What Causes a 3-month old to Gasp for Air while Asleep?


Asked by Beth

What Could Cause A 3-month Old Infant To Gasp For Air While Asleep

My sister in law said the pediatrician thinks that the baby has Reflux and that it is causing her to occasionally gasp for air. He discounted sleep apnea because her color doesn't change. This usually happens when she is asleep in the swing in a more upright position. She sleeps on her belly when in the crib and her mom does not notice the gasping at that time. Can reflux cause it? What else might be the culprit?


Dear Beth,

I am sure you are worried about the breathing problem. It can be scary when such a little baby seems to slow their breathing or skip a breath. It is normal for a baby to pause in their breathing or slow their breathing during sleep. On the other hand, some babies stop breathing for several seconds due to apnea and gastroesophageal reflux disease. The baby needs to be watched very carefully for other signs of gastroesophageal reflux(GER) and breathing changes during the next few months.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends placing a baby on their back for sleep on a flat surface. There is evidence that back sleeping lowers the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. It may be better to have the crib in the same room as the parents or use a baby monitor.

A swing may make breathing harder since a baby can easily slump over or slouch in a swing, placing more pressure on the stomach and compressing the lungs. Sleeping in a car seat or swing may make reflux worse.

Some doctors recommend using a wedge for back sleeping with a special sling to elevate the baby and keep her from sliding down. There are many products to chose from. Let me know if you need some more information.

Lets hope your little niece outgrows reflux soon so everyone can get some rest.

Best wishes,

Jan Gambino

The Reflux Mom

You should know: The answer above provides general health information that is not intended to replace medical advice or treatment recommendations from a qualified healthcare professional.