newborn breathing problems

Newborn Breathing Problems

Many new parents become immediately worried about newborn breathing problems, just after delivery.  Before birth a baby leads a somewhat sheltered life but, from the moment he is born, a new phase in his development starts. He has to adjust to a completely new environment. Some things like breathing, for example, he can do instantaneously without any help, but in many other ways he is entirely helpless and dependent on his mother’s assistance.


Watching a baby take his first breath is, perhaps, the most dramatic and exciting event at birth. Some babies howl loudly for several minutes; others emit only one or two cries and then immediately settle down to quiet breathing. Nature leaves nothing to chance, and you will not be surprised to hear that babies practise breathing movements in the womb from a very early age. Some mothers feel these movements as newborn breathing problemsrapid pulsations over the lower part of the abdomen. Most babies breathe spontaneously and normally at birth, although it is customary for the midwife gently to clear the baby’s nose and mouth, and to note the breathing pattern, heart rate, skin colour, muscle tone and general activity.

Babies are usually blue at the moment of birth, but this is quickly followed by a healthy pink colour which spreads over the face, trunk and limbs. lt usually takes a little longer for the fingers and toes to become pink. Occasionally, there might be a slight delay before breathing begins. In this instance, the midwife encourages the baby by gently rubbing or pinching his toes.

Common Newborn Breathing Problems

Sometimes there is a longer delay before the baby begins to breathe. There are several reasons why a baby may get off to a slow start. The “breathing centre’ in the brain, for example, is sometimes a little depressed following a difficult labor or delivery. Likewise, large doses of pain-killing drugs given to the mother during labor might also depress a baby’s ‘breathing centre’ for a short while. Medical staff can often predict when a baby is likely to be slow to breathe, and arrangements can be made for a paediatrician to be present at the birth.