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Strange Breathing
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Strange Breathing

I have a concern about my daughter who is 6 months old. We noticed her breathing strangely, and it's become quite a concern. The first incident happened on Thanksgiving day, she was breathing as if she had just quit crying very hard. It wasn't constant, but every few minutes she would do it. It didn't happen again until yesterday, 12/17/08, when my baby sitter called and told me about it. She said she was doing it while she was awake, but more when she was sleeping. She said her son has sleep apnea and that I should have it checked out. We took her to the doctor yesterday, and the Dr. listened to her chest and said she couldn't hear anything, but wanted to have x-rays done on the soft tissue of her throat and to look at her adnoids. The x-ray came back normal (thank God), but still leaves me worried about what's going on. Has anyone else seen this or know of anything else it could be? I plan on getting a 2nd opinion, but I wanted to see if any other parents have experienced this, as I'm losing sleep over the issue. Thank you in advance.
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My 9 month old daughter does the same thing.  Following is a post that I wrote about a month ago.  Since then I have had two other mothers (not including you) write me saying that their children exhibit a similar behavior. But, unfortunately we are all at a loss as to what this is. Please stay in touch and perhaps between the 4 of us we can find out what is causing this unusual breathing.   ~ Holly

"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_f_tn
Thank you, I definitely will and you do the same. Does your daughter do it while she's awake too? I read something that said it could be them trying to learn to breathe through their mouths, but I didn't/don't think it would happen this late. My daughter has only had the two events, but it's very worrisome. Hopefully one of us will find an answer for all involved.
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Avatar_f_tn
No, I have never seen my daughter do this while she's awake. It always seems to start while she is sleeping and most of the time it stops within a minute or so after she wakes up.   I agree with you that it seems a little late for this to be them learning to breathe through their mouths, but who knows.  What is your next step?  Where do you live?  I live in Massachusetts and have been working with some doctors out of Children's Hospital.  
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Avatar_f_tn
They told me to try and catch in on video, but it hasn't happened again...knock on wood. So, if it doesn't happen again, I'm not sure what my next step will be. I think I am going to talk to another doctor and explain again what happened, to see what they think/say about it. If I need to speak with a specialist, so be it. I live in Pittsburgh, and very close to the Children's Hospital here.
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Avatar_f_tn
Hello

I just wanted to give an update about my daughter's strange breathing. I was able to catch it on video, and I'm not sure if this will be of any consolation to you, but after the doctor watched the video he said that he was not concerned. He said that many babies have "quirks" and it's something they just do and eventually grow out of. He listened to and observed her and could find nothing wrong and didn't hear anything bothersome either. He said that there was no pattern and it was a breath every here and there. Like I said, I don't know if this will help you or not, but I do hope it does. My daughter has only had the two episodes and the one that I was able to catch was after she just had a tantrum, but it was the exact same breathing. The doctor who told me it was not a concern to him is her PCP, so it was a second opinion, at least. But all of the Dr.'s are out of the Pittsburgh Children's Hospital, so I do, at this point have faith in their opinions.
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Avatar_f_tn
Hi,

Thank you so much for the update on your daughter.  It appears that we are getting the same kind of response from our doctors, which is that the breathing behavior does not overly concern them, nothing is physically wrong as far as they can see, and that this is a behavior that they will probably grow out of. Thank Goodness!!!  I too have calmed down a lot about it and have started to have faith in their opinions as well. However, I still don't think I will get a completely restful night sleep until it stops happening altogether :)  My husband and I have an appointment at Children's Hospital in Boston next week to go over her sleep study report. The appointment is with Dr. Ferber- the pediatric sleep expert and creator of the Ferber Method- not sure if you have ever heard of him.  Hopefully, he can give us some more insight. If he can't or doesn't seem to be concerned, I think that will be the end of my search for an answer unless God forbid anything else pops up.  I will keep you posted as to what I find out!  Thanks again for the update!  ~Holly      
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Hello Holly,

I just wanted to see how the appointment went with Dr. Ferber, and how your baby is doing. I hope all is well.
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Avatar_f_tn
Hi!

The appointment went very well!  My husband and I met with Dr. Ferber and his assistant a few days ago and they were wonderful!  I couldn't believe it, but they spent nearly two hours with us!  They gathered a lot of information as well as took a detailed history, reviewed her sleep study report, and watched the home video that we brought.  And basically, their final impression was that the breathing behavior was a normal part of  REM sleep, or, in other words, she was dreaming.  He said that babies are more active than adults in their REM sleep cycles because their nervous systems aren't mature enough to stop them from acting out there dreams and sometimes this is how it presents. However, as they mature these behaviors become more subtle.  In response, I asked him-  "if this is such a normal part of REM sleep, then why isn't this behavior more widely described by parents since all babies dream?"  And his response was that "it does happen frequently, but most parents don't know because they don't have monitors nor do they watch their children sleep."  He also said that since monitor have been invented he has had several parents come to see him with similar concerns.  All in all, I felt much better when I left his office. I figure that if anyone would know what this was, Dr. Ferber would. So I felt comfortable with his opinion.  And get this... he called me the day after our appointment to tell me that he had several of his colleagues take a look at the video too.  He said that they were all pretty much in agreement that this seemed to be a normal part of REM sleep and no one got excited or overly concerned about it. But, just to be on the safe side, he asked me to track the frequency and duration of the episodes as well as to try to get another video recording.  We have a follow- up appointment in mid February to discuss the results.

My daughter has been doing well.  Fingers crossed, she has not had an episode in over a week and she has been sleeping better through the night.  Hopefully, we are on an up- hill road to more peaceful and restful nights!  How is your little one doing?  Hopefully this information will be helpful to you and put your mind at ease. I will let you know if I get any more information. Keep in touch.  ~ Holly  

  
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I forgot to let you know that he also said no intervention is necessary when these episodes occur.  So, don't wake the baby up- just let it go to stop on its own.  I'm not sure if I can do that, but I will try :)
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That's wonderful to hear! My daughter is doing very well, thank you. I have not had anymore episodes with her, since the last one I recorded...knock on wood. Hopefully this will put a lot of parents minds to rest. Now, if I could only get her to sleep in her own room and in her own crib, haha! I do hope things continue to go well for you and your family, and thanks for keeping me updated. Stay in touch and I will do the same.

Chivonne
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Read your posts and both were very similar to our experience with 2 of our children. They have both since outgrown it and I was wondering if it was the same with yours.

My theory is that the breathing spasms were triggered by allergies. When both boys outgrew their milk protein allergy....the strange breathing disappeared!

Here's my original post
http://www.medhelp.org/posts/Respiratory-Disorders/Periodic-Breathing-Spasms-in-Young-Infant/show/577913
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Hi All,

I live in the UK and have just found your posts. I am having the same problem with my 7 month old. It is really scary, but reassuring to know he is not the only one...
Am hoping he will grow out of it, am sure it is not apnea as the whimpering and gaps in breathing are not longer than 10 seconds max...
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