Why does Your Baby Gasp for Air While Sleeping?

Most of us parents have probably encountered such a terrible sight. Imagine your baby gasping for air while sleeping. Could that mean something terrible? Is your baby bound for breathing problems and trouble? Should you quickly rush your baby to the hospital for an emergency? This article will shed some light on this problem.

Possible Causes of Baby Gasping for Air while Sleeping

Here are the possible causes as to why your baby gasps for air while sleeping:

  1. Laryngomalacia

This is a medical condition that’s characterized by a noisy breathing that sounds like they are gasping for air. It’s only temporary and harmless to your baby! What happens in this medical condition is that your baby’s voice box above the vocal cords get softer and thus causes the noisy breathing, which sounds like they are gasping for air.

This condition, when it occurs in your child, only lasts around 18 – 20 months, so that shouldn’t be a problem. When your baby matures, he or she will surely leave this medical condition behind.

  1. Immature Respiratory System

Because your baby is still developing his or her respiratory system, there can still be some problems. For instance, babies who are still 6 months old or below could have irregularities when they’re breathing in their sleep. Preemies or premature babies have a more likely chance of having such conditions due to underdeveloped functions of their body.

When your baby has an immature respiratory system, they will most likely gasp and then breath heavily. However, if they breathe right away after gasping, then it’s normal. However, if they don’t breathe for more than 10 seconds after gasping, that can be alarming and should be rushed to the doctor right away.

  1. Gastrointestinal Reflux

Commonly known among parents as reflux, spit-up, gas, colic and other names, GER or gastrointestinal reflux is a condition that causes your child to involuntarily spit up whatever they eat, in addition to gasping for air during their sleep. It is due to their gastrointestinal tract not working properly.

GER can even turn into GERD, which is a disease version of GER that reaches the stage of adulthood. Both of them can be treated with proper positioning on the crib or giving your child a specific formula that’s okay for babies with reflux, colic or gas problems. Such baby formulas can be bought around the market and are usually non-GMO, organic and are made of broken down proteins to make it easier to absorb for babies.

  1. Sleep Apnea

As the name said, sleep apnea occurs during sleep and is actually something to be alarmed with. If your baby stops breathing for about 15 seconds or turns blue during their sleep, that has to be a severe case of sleep apnea. Most preemies could have sleep apnea due to underdeveloped systems, so it is best to consult your pediatrician who’s good at sleep apnea for this matter.

Sleep apnea is very serious because it can harm your baby if not treated properly. Sleep apnea is generally caused by another medical condition that your baby may have or, as we mentioned earlier, due to developmental problems, especially in preemies.

How is it Different from SIDS?

Most people and parents think that gasping for air immediately signals SIDS or sudden infant death syndrome. However, it really depends on the case. If your baby still breathes after gasping for air then that means that he or she is still breathing and still gets some oxygen that is needed. SIDS can happen if your baby’s body doesn’t have a mechanism to alert them that they’re running out of oxygen, whereas a baby that’s gasping for air can still have a chance to breathe and resupply oxygen to their body.

Should I Call 911 Right Away?

First and foremost, don’t call 911 right away, unless your baby stops breathing for quite a long time. Make sure you observe your baby’s breathing patterns first and how long the gasps and wheezes are, and if there are long pauses on breathing, or if your baby’s face turns blue. That’s when you might need to call a doctor or 911 if the situation really calls for it.

What should I Do?

Here are the things you can do when your baby is gasping for air:

  1. Observe the breathing patterns

Like we mentioned above, you should know and observe if there are long pauses on breathing on your baby. You should also count how long the gasps and wheezes are and other things you may observe. If it gets worse, you should wake up your baby to have him or she breathes properly or carry them (take them out of the crib for a while).

  1. Video evidence

Since the dawn of technology, recording anything on video using your phone is very easy and can be considered a great deal of evidence. Your doctor will be able to diagnose your baby’s condition much more accurately if you can show them a video evidence of your baby gasping for air during sleep.

  1. Take Down Notes

In addition to filming your baby’s condition, you should also take down notes as to when they occur and how often they occur to make the diagnosis much more accurate for your doctor to your baby. For example, count how many times the gasping for air has occurred within the week, how many times within the day and the like. You will find it useful for presenting it to your doctor.


While grasping for air can be quite an alarming thing to experience, all you need to remember is to not panic at all. Use these tips as a guideline on how you will handle the situation. It can be quite scary, but if you stay calm and become observant then you will be able to give your doctor the proper symptoms and so your doctor can make a much better diagnosis for your baby. We hope these tips can help you address problems that your baby may encounter while sleeping!

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