Small upper airway
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Do Babies Breathe In The Womb
Babies dont breathe in the traditional sense in the womb the air we inhale doesnt exist in there!
That said, babies do actually practice breathing, known as fetal breathing movements, well before they leave their comfy uterine confines. Muscle contractions bring amniotic fluid in and out of the lungs, which is thought to help strengthen the muscles involved in preparation for life outside of the womb. It may even support the development of alveoli, tiny air sacs on the lungs that exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide with blood.
Although fetal breathing movements begin as early as week 10 of pregnancy, they start in earnest starting at about week 20. Since theyre not necessary for survival, practice breathing doesnt happen constantly. In fact, babies may go a couple of hours without making any breathing movements at all. By weeks 24 to 28, practice breathing occurs about 10 to 20 percent of the time, increasing to 30 to 40 percent of the time after week 30.
Seeing these breathing movements on an ultrasound during the third trimester is just another sign that all is well.
How Often Should Parents Check The Babys Breathing
Ideally, you can check on the babys breathing once or twice a day. Perhaps the best time to do it when the baby is having a nap or just fell asleep for the night. Here is how you can check your babys breathing:
- Check for abnormal sounds: Stand close to the baby and listen for any unusual sounds like whistling, grunting, etc. You can also hear the babys breath to check if it is okay.
- Observe movements of distress: See for any indicators of abnormal chest movements. Check if the babys chest seems to retract or move faster than it should.
- Look for other symptoms: A baby could have abnormal breathing in case he or she has a fever or other flu symptoms. You can check for temperature by touching the babys forehead and heart rate by holding the babys wrist. Assessing the fingertips for blue coloration is another way to check for a respiratory problem.
- Observe changes in the babys behavior and routine: Is your baby fussy more often? Is the baby lethargic? Does he or she feel lethargic and show no interest in playing? All these symptoms, along with the presence of abnormal breathing, could indicate a problem.
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