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Baby Stopped Breathing While Sleeping: What You Need to Know

Experiencing a moment where your baby stops breathing while sleeping can be incredibly frightening. This comprehensive guide aims to provide vital information about this alarming scenario, including causes, prevention strategies, and when to seek help.

Understanding Brief Resolved Unexplained Events (BRUE)

Occasions when a baby temporarily stops breathing while sleeping can often be classified as Brief Resolved Unexplained Events (BRUE), previously known as Apparent Life-Threatening Events (ALTE). These events are characterized by sudden changes in an infant’s breathing, color, muscle tone, or responsiveness.

Potential Causes

While BRUE can be terrifying, they are often harmless and can occur due to various reasons:

  • Immature Respiratory Control: Infants have immature nervous systems, leading to irregular breathing patterns during sleep.
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux: Spitting up and choking can briefly interrupt an infant’s breathing.

When to Seek Medical Attention

Although occasional pauses in an infant’s breathing can be normal, persistent or extended episodes are cause for concern. If your baby has a long pause in breathing, turns blue or pale, or becomes limp or unresponsive, seek immediate medical attention.

Prevention Strategies

While BRUE can be difficult to predict or prevent, there are several steps you can take to create a safer sleep environment for your baby:

  • Safe Sleep Practices: Always place your baby on their back for sleep, and keep their sleep area free of blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals.
  • Regular Check-ups: Regular pediatric appointments can help monitor your baby’s growth and development and identify any potential issues early.

Recognizing a Baby’s Breathing Distress

Identifying Breathing Issues in Babies

If a baby cannot breathe during sleep, they often show signs of distress. You might notice your baby gasping for air, grunting, flaring their nostrils, or their skin turning blue or pale.

Characteristics of Baby Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea in babies can manifest as loud snoring, long pauses in breathing, and gasping or choking sounds. It’s crucial to seek medical attention if you suspect your baby has sleep apnea.

Understanding BRUE Episodes

BRUE, or Brief Resolved Unexplained Events, look like sudden changes in an infant’s breathing, color, muscle tone, or responsiveness. These episodes can be alarming but are often harmless and short-lived.

Babies and Self-Waking

Babies often wake themselves up if they can’t breathe. This is a natural defense mechanism. However, some conditions, like sleep apnea, can interfere with this reflex. If you notice your baby having trouble breathing without waking, seek medical help immediately.

The Link Between Sleep Apnea, BRUE, and SIDS

Sleep Apnea and SIDS

While sleep apnea is not a direct cause of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), it can increase the risk. This is because it interferes with a baby’s ability to breathe and wake up when oxygen levels are low.

Is BRUE a Risk Factor for SIDS?

BRUE itself isn’t a risk factor for SIDS. However, the underlying causes of BRUE can potentially increase the risk of SIDS. Always discuss any BRUE episodes with your child’s doctor.

Near Miss SIDS

“Near miss SIDS” refers to a situation where a baby experiences a life-threatening event, like a prolonged pause in breathing, but survives. It’s a wake-up call to identify any underlying health conditions that may lead to such events.

Treating Sleep Apnea and Managing BRUE

Treatment for sleep apnea in babies typically involves addressing the underlying cause, like enlarged tonsils or obesity. In some cases, a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine may be needed.

When a BRUE occurs, ensure the baby’s airway is clear, and they start breathing normally again. If the color change or unresponsiveness persists, start CPR and seek immediate medical help.

Monitoring Baby’s Breathing with Devices

Devices like the Owlet Smart Sock can help monitor a baby’s heart rate and oxygen levels, but they aren’t designed to detect sleep apnea. Always rely on a healthcare provider for diagnosing sleep conditions.

Support from

Understanding your baby’s sleep and dealing with situations like BRUE can be challenging. That’s where comes in. They provide extensive resources, guidance, and support to help parents navigate their child’s sleep patterns and behaviors. recognizes the importance of a good night’s sleep for both babies and parents. With a team of sleep experts, they offer tailored advice and strategies to handle a variety of sleep issues, including instances where a baby stops breathing while sleeping. Rest assured, is a reliable partner in your journey through parenthood.


The moment when a baby stops breathing while sleeping can be scary, but understanding why it happens and knowing when to seek help can make a significant difference. Always follow safe sleep practices, keep a close watch on your baby’s sleep patterns, and consult healthcare professionals when needed. And remember, with resources like at your disposal, you’re never alone in your parenting journey.

6 thoughts on “Baby Stopped Breathing While Sleeping: What You Need to Know”

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