An infant respiratory rate is how frequent a baby breathes. It's common for a parent to be concerned if their new baby is breathing normally. It's easier than you think to check the frequency of your baby's breath at home.
First, make sure your baby is comfortable and calm as if he or she is being fussy or squirming around, it can cause a higher respiratory rate. Sit in a position where you can hear or see your baby breathing. Begin counting the number of times on his or her chest rises. You can place your hand on your baby's chest if you need for accuracy. Do this for 60 seconds and you will have your child's respiratory rate.
An infant respiratory rate is measured in breaths per minute. Normal results range between 30-60 breaths per minute.
As your infant gets older, his or her respiratory rate will change. For example, for ages 6-12 months, you can expect 24-40 breaths per minute and for 1-5 year-olds, you can expect to see 24-34 breaths per minute.
If your baby is breathing fast, you should immediately call 911 if he or she is less than one year old and you notice it takes more than 60 breaths a minute. Fast breathing can mean multiple things, which is why it's critical to get an expert opinion right away. Some common culprits are:
Bronchiolitis- This is a lung infection that affects children under two years old. Early spring or winter are usually the seasons you can see this condition surface. The infection makes the airways in the lungs get more narrow, making it hard to breathe. Some symptoms are:
Asthma- Besides fast breathing, some symptoms can include wheezing or coughing.
Pneumonia- The sudden onset of pneumonia could appear if your child experiences the flu or cold. It can also surface in the result of bacteria or a virus. Children under two-years-old are more vulnerable to pneumonia and should go to the doctor immediately if they show any signs.
A pivotal indicator of respiratory distress of infants is an abnormal respiratory rate. Aside from the conditions above, you should watch for the following symptoms:
Changes in Color- A blue color, known as cyanosis, could mean your baby is lacking the oxygen he or she needs.
Wheezing- When the bronchial tubes are narrow, it can result in a high pitched whistling sound while your baby exhales.
Retracting- When a baby is having issues breathing in enough air, their chest will sink in at the ribs, just below the breastbone, and above the collarbone.
Flaring Nostrils- If your child is trying to get more air, this is one sign you should watch for as the nostrils will widen during each inhale.
Irregular Breathing Pattern or Breathing Rate Changes- If your baby is breathing fast and pauses for fewer than ten seconds, it's normal (known as periodic breathing). If your baby doesn't take a breath for more than 15 seconds, it could be sleep apnea, which is a prevalent condition but dangerous and should be followed up with a pediatrician.
Grunting- "Babies make all sorts of grunting noises but if you notice it more during exhaling, it means he or she could not be getting enough oxygen.
Seek medical attention promptly if you notice your infant having any of the above signs of breathing issues, affecting their respiratory rate. It can be a scary time for new parents to worry about breathing in their new bundle of joy. Baby monitors can help you when you're trying to catch up on your own sleep, and if you notice an infrequency of breathing through the monitor, you will be alerted.
1. Stanford: https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=breathing-problems-90-P02666
2. Healthline: https://www.healthline.com/health/newborn-breathing#:~:text=Normal%20newborn%20breathing