When my niece was a baby, she would cry so hard that she purposely held her breath, followed by turning blue and passing out. When she would awake, she was very quiet and somewhat lethargic. As her aunt, I was devastated thinking something horrible was wrong. However, I discovered my sister-in-law had her checked by two doctors and both told her that some babies do this, not to be alarmed.
In fact, babies holding their breath, turning blue, and passing out is more common than you might expect. While it is a frightening time for the parent (or aunt), it is not harmful to the baby. In fact, babies will grow out of this phase, usually by the age of three. Typically, this holding of the breath starts anytime between three and twelve months.
In most cases, the baby would start crying, exhaling during the crying period. However, the baby is not able to stop the exhaling to get a breath. At that time, he or she will not get enough oxygen, causing the skin to turn blue, as seen on the face and lips. If the baby does not inhale, he or she would pass out but just for a few seconds. Again, when the baby awakens, it is typical to see him/her acting groggy for two to ten minutes.
Although you might feel panic, as if you need to do something to stop this behavior or episode, the truth is you do not need to do anything. Actually, you cannot do anything. The one concern over babies that hold their breath, turn blue, and pass out is that if the episode lasts too long, it could result in a seizure. Even so, this is rarely the case. However, if you have this occur, have your child checked by the doctor.
Some parents have suggested that the baby becomes so angry or frustrated that he or she purposely holds the breath. While this might be the case, most experts believe it has to do with intense crying at which time the baby cannot inhale properly. While frightening, do not be alarmed in that this is a normal scenario for many parents. According to studies performed, it is estimated that as many as 5% of all babies have breath holding phases. Interestingly, this situation seems to disappear as quickly as it started. If your baby’s doctor deems the problem to be breath holding, he or she may do testing to make sure your baby is not anemic, which can actually increase the episodes of passing out.