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8 month old baby with strange breathing behavior at night
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8 month old baby with strange breathing behavior at night

We are extremely concerned with an unusual breathing behavior that our 8 month old daughter often displays while sleeping.  To date no doctor has been able to give us a clear diagnosis.  The behavior is similar to the gasping a baby might do after intense crying, as is she was trying to catch her breath.  However, our baby will periodically exhibit this breathing while sleeping, with no apparent cause.  This breathing behavior usually wakes us up out of a sleep as it is so loud we can hear it over the monitor.  It does not appear to wake our daughter up, but she is observed to gasp, whimper and let out brief cries throughout the episode.  We have never witnessed any significant color changes, so we assume she is getting enough oxygen, but her breathing does appear to pause for approximately 4-5 seconds in between the quick breaths. Sometimes the breaths are so intense she starts to snort and it is very frightening to watch.  It rarely will stop on its own and usually my husband and I have to go to her and intervene.  Usually we start by rubbing her back or changing her position (both of which rarely work), but we eventually resort to picking her up to wake her.  Sometimes she wakes easily, but, often, our attempts to intervene agitate her and she starts to cry- sometimes hysterically. However, once she is fully awake, the breathing behavior stops and she is happy, quiet and back to our sweet little girl.  We usually get her back to sleep soon after the behavior stops and she tends to have a restful sleep the rest of the night.  We have videotaped the behavior and shown it to several doctors including her family doctor, 2 pediatric neurologists, an ENT, and we have had a sleep study (which came back completely normal).  Unfortunately, no one can tell us definitively what this behavior is, but several theories have been given including obstructive sleep apnea,  GERD, dreaming/night terrors/nightmares, seizure activity, or just a normal part of REM sleep.  However, none of these seem to fit the bill completely as 1) no physical obstruction has been found that would cause obstructive sleep apnea (e.g., enlarged adenoids (adenoids) or tonsils or some kind lesion) and apnea was not seen during the sleep study, 2) our daughter does exhibit mild reflux symptoms (i.e., occasional gagging, spitting up, choking) and we have tried prescription Prevacid, but this did not eliminate the behavior.  We actually took her off the medication thinking that perhaps the medication was causing the symptoms as one of it's rare side effect is abnormal dreaming (see #3)  3) for a while, we were thinking that maybe dreaming or night terrors were to blame secondary to the hysterical crying upon trying to wake her and the immediate restoration of happiness only after fully waking, but many doctors have said she is to young to have such dreams  4) an EEG has been done both on its own and during the sleep study which did not show any abnormalities that would suggest seizure activity and 5) all babies and adults go through REM sleep so, if it is simply a symptom of that, then why isn't this behavior more widely described?  Any information that can be given would be greatly appreciated as we have had so many sleepless night worrying about this and we are exhausted.  We and our doctors have seem to hit a brick wall as far as diagnosing this problem and we feel as though all we are left with is to "go home, manage it as best we can, and hope she grows out of it," but, as loving parents, that is very hard to do as all the "what ifs" come to our minds.  We feel that this website may be a ray of hope as last night I read 3 postings from parents that have experienced something similar with their children but no follow up was ever given.  I sent messages to these individuals to learn about their experiences; however, I'm not sure my efforts will be successful as these postings were written several years ago.  Does anyone have any other thoughts?  

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Avatar_n_tn
I'm sure you want to leave no stone unturned in seeking an understanding of what's happening with your baby girl. It's what mothers do. It is of some comfort that she has seen a number of specialists.

During the sleep study, did she have any of the episodes you describe? I wasn't clear on if it's every night or occassionally.  If she did not, then they didn't get a full picture of her sleep. If she did, maybe you can ask the doctor to review the data collected at the specific times any episodes occurred.

Reflux would be suspect. Ask your doctor if raising the head of her mattress just a bit would help and which side it would be best for her to sleep on. I want to say left but not sure.

As far as obstructive sleep apnea, it's not always caused by enlarged tonsils. Sometimes the throat structure is small or the muscle tone lax. Then there's central sleep apnea, where the signal to breathe isn't properly conveyed from the brain to the mechanisms that cause breathing. Again, if she had any episodes during the study, they would have seen these.

Maybe you'd feel better if your doctor ordered an overnight recording oximetry for a few nights till you were sure it was on during some episodes. Also, I know there are apnea monitors for babies but I don't know much about them or if they are feasible in your case. Disrupted sleep if it happens regularly is not a good thing, but the greater concern would be if her oxygen level remains normal. If you can be sure that's happening, hopefully you can get relax and get some sleep yourself while you're waiting to figure this out. Best wishes.
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Avatar_m_tn
I just took my 8 month old son to the pediatrician after having the same exact experience.  It's as if I could have written your post. Sunday night was the second time that it happened and my husband and I were completely freaked out.  If you learn any more please let me know and I will do the same...we are just starting to attempt to figure things out here.
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Avatar_m_tn
I just took my 8 month old son to the pediatrician after having the same exact experience.  It's as if I could have written your post. Sunday night was the second time that it happened and my husband and I were completely freaked out.  If you learn any more please let me know and I will do the same...we are just starting to attempt to figure things out here.
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Avatar_f_tn
My 8 month old son is experiencing the exact symptoms - I too feel as though I could have written your post myself. We haven't taken him to the doctor yet as it has only started to happen more frequently this week. The episodes usually only last between 10-15 minutes but we have to pick him up and try to wake him as well - the episodes to not stop on their own. I have a doctor's appointment next week so will let you know if I find anything out. Please let me know if you hear or experience anything different.
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Avatar_f_tn
My son 14 month has had exaclty same breathing problems. Please guys let me know when you get some more information regarding it.
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Avatar_f_tn
Our 10 month old has the exact same symptoms you described. Please let me know if you guys have found anything. My email is ***@**** (remove the nospam before sending)

Thank you!
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Avatar_m_tn
My baby is 10 months, I am so scared, I feel that something will happen while I'm sleeping and I won't realize it.  I started noticing this around a month ago, she breathes very heavily and sometimes she takes more than usual to take the following breathe.
Can we her from some parents whose kid already outgrew this?
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Avatar_f_tn
My 7 month old son is doing this exact thing right now! I just googled and found your post. While reading the comments tho I realized it kind if sounds like hiccups! Anyone who has taken their little one to the dr. Have they ruled out the hiccups? Or has anyone gotten any answers? Thanks!
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Avatar_f_tn
My 5 month old has been doing this for two months off and on. Doctor says it is reflux.  We have him on Zantac. Doesn't seem to help. In the middle of his episodes though I can hear him take hard swallows. Still worried. Not sure where to go for second opinion.
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Avatar_f_tn
My almost 6 month old just did this about 20 minutes ago and it scared the heck out of me. Im so tired but I'm afraid to go to sleep because I fear that it'll happen again. The last time this happened was about two months ago. He goes to the doctor in two days, so I will definitely be asking the Dr about this.
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Avatar_m_tn
Has anyone figured anything out?  My 11 month old does this and has for sometime.  We have ruled out any obstruction of the airway and she is on an acid reflux medication.  It is only really late a night like 3 to 6 timeframe...is that when everyone else's is?  
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Avatar_m_tn
Did you get any responses? My 10 month old does this and has since he was born. He has only done it 4 times (2 at night, 2 during nap).
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Avatar_f_tn
My daughter just did this 10 mins ago and I had to intervene, didn't wake her but just moved her around a bit and robed her back. She's 11 months now. Just now I decided to look it up keeping in mind that my chances of getting anything was down to 0! So surprised to find your post.. It couldn't have been more exact of wat I feel. She has done this a few times before and it freaks me out cuz I wonder what if am not there to wake her cuz I feel like she's strees by doing so! She can't breath very well, it's like a combination of having a nightmare and gasping for air sound! i wanna know if this is normal or a pattern that leads to something else! God forbid!  I have never talk to her pediatrian about it thinking it was a one time weird thing but now reading so many of you having the same issue Ill bring it up just to see what he says! But it looks like it could be a normal thing. But then again my son which is 5 now NEVER did it!
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