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Is My Baby Breathing Too Fast? Should I Be Worried?

Is My Baby Breathing Too Fast? Should I Be Worried?

First-time parents might raise concerns about their newborn’s breathing. They might notice that unlike adults, the baby’s respiratory rate is often fast and irregular. The thing is, very young babies usually breathe this way. So, the question is, when do you seek help for a newborn breathing fast? Find out here.

Normal Respiration in Newborn Babies

Like mentioned earlier, a newborn that’s breathing fast is quite normal, particularly if you compare their respiratory rate with that of adults.

You see, the normal respiration for the first year of life is at 40 to 60 breaths per minute. That can be about triple the rate in adults.

Besides the rate, let’s talk about the characteristics. Newborn breathing can:

  • Be irregular – While adult respiration often has “rhythm,” breathing in newborn may be irregular.
  • Have pauses – Don’t be surprised if your baby stops breathing for a few seconds, takes a few rapid breaths, and then has slowed breathing eventually.

Given the irregularity, when should parents worry when their newborn is breathing fast?

Signs of Respiratory Distress in Newborn

To determine whether a newborn is really breathing fast, you need to count their breaths per minute. If it exceeds 60 breaths per minute, then that could be a concern.

However, please take into consideration that babies will really have a higher respiratory rate if they feel too hot or are crying. But their breathing will eventually slow down once they calm down or no longer feel too hot.

The other signs you need to watch out for are the following:

  • Apnea – We mentioned that a newborn’s breathing can pause for a few seconds. However, pauses that last for 20 seconds or so can be considered apnea, and might be a serious problem.
  • Grunting – Grunting is a sound that a baby makes as they try to keep air in their lungs. It may sound like “ugh” with each breath.
  • Flaring nostrils – While a newborn who’s breathing fast is quite normal, flaring of their nostrils is not. Nasal flaring occurs when their nostrils widen when they take in air. This is a sign of labored breathing.
  • Chest retraction – Another sign of labored breathing is chest retraction. It occurs when the skin between the neck and the ribs sink upon inhalation.
  • Cyanosis – Finally, one sign that can clue you in to respiratory distress in a newborn is cyanosis or the bluish discoloration in the lips or nails. This is a sign that they are not getting enough oxygen.

Newborn Breathing Too Fast? These Could Be The Reasons

Do you notice that your newborn is breathing too fast? These could be the reasons why:

Transient Tachypnea of the Newborn

Transient tachypnea of the newborn (temporary rapid breathing) is a self-limiting, benign condition common in newborn. It happens because of the baby’s delayed ability to clear fluids from their lungs.

Infection or Illnesses

Some illnesses, especially those that affect the lungs, can make it harder for the newborn to breathe.

Aspiration

Aspiration happens when babies inhale fluids, such as milk, into their airway or lungs. Besides the newborn breathing fast, they can also exhibit other symptoms, like weak sucking or coughing.

Physical injuries

Physical trauma or injury, especially in the area of the lungs, can also affect the baby’s breathing.

Key Takeaways

Is your newborn breathing fast? Please note that the normal respiratory rate in the first year of life is at 40 to 60 breaths per minute. Newborn respiration can also be irregular or have some pauses.

Hence, a newborn is really breathing fast if their respiratory rate is more than 60 counts per minute. Also, check other signs of labored breathing, such as cyanosis, retraction, nasal flaring, apnea, and grunting. If your baby has these signs, please bring them to the doctor immediately.

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Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated 3 weeks ago
Fact Checked by Kristel Lagorza