Sunday, March 29, 2015

Adventures In Breastfeeding: What The Hell Is Periodic Breathing?

I don't breastfeed. Anymore. But I did. I have over a decade of personal breastfeeding experience.

I'm told that's a lot.

These days I work part time, as a Breastfeeding Peer Counsellor. Putting my knowledge and extra training to good use, I start calling moms while they're still pregnant, to discuss breastfeeding with them. And then I follow them through their baby's first year, helping, educating, and encouraging.

I'm thinking I'd like to tell some of what I've been learning, through the stories of my interactions with my moms. Of course names and details will be changed in order to protect the privacy of my clients.

I've had several clients recently who've had trouble with an overactive let down, and have found their babies choking on their breastmilk. This is a common issue, and with a few tips and tricks, they've been handling it well.

But one of my moms called me today, kind of frantic. Her baby stops breathing!

"Is it because of the breastfeeding?"

Not unless you're smothering baby with your breasts.

I didn't actually say that. She's not. I just reassured her a little. It's not the breastfeeding. She's doing great with that.

"Is this normal?"

Well, yeah, it turns out that actually it is. I Googled it.

She'd already called her pediatrician who had informed her that not breathing for a few seconds at a time was normal, but she didn't believe her. She wanted me, a mother, to tell her that her baby was okay.

These are the kind of the calls I live for.

They're easy, as the answer is readily available, and nothing is wrong. Sometimes my hands on experience as a parent actually has some value that can be shared with another person. Not to mention I love being able to help a frantic mom feel better. I remembered from my NICU time that the nurses never worried about when my babies stopped breathing, unless it was a particular long phase. And that almost never happened.

Yes, New mom, it's normal. It's called periodic breathing and babies can stop for up to 15 seconds. They can also breath quickly sometimes, and then more slowly. It happens to lots of babies, and is usually gone by six months old.

Fingers and toes can even get a little bluish. That said, if they start to get bluish around their forehead, lips, or torso, get help immediately.  That's not normal, and is a sign that your baby needs oxygen.

Honestly, though, every once in a while I raise an (respectful, I promise) eyebrow at Mother Nature. Here we are, entrusted with these tiny people for whom we are frequently terrified. And normal includes things like not breathing? Way to freak a mom out.

I try not to tell my moms about all the things that can go wrong in breastfeeding. I tell them that problems exist, offer a few really common examples, and promise help and support should they need it for any reason. But I don't want them worrying about things that may never happen.

So, I get why they don't tell parents all of the normal but weird things that babies can do. But then it's a pretty scary thing to discover on your own. And I've honestly never even seen this one even remotely touched on in a baby book.

Periodic breathing. Who knew?

Well, pediatricians, clearly. And now you, and me, and that poor scared mom. Who I really hope isn't scared anymore.

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  1. Melanie @happybeinghealthy.comApril 2, 2015 at 1:36 AM

    Oh my word, my baby did this periodic breathing thing a LOT and it freaked me out so much! I read it was normal, but it still gave me a heart attack every time. I'm grateful he doesn't do it anymore....hope it stays that way! ;-)

  2. Me too! I can understand why it would freak you out. Not breathing isn't something we do! It should be over, though, for good. Thank goodness!


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