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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 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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Hi, My son always does this early morning hours like you stated.  Have you gotten a diagnosis?
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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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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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My 7 month old just started doing this and after a few times I woke in the middle of the night and had a 'light bulb' moment. I experience the exact same thing myself years ago after being vegan for 15 years and then going to a cheese festival and eating quite a bit if cheese. My friend told me I was having cheese nightmares. Had never heard if it before. Anyway my daughter is on solids (veg and fruit mostly as it's early days. When we go out I give take an organic squeeze pack for her to have. Some of the ones have cheese in it (potato, corn, cauliflower and cheddar or ricotta). I wondered if it was linked at all, so I made sure she had none with the cheese for a while and the breathing and whimpering didn't happen. Last night I have her some of the cheese one to aee what would happen and it happened again. Might be a coincidence but I thought I would let you all know. Maybe it's because her body is not used to dairy (same as mine after being vegan for 15'years). I can eat cheese now and I'm fine but at the start my body was obviously responding to it.
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I have 6 kids and none of them did this.  How normal is it? I hate when the doctors say its normal.  My son does this while he is awake or waking from sleep.  I took him to the er, they did an xray and said he had pneumonia.  Gave me meds.  The holding breath thing stopped.  Then like a month later it started again.  I go back to my doctor and he says nothing is wro g this is normal oh and he never had pneumonia.  What???  Well the meds they gave me coupled with the albuterol breathing treatments seemed to help.  He says, just a councidence. Prayer is not a last resort but right now its the only thing I can do.
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Really wish someone had an update . My newborn has been doing this too awake asleep doesn't matter. It happens about 4 times in a 24 hour period where she takes a gasp of air. Seems mostly when she is asleep . My question is why are our doctors so incompetent to figure
out what the issue is. Anyway my daughter was born with a vascular loop which basically means one of the veins of the heart loops the opposite way and crosses her esophagus and can possibly cause breathing issues when asleep or eating. Not sure if this is what is happening but for all others you may want to have a 4d ultrasound of the heart as this was the only way to see this abnormality. Also this technology has only been around the past decade and when pregnant most doctors won't order the ultrasound unless they feel there may be complications with the pregnancy.
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Any updates on the condition from anyone on the thread?  I'd love to be able to find more information on this!
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This just happened to my 11 month old for the first time. Scary! I woke him up and it continued for about 10 more min or so. I nursed him and it eventually stopped. I got online to look for clues and found this thread.
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I have an 8 month old daughter who does the same thing. She just had one 20 minutes afo and its very scary not knowing what's going on. Would really like to know if anyone has found any answers.
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My 7 1/2 month started doing this tonight I'm to scared to fall asleep I woke him up earlier because I started to panic but he just started playing and laughing like nothing was wrong with him. Is this just a phase babies go through?
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My 8.5 month old started doing this around 5 months. I mentioned it to her doctor and she said it's from dreaming.  It stopped again shortly after but now suddenly it's started again.  In the last week it's happened at least three 3 times.  I was finally able to catch it on camera and will be showing it to her doctor soon.  One thing I noticed is it happens during REM sleep and she is near impossible to wake up.  I can turn the lights on and pick her up and she doesn't even flinch.  It tends to last about 15 minutes with intervention.  I'm not sure how long it would go otherwise.
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My 7 mo old did this tonight. I was concerned so i paged a doctor. She said that its normal as long as she isn't sick (could cause  difficultly breathing), doesn't have any labored breathing and if there isn't any discoloration. That helped calm me.
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My 13 month old has been doing this for the past month or so, maybe twice a week, He is in a very deep sleep and then his breathing changes almost like he is having a hard time (no discoloration) and then he whimpers I usually move him a bit but most of the time he wakes up screaming and there is nothing I can do to calm him. Eventually he settles down and falls back into a deep sleep, he never opens his eyes during these episodes..I have explained this to the doctors and no one seems to no whats going on. This is really stressing me out, I am currently pregnant and the lack of sleep is not helping. ANY UPDATES? ANY ANSWERS YET?
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All 3 of mine have done this, it freaked me out with my first, I thought she was having a seizure!! But now I've seen it happen with the second and third, as I'm writing this holding my son who has just done this a few moments ago, it's like a more intense version of what they do as new borns, when they open and close their eyes, smile over and over again really quickly, it's still scary to witness, hence why I'm back here googling and reassuring myself that it's normal, then remembering once again that yes it is lol. It sounds like he's sobbing, whimpering and rapid breathing, I rub his back and say shhhhhh, but the only real way to calm him is to wait until her wakes himself up, then cuddle him.
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Any answers? Or negative/positive outcomes from this? My daughter started this. It scared me so much and took a lot to wake her... I'm hoping it was a bad dream and she was in a deep sleep.. however we have had a friend whose baby passed recently from SIDS and he was the same age of my daughter so I'm very anxious about night time as it is. Talking to doctor tomorrow.
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Any updates yet? My 18month old has just done this for the second time in around 2 months I left him to wake up from it himself. He has stopped now and seems to be breathing normally again!! Really freaks me out ! Gonna book in to see the doctor! But we have a long wait for appointments please someone update us
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No answers yet?  I just caught my sixth month old doing this. Freaked me out a little, I thought she was choking, from what I seen on the monitor.  We went in there, heard snorting and rapid breathing, figured she was having a bad dream, so I rubbed her back and it didn't stop. So I rolled her over and she started screaming hysterically. I picked her up and she continued to scream. I couldn't calm her. So my husband made her a bottle and she finally went back to sleep.  Very weird? I have an appointment on the 11th. I will ask Dr then.
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Hi! My 8 month old has been doing this since the day he got his two month shots aka the first time he ever took Tylenol aka the first time he ever really zoned into REM sleep I think. We ended up in the ER but we didn't get it on film so they knew nothing. We visited an ENT who MISdiagnosed him with laryngomalacia, visited another ENT who confirmed he does NOT have that. He does have reflux and has been on Zantac and nexium since 2 months as well.  Since have gotten a video of him, no physican can diagnose anything- ENT, pulmonologist...no one. He doesn't change color but the noise is awful. It's hard to wake him from it. I find that it happens a few times a night/week for a while and then doesn't happen again for a bit. Sounds as if he's double breathing after crying...but no crying. Any answers yet? My big thing is he's an awful sleeper- and we have been advised not to let him cry it out yet as we are unsure what this breathing thing is...but his sleeping habits are getting worse and worse. Does anyone's child have this but also is a bad sleeper? Any suggestions? We have a sleep study scheduled for end of August (they didn't think it was high priority so no need to rush...) but I know it's not going to occur the night i am there...I am sure...would love some insight!
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I have read something about this and dr are saying not to wake up baby because it will get confused and start crying even louder. It's similar to sleep walking, brain is still developing so I guess is something that medicine doesn't know well yet. Our son who is 5 m also has that issue during night. What helps is going and putting my hand on his back( he is sleeping on his tummy) and basically doing almost like calming him down without talking or waking him up.
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You don't have to let him cry it out to sleep train him.  A great book that I used was the "No Cry Sleep Solution".  Hope it helps!
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Here is a video of my son.  https://youtu.be/gbXrNGVxioY  
He has been doing this since he was 2 months old.  He is now 4 and we are still trying to find answers.  If your child does this or something similar, please contact me.
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Hi I'm Eva-Monae I posted about two years ago about my first son. He grew out of it I would have to say well before his 2nd birthday. But now my second son 11months old just did the very same thing. I feel like it may be gas related both of them seemed to be gassy before bed and then the episode would occur . I just started transitioning him to regular milk, specifically organic whole milk. The weird part is that he does not do it every time he drinks the regular milk, it happened completely randomly. Maybe he burped AnD acid came up which burns his throat which causes the crying and the small jerks I feel is from the discomfort. It's so weird that both my children have done the same exact thing around the same time it has to be something causing it. My bet is on the MILK. or something in the diet. Yesterday he didn't do it and he had one bottle of regular milk. Today he had regular milk, formula, and juice at some point during the day. I will try to keep you guys updated, sorry it took so long.
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Sorry not an answer but a question.Can i ask if you had any results back on this. Seems very much like an issue we have with our 1 year old. Any feed back would be much appreciated
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Did you ever hear back from her? We have a similar situation as well
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I know this is an old post but there seems to be some recent activity so I'll share my experience. My son is now 10 months old and has been doing this since he was a few months old. He was diagnosed with silent reflux around 5 weeks and also displayed signs of dairy intolerance. He does exactly what is described in the initial post. He begins double breathing in his sleep as if he has just cried for an hour straight. Sometimes he does not wake up from it but when he does he seems to still be sleeping but screams his head off. I hold him and eventually he calms and usually transitions right back into a deep sleep. I have been told that this is caused by his reflux and happens during sleep because of acid backing up while he is laying down (same thing that happens to adults with reflux). His reflux pain in combination with being in REM sleep turns into the episode that everyone has described. It still scares the crap out of me but he never changes color or shows signs of respiratory distress. Obviously I continue to look up if others have found a more definite cause but my research has come up with the same results as everyone else. The common denominator seems to be reflux or dairy intolerance. Please remember that reflux does not always include throwing up. My son has never projectile vomited which is the hallmark of most babies with reflux. Silent reflux can be tough to diagnose and incredibly painful for babies as the acid continues to burn their throats without coming completely out of their mouths.
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