Every parent has a natural instinct to protect their little ones. This is especially true if we feel our little one is in danger. For example, if you were to see your baby gasp for air, your first reaction might be that of extreme panic and anxiety. After all, not many people would know what to do if a baby were to stop breathing, aside from call for medical help. The good news is, in most cases, when your baby is gasping for air, it is not life-threatening.
Reasons Why a Baby Might Gasp for Air
It is a good idea to explore the reasons why you may see a baby gasp for air, since not all reasons are cause for an ambulance. Some may require additional check up with your doctor but not in an immediate sense.
1. Acid Reflux - If you notice that your baby is having a hard time getting air after a feeding and laying down, this could be a sign of acid reflux or also called GERD. This happens when her stomach contents can travel back up through her esophagus causing difficulty in getting air. Other symptoms could include frequent hiccuping, poor sleep and arching her back during feedings.
2. Cold or Flu - If your little baby is between the ages of newborn and 6 months, they will predominately be nose breathers. If they are forced to mouth breath due to a stuffy nose, they may have a hard time with this, causing what looks like gasping. They should get the hang of it with a little bit of practice so be patient and just keep an eye for further distress.
3. Allergies - It is hard to believe, but some infants actually have allergies which they are born with. These allergies could be due to the type or brand of formula they are drinking, they could be due to family pets or even laundry detergents.
These allergies are not often life-threatening at this age, more of an agitation. Signs of pet allergies could include red, watery eyes, and excessive bouts of sneezing. As for allergies to formula, look for excessive spitting up.
4. Foreign Body - If you have an older baby who can grasp things easily with her hands, check to see that she hasn’t put something in her mouth which has become lodged. This is a common and potentially dangerous cause of babies gasping for air.
Red Flags to Call for Help
These are signs that you should call 9-1-1 or your local medical emergency number right away if baby is gasping for air with these or followed by these:
- Gasping turning into no sound at all coming from baby
- Red face following gasping; no sign of air making its way in
- It seems that something is lodged in their throat
- Excessive/extreme coughing and preventing your baby from catching their breath
- Your baby has been exposed to a poison or hazardous material
Ways to Help Your Baby
Sometimes simple fixes will help your baby catch her breath and quit gasping. For example, just by elevating the head of your baby’s bed when she has a cold may keep her tiny air passage open despite mucus build up. You can do this easily with a crib wedge, designed with safety in mind.
If you are suspicious that the formula is causing an allergic reaction, try switching to a sensitive formula for your baby.Sometimes switching to liquid versus powdered formula also helps. Enfamil A.R. Infant Formula is designed with acid reflux concerns in mind for babies needing extra help.
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When you suspect other allergies it is best to contact your doctor and make an appointment. They will be able to run tests and assess your infant so you can make other changes if needed. Other things that may help are using a humidifier or vaporizer in the nursery to help with better breathing. This works great especially when your baby has a cold with congestion.
If you find baby gasps for air while drinking a bottle, you might need to switch your bottle nipple. There are different “speeds” for nipples and if the flow is too fast for your baby, she may not be able to keep up with the amount of formula flowing through.
Of course it is natural that you will feel panic or fear if you were to see your baby gasp for air, but the positive news is that there are several reasons this may be happening. It is important to familiarize yourself with all of the potential causes and how you can help. Also you should be completely educated on red flags that mean you need medical attention right away.
Hopefully this has helped to put your mind at ease a little in that baby gasping for air may not be an emergency. Please feel free to leave a comment or question, our readers are important to us!