We know many first-time moms who go against the advice to get some sleep while their baby sleeps. Why? They just can't help but stare at their beautiful bundle of joy. It's all that staring that moms have noticed times when their little one's belly rises up and down as he breathes and then pauses for a while before it resumes.
Sometimes that pause between breaths lasts for several seconds longer than moms are comfortable with, and it can literally freak anyone out. Panic sets in when the baby's skin may turn blue, and he may even appear unresponsive until, all of a sudden, a moment passes, and the baby starts to breathe again. Yes, whew, but a mom feels like she was moments away from a heart attack.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) actually has a name for that pause in breath in babies: Brief Resolved Unexplained Events (BRUE). It is common in babies younger than a year. Its symptoms include irregular or stopped breathing, skin turning pale or blue, change in muscle tone, and unresponsiveness.
Dr. Joel Tieder, assistant professor of pediatrics at Seattle Children’s Hospital and an author of AAP's guidelines for BRUE evaluation and management tells The Huffington Post that while you cannot rule it out as a sign of an underlying medical condition, BRUE, which experts have still yet to determine its cause, is rarely fatal.
Still, that less-than-a-minute uncertainty could feel like an eternity for parents. Research has ruled out the old popular theory that infants who had BRUE are more prone to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
According to AAP's most guidelines, to qualify as BRUE, the event should resolve on its own within a minute. It means that the baby should become responsive again, or his breathing, muscle tone, and skin color should return to normal under 60 seconds. Most recorded instances usually resolves in 20 to 30 seconds, hence the word "brief" in the term. After taking a family and medical history of the patient and conducting a physical examination and there is still no apparent or suspected cause, then the child is diagnosed with BRUE.
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If your baby had BRUE for the first time, is older than three months, was born after at least 32 weeks of gestation, then he is considered low-risk. There is no immediate cause for concern. Your doctor should be able to discuss BRUE with you and teach you how to correctly monitor pulse and breathing. The baby may also undergo electrocardiography and a test for pertussis.
If your baby is younger than 60 days old, was born premature, and had prior BRUE episodes, he is considered high risk. Health concerns such as a history of feeding or respiratory problems and developmental delay also put him in the high-risk category. Your baby may be admitted to the hospital for close cardiorespiratory monitoring. Laboratory and imaging tests are routine to check for possible causes and consequently address these.
The next time you watch your baby sleep, count the number of seconds your baby's breathing pauses. However, rest assured that while terrifying, BRUE is not a precursor to SIDS and that testing and hospitalization may be unnecessary. For your peace of mind, you may want to undergo cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training just in case. And, when in doubt or unsure, always contact your child’s pediatrician.