How can I tell if my baby is having trouble breathing?

Craig T. Nakamura, MD
Pediatric Pulmonology
Parents can check for breathing problems such as their baby using extra effort like grunting, says Craig Nakamura, MD, a pediatric pulmonologist at Sunrise Hospital. In this video, he describes breathing symptoms that parents might notice.
Look for rapid breathing or labored breathing.  These are two of the most important signs. Babies should not be breathing faster than 60 breaths per minute. Labored breathing means that you can see the child working hard to breath. This give the appearance that the skin between the ribs and in the neck is being sucked in with every breath. Fussiness can also be a sign of trouble breathing. If a baby had a bluish color this would be a definite emergency.
While most of the time nasal congestion is responsible for making a baby’s breathing noisy, it is important to recognize signs of true troubled breathing that should be evaluated. A newborn normally breathes 30 to 60 times a minute (one breath every 1 to 2 seconds)--much faster than an older child or adult. If you feel like your baby is taking more than one breath per second, take a close look. Can you see her tummy or the space between the ribs moving in and out with each breath? Do you hear wheezing (a high-pitched
whistle) or other extra noises with each breath? Is your baby’s head bobbing as she breathes? Is she coughing? Is her nose flaring with each breath? Does her skin look blue?

If the answer to any of these questions is “yes” or you simply can’t tell the difference, call your pediatrician right away.
Mommy Calls: Dr. Tanya Answers Parents' Top 101 Questions About Babies and Toddlers

More About this Book

Mommy Calls: Dr. Tanya Answers Parents' Top 101 Questions About Babies and Toddlers

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------The must-have resource for parents of children up to age three! Small enough to fit in a diaper bag, but big on...

Continue Learning about Breathing Disorders Signs & Symptoms

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.