Breathing Problems in Babies – Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment

4 min read

Written by Aparna Hari

Aparna Hari

Her experience in impactful writing combined with her background in Home Sciences makes Aparna the perfect candidate for content writing in the pregnancy and parenting niche.

Breathing Problems in Babies

When a baby struggles to breathe or makes funny noises as they breathe, as a parent you tend to just panic and not know what to do next. It can be very scary to watch a child unable to do something as basic as breathing freely. While some issues may be temporary, in other cases the breathing problems in babies may need more investigation.

In babies, breathing issues are more common than we are aware of. Many babies are born with breathing issues and need external help and all the medical support to help them breathe properly. When you learn about the various causes, and how to handle a breathing struggle episode, you can help your or any other baby.

In This Article

What Are the Causes of Breathing Problems in Babies?

Breathing problems could be due to a birth defect, a genetic disorder or meconium aspiration in the womb, which are all related to the lungs. In most cases, the reason for breathing problems could be related to the lungs.

Signs And Symptoms of Breathing Difficulty in Babies

Symptoms of Breathing Difficulty in Babies

Sometimes the position in which a baby sleeps can make them breathe deep with tiny noises. It could be a cold resulting in a nasal block, causing an irregular breathing. If you don’t want to panic unnecessarily, you need to understand and know the various signs and symptoms of breathing difficulties.

In case your baby shows any of these symptoms, please know that your baby might be experiencing some breathing issues and needs to see a doctor.

1. Rapid Breathing

When your baby cries or is upset, they will take shallow rapid breaths. If they are breathing rapidly and taking more than 60 breaths a minute, then it is an indication that there is an issue that needs to be checked.

2. Nostrils Flare

If your baby is unable to take deep breaths, they might widen their nostril every time they inhale, trying to take in more air. Once in a while flaring of nostrils is OK, but doing it every time or regularly, is not.

3. Retracting

If your child pulls their chest in, around the ribs area, above their collarbone, or below their breastbone, then it is an indication that they are struggling to breathe normally and need more oxygen.

4. Grunting

If your child makes funny noises like a grunt, moan or even a sigh, every time they breathe, then they are having difficulty breathing normally.

[Read : Grunting Baby Syndrome]

5. Cyanosis

If your child is unable to draw in enough oxygen for the body, they will start turning blue. Babies born with respiratory issues or heart defects may exhibit this symptom quite often.

6. Coughing

We all cough and choke, but if your baby seems to be doing it regularly or continuously, then it indicates a problem. It could also be a digestive or reflux issue. Either way, you need to consult a doctor.

What Are Some Common Breathing Problems in Babies?

Babies experience multiple health issues as they grow. Here are some of the common breathing issues in babies:

  • Common cold
  • Flu
  • Croup
  • Bronchiolitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Meconium Aspiration
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome
  • Asthma
  • Wheezing
  • Infections – Bacterial /Viral
  • Choking on food or foreign particles

[Read : Bronchiolitis in Babies]

Treatment Options For Breathing Problems in Babies

Treatment Options For Breathing Problems in Babies

If your baby has a breathing problem, you need to treat it immediately. Delay in treatment can compromise the level of oxygen that reaches the body, every breath.

Low oxygen supply can result in various serious health complications, especially in a baby.

Your doctor might suggest the following treatments:

1. Medications

Respiratory medications, diuretics, or artificial surfactants are some of the common medications a doctor might prescribe depending on the breathing issue. In case of apnea, they will prescribe caffeine.

2. Oxygen

If the breathing problem is reducing the oxygen supply of your baby, the doctor will suggest oxygen therapy to increase their oxygen supply.

3. Artificial Ventilation

If your baby has a lung problem that is preventing them from breathing properly on their own, the doctor will hook them up to a ventilator. The ventilator will help the baby

4. Surgery

If the breathing problem is due to a congenital issue or defect in the lungs, the doctor might suggest surgery to correct the defect.

Breathing troubles need to be taken care of at the earliest. Early diagnosis will help in timely treatment and the prevention of unnecessary complications. As a parent, you need to be cautious, proactive, and quick to respond, if you have a baby with breathing issues.

[Read : Sleep Apnea in Babies]


1. Can Breathing Problems in Babies Resolve Themselves?

Certain breathing issues can improve with age. As the baby grows and the lungs get stronger, the symptoms can reduce. For severe breathing problems, medical intervention is necessary.

2. Are Breathing Problems in Babies Genetic?

There are many lung issues and breathing genetic problems. These can pass on to the baby. Some can manifest into more serious issues while some can be less severe than in the parents.

3. Can Home Remedies Help With Breathing Problems in Babies?

If the breathing trouble is due to a cold or a stuffy nose, home remedies can help. If it is a chronic or a serious issue, do not try to self-medicate. Your homemade remedies might interfere with the medicines the doctor is prescribing.

Read Also: Wheezing in Toddlers – Causes, Symptoms And Home Remedies by Dr. Srikanta J T

Aparna Hari,MBA in Marketing,P.G. Diploma in Human Resource Management from IGNOU Bachelor of Sciences (Home Science) from Nagarjuna University

Her experience in impactful writing combined with her background in Home Sciences makes Aparna the perfect candidate for content writing in the pregnancy and parenting niche.Read more.

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