Infant Breathing Issues

Written by sarah dewitt ince
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Infant Breathing Issues
Go to your regular doctor appointments to ensure that your baby's lungs are healthy. (newborn image by Valentin Mosichev from

Infant breathing issues stem from several triggers such as respiratory infections, premature birth, asthma and allergies. These issues can cause a baby to gasp for air, wheeze and cough. Other factors that can compromise an infant's airway are genetic illness, vitamin deficiencies and C-section births. The March of Dimes Foundation says even full-term babies born by C-section might have breathing problems. Infants might have respiratory issues for a few short weeks after birth, but sometimes breathing issues are prolonged depending on the cause.

Gasping for Air

Gasping for air is an infant breathing issue that is seen in babies who have asthma and allergies. A baby struggles to breathe because his airway is compromised from the inflammation the condition causes. However, gasping for air is not always caused by asthma.

Babies who are born via C-section might gasp for air soon after birth or when they are battling an upper respiratory infection. The MedlinePlus website says respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) can be serious in infants, especially babies who fall into high-risk groups. The University of Mississippi says that premature babies fall into a high-risk group because they have underdeveloped lungs and other health issues. Other infants at risk are babies who have birth defects or genetic disorders.

Infants gasp because they are trying to fill their lungs with more oxygen. They might open their mouth really wide and make grunting sounds as well.


Wheezing is another infant breathing issue that is often caused by asthma and other respiratory infections. Infants who are in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) might wheeze off and on throughout the day. The Kid's Health website says triggers such as premature birth and asthma cause the lungs and airways to tighten and produce less mucous. This causes a baby to struggle and breath abnormally.

However, wheezing might only be a temporary breathing problem depending on the cause. Dr. William Sears, author of "The Baby Book," says that infant wheezing might be caused by saliva and regurgitated milk. He describes true wheezing as laboured breathing and caving in of the chest.

Take your baby to the doctor if you believe she is displaying symptoms of true wheezing.

Rapid Breathing

Rapid breathing, which is associated with asthma and other conditions, is another issue infants sometimes struggle with. Sears says that rapid breathing, also called panting, is common in newborns. Rapid breathing simply might indicate that your child's lungs are irritated by cigarette smoke or something in the air. However, sometimes rapid breathing is a signal that something more serious is going on. Visit your doctor if your baby displays rapid breathing symptoms.

Persistent Coughing

Persistent coughing is also commonly seen in both high-risk and low-risk infants. Sometimes continual coughing is simply caused by a slew of colds that your baby gets during her first year of life, and some infants get sick more often than others.

Other causes of persistent coughing can be asthma or a chronic lung disease. Sears advises parents to allow their children to breath steam for 20 minutes every couple of hours to help open up their lungs. You can buy a humidifier or turn on the shower and sit in the bathroom with your baby. This is helpful with your baby is suffering from a respiratory infection.

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