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You are watching: Why does my baby gasp for air

Is your baby gasping for air?

There are several reasons why a baby gasps when laid down. Let’s take a look at a number of possible reasons and how to handle the situation.

A lot of parents have also shared their particular situations with babies that gasp in the comments section.


Mom’s Question:

My baby has episodes of gasping for air when laid down. We have tried to find the reasons for this as it has happened a few times and we can not find out what it is.

On rare occasions when she is laid down for a diaper change, she will gasp as though she can’t breathe well. When picked up she recovers, episode lasting around 20 seconds.

She had the first episode at 10 pm when she was about three months old and we took her to the emergency room. They tested her oxygen level and said it was near perfect. The second time it happened was at 6 pm at about 5 and a half months old, but she was only making the noise and was able to breathe through the whole episode.

And this last time she had an episode at 10 pm that lasted over a minute and really had more trouble breathing, turned red in the face and was in pain.

We are worried and can’t find a doctor who will provide much help, especially since she seems fine after they occur, and the doctors can only go by our description. My baby is 6 and a half month old and otherwise very healthy and active.

Does anyone recognize this and know what it is if a baby gasps when laid down? Or what to do about it?

Baby Gasps When Laid Down – Possible Reasons and Remedies

Seeing your baby gasping for air is quite worrying just like you describe. And how frustrating to not being able to find out what is wrong. Don’t give up!

There can be several reasons why this happens, ranging from a mild acid reflux, to infections, and various conditions related to their airways.

Let’s take a look at a number of possible causes.

1. Baby Gasping for Air – Acid Reflux

Have you considered if her gasping when laid down may be due to some mild form of acid reflux (or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), as it is really called)?

As you may know, acid reflux in various degrees is common among infants and some of the symptoms are a lot of spitting up, poor sleep, poor weight gain, episodes with trouble breathing, arching back when feeding, frequent hiccups and more.

Babies that have acid reflux have a condition that allows food and stomach acid to flow back up (reflux) into the esophagus. When the food is flowing up into the mouth, the baby can have trouble breathing, may choke, it may be painful etc.

Since the gasping and trouble breathing comes when you lay your daughter down, and then it goes away when you pick her up, it does sound to me as if it could have to do with stomach content disturbing her.

Do you see any connection between feeding her and the problems occurring? If this makes any sense, contact a pediatrician to discuss acid reflux as a possible cause.

Filming the behavior to demonstrate it to your pediatrician may be helpful, but even if you do not film it, there are tests and studies available to confirm acid reflux even when your daughter is not showing any symptoms.

Trying to feed her more frequently and in smaller amounts, as well as elevating the head end of her crib to create some incline might be helpful in preventing the reflux from happening, but if it is, in fact, reflux, and these simple strategies do not help, there is a medication a doctor can prescribe to help her.

You can read more about acid reflux here.

It might be good for you to know that most babies outgrow the condition at around 12 months old.

2. Tracheomalacia

Another, but rare, condition that can make a baby gasp is tracheomalacia. This involves a collapse of airways while the baby is breathing. In addition to gasping, noisy breathing and coughing can be symptoms.

Some children grow out of tracheomalacia, while in other cases, surgery is needed. You can find link to more information about tracheomalacia among the references below.

Learn more about tracheomalacia in this video:

Watch this video on YouTube

3. Laryngomalacia

Laryngomalacia is a softening of the tissues of the larynx (voice box) above the vocal cords. This can occur in babies, and one of the most common symptoms is noisy breathing. Most babies grow out of this without intervention at around 1 year old.

However, difficulties breathing can also be a symptom, and gasping for air can certainly be such a difficulty.

The breathing often gets noisier when the baby is laid down on their back or when crying.

In addition to harsh breathing and a squeaky sound, called stridor, when breathing, babies with more severe laryngomalacia may have trouble feeding or breathing. They may have reflux (described above) too, and sometimes poor weight gain, breathing pauses and blue lips (as a result of breathing difficulties).

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If your baby experiences any of the more severe symptoms, you should take them to a doctor as soon as possible.