Baby Won’t Wake Up But Is Still Breathing: Parent’s Ultimate Guide

Written by Daisy
Last updated:
Reviewed by Margaret

The article has been reviewed by medical expert Margaret Dogwood, BSN, RN

I know that the majority of you, especially new parents, wonder why your baby won’t wake up but is still breathing. And it’s something that is a cause for concern, especially since babies are fragile.

Newborns are typically harder-hard and more difficult to wake up, especially if they’re in deep sleep. If this happens, tilt their head back carefully to try and wake them up and have someone contact 911 or the closest qualified healthcare professional right away.

This article will be as comprehensive as you need it to be! We’ll go over understanding the physiology of newborn babies, what’s normal and what’s not, and even the steps that parents must take!

The website’s general material is given for informative purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. This article has been reviewed by the necessary medical and healthcare professionals and departments that we work with.For emergencies, contact your local physician or certified healthcare provider RIGHT AWAY!

Understanding Infant Sleep Patterns: How Do Newborns and Babies Sleep?

Newborns and sleep are two things that are almost directly related. I mean, have you ever encountered a baby who is awake for hours more than they’re asleep in a day? Understanding babies and their behavior towards sleep is an essential part of being a parent.

So, let’s try to understand the norm in a baby’s sleeping pattern from what’s not!

What is Normal? 

Stanford Medicine in Children’s Health outlines that newborns, on average, sleep more, only waking up when it’s already time to feed. Although no set schedule will be there in the first few weeks, they’ll usually sleep eight to nine hours during the day and about eight hours at night.

NOTE: This varies a lot. Babies are different and, therefore, you should always be on the lookout for changes and development.

What is Not Normal?

What’s not normal for your cute little munchkin would be when it seems that they are lethargic. Since sleeping more is their “norm,” accompanying problems and symptoms you can partner with this include, but are not limited to:

  • Heart Problems
  • Infections
  • Respiratory Issues
  • Dehydration
  • Under-Feeding

Baby Won’t Wake Up But Is Still Breathing: What Does It Mean When a Baby is Hard to Wake Up?

Waking your newborn up may not be the easiest thing to do. The good news is, it’s not actually impossible! If you’ve taken the time and effort to attempt waking them up by changing their diapers, trying to take some of their clothes off and it’s still not working, try out the method outlined by Laura A. Jana M.D., FAAP and Jennifer Shu, M.D., FAAP.

According to these professionals, you can wake your little munchkin up by approaching them gently. You can try dressing them down, changing their diaper, and ensuring that their environment is clean.

             The strategies we’ve laid out for you are, of course, predicated on the notion that your infant is healthy. Although it is true that infants might occasionally be difficult to wake up, you should be aware that babies who are not readily awakened or responsive despite their parents’ best attempts need medical care.”

There are, though, a couple of reasons and possible causes why your baby is having difficulty waking up but still breathing:

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

The sleep condition, Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is defined by recurrent bouts of partial or total obstruction of the upper airway while sleeping, resulting in breathing pauses.

OSA in babies is frequently brought on by anatomical anomalies that restrict the airway, such as big tonsils or adenoids.

Minesh Khatri, M.D., reviewed from Web MD and confirmed that several of OSA’s causes include the respiratory tract – from the mouth, throat, down to the airways.

Obstructive sleep apnea is most frequently brought on by too-relaxed airway-regulating muscles that constrict the throat. Though you won’t remember it, you momentarily awaken in order to reopen your airway. This might happen dozens of times every hour. “

Medication Reactions

Another possibility would be a baby’s reaction to the medication. Certain medications medication can put your little angel in a trance, which can ultimately lead to them being in a deeper sleep than usual. This, however, doesn’t mean that they’re in trouble.

I had a friend who experienced this and they were in quite a panic. Luckily, it was just a result of medication due to a previous infection.

A newborn who is struggling to wake up but is still breathing should probably be sent to the hospital right away. A newborn may be difficult to wake up for a number of reasons, including medication interactions or adverse drug responses.

A baby’s sleep habits may also be impacted by things outside drugs. For instance, exposure to some environmental contaminants, such as chemicals or secondhand smoke, may harm their respiratory system and general health, which might make it harder for them to wake up.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

The untimely passing of a healthy infant under one year of age is known as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and it typically occurs while they are sleeping.

It happens instantly – without warning and without signs.

The case of SIDS drastically dropped after the American Academy of Pediatrics or AAP recommended a “safe to sleep” state. There are quite a few things worth mentioning, and the Kids Health Organization outlined and detailed them all.

That’s about it! Those are some of the possible reasons why your baby is still breathing but harder to wake up!

What Do You Do If Your Baby Won’t Wake Up? 

I know how worrying it may seem if your baby remains unresponsive after a few seconds of trying to wake them up. But, it’s important to be aware of the following steps as they are the most crucial:

Step #1: Be Calm

It’s normal to feel anxious, but try to maintain your composure. You will be able to take the essential actions action if you maintain mental clarity.

Step #2: Get Assistance and Inform Pediatrician

Immediately dial emergency services (such as 911 in the US) and alert them to the situation. Describe how your infant is breathing but not responding.

NOTE: This is great if you have someone else with you so you can attend to your baby while you’re getting help.

Step #3: Check and Clear the Airway

Then, make sure the baby’s airway is unobstructed. To allow more air to move through, support the neck and gently lean the head back. If you think there may be a spinal or neck injury, don’t try to press the head back.

The best thing to do would be to tilt their head back and look for feelings of breath. Do this for a maximum of 10 seconds. Then, hold your baby on their side with their head tilted back slightly (while supported).

Step #4: Perform CPR If Necessary

Give at least 30 small, but impacting chest compressions in the middle of the chest. Give two rescue breaths and another 30 small compressions.

Step #5: Monitor Vital Signs

While waiting for your pediatrician or authorities, monitor the vital signs of your baby so you could report it. By this time, your baby should already be awake. Otherwise, rush to the hospital immediately.

Red Cross has been one of the organizations that have been capable of providing accurate and careful instructions when it comes to first-aid.  

Why is My Baby Hard-Breathing While Sleeping? 

Hard breathing while sleeping can actually be caused by a few different reasons. The most common of which would be:

  • Nasal Congestion
  • Bad Sleeping Position
  • Respiratory Infection
  • Normal Development

When Should I Worry About a Sleepy Baby?

A sleepy baby is a normal one. However, there are surefire signs that may tell you a little more than them being sleepy. Healthcare experts and professionals say that certain situations require parents to seek medical attention, and they are:

  • Fever: If your infant is also sleepy and has a temperature, this may indicate an infection or sickness.
  • Poor feeding: Your infant may be having issues if they are too drowsy to eat effectively, are not gaining weight as expected, or have a marked drop in appetite.
  • Breathing issues: If your infant has laborious breathing, irregular breathing, or strange noises when breathing, this may be a sign of respiratory problems that need medical treatment.
  • Excessive Waking-Up Difficulty: It may be cause for concern if your infant is exceedingly difficult to wake up or does not respond to your attempts to excite them.

FAQs 

Feel like you still have more questions to ask? Don’t worry – you’re not alone! Most people and parents won’t get it the first time, too! So, we listed a couple of the most frequently asked questions about it!

Why Is My 2 Month-Old Baby Hard To Wake Up?

There are a few reasons why your 2-month-old little angel is a bit difficult to wake up, so, don’t be alarmed – it’s quite common. It could be due to the fact that they are in a deep sleep, they’re extremely relaxed and not sensitive to sound, or they’re just not that interested! 

Why My 1-Month-Old Baby Won’t Wake Up To Eat? 

It could be because of the fact that they’re relaxed and they choose to rest and sleep rather than eat and drink milk. However, newborns up to a month shouldn’t go four to five hours without eating or drinking. 

Why Is My Baby Sleeping Too Much Suddenly?

Besides the fact that they’ll really always bebe always sleepy, it could be a sign that they’re exponentially growing up or further developing. On the contrary, it could also be a symptom of the common cold or side effects of medication. 

The Bottom Line

It’s truly alarming if you notice that your baby is unresponsive, even after you’ve put them to bed and they’re healthy. So, when your baby won’t wake up but is still breathing, it’s best to stay calm and relaxed while performing the steps we outlined above. 

Photo of author
Daisy Martinez, a Certified Financial Planner and mother of two, blends finance expertise from Ohio State and Anderson School of Management with hands-on parenting insights. Founder of "mamallove.com" and "cashsavvytips.com", she's passionate about guiding parents in financial and parenting realms.

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