The Real Truth Of Newborn Breathing

Newborn breathing

Contrary to popular belief, newborn breathing does not happen automatically the second a baby is born. In some ways this can be a good thing since it gives the assistant a chance to wipe away any fluid, blood or meconium that could otherwise be breathed in. That being said, if a baby is mature enough and healthy he should begin to breathe a few seconds after his head emerges. 

Breathing and Preemie Babies

 Premature babies may experience problems getting his lungs fully expanded due to lack of surfactant. But these days, if a premature birth is anticipated, this can be adequately prepared for.

Another slowness to start breathing is often associated if the mother was over sedated during labor… which frequently causes a slow down in the baby’s heart rate before birth. This is why there is a reluctance to give strong pain killers late in labor. Usually the baby’s heart rate slows during a contraction, but if the general rate is slow the obstetrician or midwife will try to ensure that a pediatrician is present at birth.


In the case of my daughter I had an almost painless labor and no pain killers – nevertheless she refused to breathe for well over a minute – one of the longest minutes of our lives. The reason was that my body had been producing natural pain killers – endorphins – which have a very powerful effect. 15 Years on she is still breathing fine. But now has compensated for her initial lack of breathing by talking almost non-stop


Measuring Breathing And More...

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Newborn breathing is just one of things doctors check when your baby is born. When the baby is born your doctor will also check him and give an Apgar score. This gives points for skin color, muscle tone, respiratory effort, heart rate and reflexes. For instance: a baby may have a score of 8 out of 10 at one minute if its skin color is a little grey and they are just a little floppy. Usually a slightly less than perfect score soon improves. A score of 7 or above is considered good.

A low score in any area is a sign that intervention is needed. A low score soon after birth is no indication of possible long term problems. My daughter is a high achiever – 90% in exams is normal - she scored only 3. But within a few minutes was a fine, pink, healthy, beautiful baby. A lower score sometimes occurs after a Caesarean section or after a high risk pregnancy.

Like all new moms I gazed fascinated at my new baby, but because of the earlier problem I found it difficult to relax at first. Would she carry on breathing?  Eventually of course I fell asleep.

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She has never had any breathing problems, but if these do occur. Here are a few practical newborn breathing signs to look out for:

  • A slight blue tinge especially round the mouth and lips,
  • a raised rate of respiration – babies breathe more often than adults , but a rate of above 60 times per minute should suggest a problem,
  • flaring of the nostrils or even raising of the shoulders with each breath – known as secondary signs of respiration, and
  • Crowing, wheezing or grunting on breathing.

Whenever you spot any or all of these newborn breathing signs, I suggest you see your doctor.

An Easy Solution for Worrying About Newborn Breathing

Don’t let the possibility of breathing difficulties rob you of sleep. Nowadays there are great baby monitors available on the market to literally check up on your baby any time, without taking the time and effort to physically go there every time. Some of these monitors are quite sophisticated… all designed to give you complete peace of mind regarding your baby’s breathing and wellbeing… wherever you move in the house.

Any Questions?

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