why is my baby breathing fast while sleeping

Life-Saving Guide: Expert Tips on What to Do If Your Baby Stops Breathing While Sleeping

Table of Contents

Common Causes of a Baby Stopping Breathing While Sleeping

There are several common causes that can lead to a baby stopping breathing while sleeping. One of the most common causes is sleep apnea, which is a condition where the airway becomes partially or completely blocked during sleep, leading to pauses in breathing. This can be caused by factors such as enlarged tonsils or adenoids, obesity, or anatomical abnormalities in the airway.

Another common cause is sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), which is the unexplained death of an otherwise healthy baby during sleep. SIDS is thought to be related to abnormalities in brain function that control breathing and arousal from sleep. Other potential causes include respiratory infections, allergies, asthma, and certain medications that can depress the respiratory system.

Possible causes of a baby stopping breathing while sleeping:

  • Sleep apnea
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • Respiratory infections
  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Medications that depress the respiratory system

Tips for preventing a baby from stopping breathing while sleeping:

  1. Ensure your baby sleeps on their back to reduce the risk of SIDS.
  2. Keep your baby’s sleep environment free from hazards such as loose bedding or stuffed animals.
  3. Monitor your baby’s temperature and ensure they are not overheated during sleep.
  4. If your baby has known risk factors for sleep apnea, consult with a healthcare professional for further evaluation and management.

Recognizing if Your Baby Has Stopped Breathing During Sleep

Signs to Look for

It is important for parents to be aware of the signs that their baby may have stopped breathing during sleep. Some common signs include:

  • No movement or very little movement
  • No sound of breathing
  • Pale or bluish skin color
  • Limpness or floppiness in the body
  • Lack of response to touch or stimulation

Monitoring Techniques

To ensure the safety of your baby during sleep, it is recommended to use monitoring techniques that can alert you if your baby stops breathing. These techniques include:

  • Baby monitors with breathing sensors that can detect any irregularities in your baby’s breathing pattern and send an alert to your device.
  • Owlet Smart Sock, a wearable device that tracks your baby’s heart rate and oxygen levels while they sleep and notifies you if there are any abnormalities.
  • Video monitors with audio capabilities, allowing you to visually check on your baby’s movements and listen for any sounds of breathing.

Immediate Actions to Take if Your Baby Stops Breathing While Sleeping

Call for Help

If you notice that your baby has stopped breathing during sleep, the first step is to immediately call emergency services or ask someone nearby to do so. Time is crucial in such situations, and professional help should be sought as soon as possible.

Perform CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation)

CPR is a life-saving technique that can be performed on babies who have stopped breathing. It involves a combination of chest compressions and rescue breaths to restore the baby’s breathing and circulation. If you are trained in CPR, begin performing it while waiting for medical help to arrive. If not, the emergency dispatcher can guide you through the steps until professional assistance arrives.

Stay Calm and Reassure Your Baby

While waiting for help and performing CPR, it is important to stay calm and reassure your baby. Comforting words and gentle touches can provide some comfort during this distressing situation.

First Aid Techniques to Revive a Baby Who Has Stopped Breathing During Sleep

The Recovery Position

If your baby has regained consciousness after performing CPR but is still having difficulty breathing, placing them in the recovery position can help open their airway further. To do this:

  1. Gently roll your baby onto their side while supporting their head and neck.
  2. Bend their upper leg at the knee to stabilize their position.
  3. Tilt their head slightly backward to maintain an open airway.
  4. Monitor their breathing closely until medical help arrives.

Administering Rescue Breaths

If your baby is not breathing after performing CPR, you may need to continue providing rescue breaths until medical professionals take over. Ensure that:

  • Your baby’s airway is clear of any obstructions or blockages.
  • You cover your baby’s mouth and nose with your mouth or use a barrier device specifically designed for infants.
  • You give two gentle breaths lasting about one second each, watching for chest rise with each breath.
  • Continue this cycle of rescue breaths until help arrives or your baby starts breathing on their own.

Preventing Incidents of Babies Stopping Breathing While Sleeping in the Future

Create a Safe Sleep Environment

To reduce the risk of your baby stopping breathing during sleep, it is crucial to create a safe sleep environment. Follow these guidelines:

  • Place your baby on their back to sleep, as this position is associated with a lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • Use a firm mattress and avoid placing pillows, blankets, or stuffed animals in the crib.
  • Avoid overheating the room and dress your baby in appropriate clothing for the temperature.
  • Ensure that the crib bars are spaced correctly to prevent entrapment.

Regularly Check on Your Baby

Making regular checks on your sleeping baby can provide peace of mind and allow you to quickly respond if any issues arise. Consider using video monitors or audio monitors to keep an eye and ear on your baby while they sleep.

Attend Infant CPR Classes

Becoming trained in infant CPR can equip you with life-saving skills and knowledge. Attending classes specifically focused on infant CPR will give you confidence in handling emergency situations involving your baby’s breathing.

Medical Conditions and Risk Factors for Babies Stopping Breathing During Sleep

Sleep Apnea in Infants

Sleep apnea is a condition characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep. In infants, it can be caused by various factors such as prematurity, anatomical abnormalities, or central nervous system disorders. Consult with a pediatrician if you suspect your baby may have sleep apnea.

Respiratory Infections

Respiratory infections, such as bronchiolitis or pneumonia, can lead to breathing difficulties in babies. These infections may cause inflammation and blockage in the airways, increasing the risk of breathing cessation during sleep. Prompt medical attention is essential for managing respiratory infections in infants.


Premature babies are at a higher risk of experiencing breathing problems during sleep due to their underdeveloped respiratory systems. Close monitoring and specialized care are crucial for these infants to prevent incidents of breathing cessation.

CPR Recommendations for Babies Who Have Stopped Breathing While Sleeping

Performing Chest Compressions

If your baby has stopped breathing while sleeping, performing chest compressions is an essential component of CPR. Follow these steps:

  1. Lay your baby on a firm surface, such as the floor or a table.
  2. Place two fingers just below the nipple line and give 30 quick compressions at a depth of about 1.5 inches.
  3. Compress the chest at a rate of around 100-120 times per minute.
  4. Allow the chest to fully recoil between each compression.

Administering Rescue Breaths

In addition to chest compressions, providing rescue breaths is crucial for reviving a baby who has stopped breathing. Ensure that:

  • You tilt your baby’s head back slightly to open their airway.
  • You cover your baby’s mouth and nose with your mouth or use a barrier device designed for infants.
  • You give two gentle breaths lasting about one second each, watching for chest rise with each breath.
  • Continue alternating between chest compressions and rescue breaths until medical help arrives or your baby starts breathing on their own.

Devices and Technologies to Monitor a Baby’s Breathing During Sleep and Alert Parents

Baby Breathing Monitors

There are various types of baby breathing monitors available in the market that can provide real-time monitoring and alerts if your baby stops breathing. These include:

  • Sock monitors that track your baby’s oxygen levels and heart rate through sensors embedded in a wearable sock.
  • Mat monitors that detect movement and breathing patterns by placing a sensor mat under the crib mattress.
  • Audio monitors equipped with sound sensors that can detect changes in breathing sounds and send alerts to parents’ devices.

Smartphone Apps

Some smartphone apps utilize the device’s microphone to monitor your baby’s breathing sounds during sleep. These apps analyze the sounds for any abnormalities and notify you if there are any concerns regarding your baby’s breathing patterns.

When to Seek Immediate Medical Help if Your Baby Stops Breathing While Sleeping

If CPR is Unsuccessful

If you have performed CPR on your baby who has stopped breathing while sleeping but they remain unresponsive, it is crucial to seek immediate medical help. Call emergency services or go directly to the nearest hospital for professional assistance.

If There Are Other Symptoms Present

If your baby exhibits other concerning symptoms along with stopping breathing during sleep, such as seizures, extreme lethargy, or persistent coughing, it is important to seek immediate medical attention. These symptoms may indicate an underlying medical condition that requires prompt evaluation and treatment.

Sleep Positions and Environments that Contribute to Babies Stopping Breathing: Precautions to Take

Avoiding Co-Sleeping

Co-sleeping, or sharing a bed with your baby, increases the risk of accidental suffocation or overlaying, which can lead to breathing cessation. It is recommended to have a separate sleep space for your baby, such as a crib or bassinet.

Soft Bedding and Pillows

Avoid placing soft bedding materials, such as pillows, blankets, or stuffed animals, in your baby’s sleep environment. These items can pose suffocation hazards and increase the risk of breathing difficulties during sleep.

Smoking Exposure

Exposure to secondhand smoke significantly increases the risk of respiratory problems in babies. Avoid smoking around your baby and ensure that their sleeping environment is free from any lingering smoke particles.


Overheating can contribute to breathing difficulties in babies. Dress your baby appropriately for the room temperature and avoid using heavy blankets or excessive layers that may cause them to overheat during sleep.


If you suspect that your baby has any underlying medical conditions contributing to breathing cessation during sleep, consult with a healthcare professional for further evaluation and guidance on preventive measures specific to your baby’s needs.

In conclusion, it is crucial for parents and caregivers to be prepared and knowledgeable about the appropriate actions to take if a baby stops breathing while sleeping. By following the recommended guidelines such as calling emergency services immediately, performing CPR if trained, and practicing safe sleep practices, we can help ensure the safety and well-being of our little ones.

Is it normal for babies to stop breathing while sleeping?

While sleeping, the brain is less active, causing a decrease in breathing and heart rate. It is typical for infants to experience brief pauses in breathing. However, in cases of infant apnea, these pauses are excessively long and the heart rate slows down too much. This condition is more prevalent in premature babies born before 37 weeks.

Do babies wake themselves up if they can’t breathe?

When a baby is not getting enough oxygen and breathing in stagnant air, their brain typically prompts them to wake up and cry in order to receive more oxygen.

What causes sleep apnea in babies?

There are two main causes of infant central sleep apnea. One cause is a developmental issue that occurs due to the immaturity of the brainstem. The other cause is a secondary problem that arises from another medical condition. It is typical for infants to experience some breathing instability.

Can sleep apnea cause SIDS?

Given that OSA leads to an increase in carbon dioxide levels and decrease in oxygen levels, it is possible to hypothesize that an atypical response of infants to these factors could contribute to SIDS.

How do I know if my baby can’t breathe while sleeping?

The most prevalent symptom of this condition is loud snoring, often accompanied by periods of interrupted breathing or sudden gasping for air.

Are there warning signs of SIDS?

SIDS does not have any symptoms or indicators to warn of its occurrence. Infants who pass away from SIDS appear to be healthy before being put to sleep. They do not show any signs of distress and are often found in the same position as when they were laid down.

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