Is Newborn Breathing Fast a Concern?

Newborns are delicate! So, when faced by rapid breathing in newborns, many moms may head to the emergency room. Is it really that serious? However, you should always consult a pediatrician if you are unsure about the state of your baby’s respiratory health.

Is Newborn Breathing Fast a Concern?

At 40-60 breaths per minute, a newborn’s breathing is a lot faster, compared to a toddler’s 30 and an adult’s 25 breaths per minute. If your little one has unceasing rapid breathing of more than 60 breaths per minute, the doctor will probably diagnose him/her with tachypnea which is entirely normal and harmless if it is not long-lasting.

Remember that your baby is new to this world and his/her body is adjusting to function well in the new environment. Your newborn breathes through the nose and does not know how to deal with nasal secretions yet. If your baby appears to be wheezing and breathing rapidly, but is feeding well and sleeping normally, then do not be alarmed.

When to Worry

You should consult a doctor immediately if your child displays any of the following symptoms:

  • Consistently breathing at more than 60 breaths a minute
  • Coughing fits
  • High fever
  • Bluish or pale skin
  • Seeming to be limp
  • Struggling to breathe or unable to sleep
  • Abdominal sucking-in when breathing

Medical Conditions That Can Cause Rapid Breathing

Newborn breathing fast is often seen in the first two days after birth, especially among premature ones. This is a condition known as transient tachypnea.


  • Bluish skin color
  • Wheezing and grunting when breathing
  • Retractions and flaring nostrils when breathing


While in the womb, your baby gets oxygen and nutrients through the umbilical cord. During this time, the baby’s lungs are filled with a special fluid which helps the lungs to develop. During labor, the lungs stop producing this fluid and that already in the lungs is reabsorbed or excreted. However, in some cases, the fluid is not totally removed and this is the cause of transient tachypnea.

Rapid breathing in newborns is common in babies born prematurely, born via scheduled caesarean section, and born to a mother who has diabetes, and is more common in males than females.


Transient tachypnea usually goes away within one to two days after birth. Treatment in case of newborn breathing fast involves the following:

  • Oxygen. The baby will be put on oxygen to stabilize the oxygen levels in blood.
  • Antibiotics to keep infections at bay
  • IV feeding to provide the baby with the much-needed fluids and nutrients

Other Causes

Some babies, especially those born prematurely, develop pneumonia because their lungs haven’t developed fully.

Sometimes the baby breathes in meconium (the first stool) while in the womb or during birth. This is called meconium aspiration. This is most likely to happen in cases when the baby is distressed during childbirth due to prolonged labor or other reasons. Meconium poses a risk of lung infection to your baby. If you suspect this, consult your doctor immediately for further examination.

Are the Following Breathing Patterns in Newborns Normal?

1. The Noisy Breathing Pattern

A loud breather should not be cause for concern. Since babies only breathe through their noses in the first few months, their breathing is usually accompanied by all sorts of wheezes and grunts. However, if you notice any of the following symptoms, consult a doctor immediately:

  • Baby feeds poorly.
  • Skin turns blue, especially around the lips, tongue, and hands.
  • Baby is struggling to breathe.

2. Baby Sneezing Frequently

If your baby happens to sneeze often, don’t rush to get rid of what you consider to be “allergy triggers” to the baby. The reason why your little angel sneezes so frequently is the nasal passage is still very tiny, plus, as discussed earlier, babies can only breathe through their noses and therefore sneezing helps them clear the nasal cavity for smoother breathing. Sneezing means that your baby’s body is functioning as it’s supposed to!

3. Periodic Breathing

Periodic breathing is accompanied by newborn breathing fast, followed by episodes of shallow or light breathing and even instances where it seems like your baby is not breathing at all. Calm down because this is part of your baby’s normal development and he/she will soon grow out of it.

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