Moms! Listen Up, Here’s When It’s Normal For Babies To Turn Blue

Doctors say turning blue & limp happens in 1 in 100 babies till the age of 3. Know what’s normal and what’s not

4 min read
Hindi Female

My two-and-a-half-year old rarely cries.

He’s a happy, no-fuss, dramatic child. But when two things go wrong - either he is very hungry or extremely tired, it looks like he is going to cry, but he just sits there with his mouth agape, sobs without taking a breath till his body turns stiff, face and tongue become a cross of purple and blue.

It is a heart-stopping moment as parents. There is nothing more frightening than to see your child look like a discoloured log but some seconds later, he is normal, looks terrified and falls off to sleep like nothing happened.

Doctors say, one in 100 kids till the age of three have breath-holding incidents and it’s completely harmless. So no need to go into a full-blown panic mode because turning blue can be an innocent side-effect of something totally normal but there are times when a child with blue lips needs to be rushed to the emergency room.
Doctors say turning blue & limp happens in 1 in 100 babies till the age of 3. Know what’s normal and what’s not
Sometimes breath holding spells falls into the category of attention-seeking behaviour when a child is very, very frustrated and upset and has not learned socially appropriate ways to express themselves (Photo courtesy: Tumblr/THEHOLLYWEIRDTIMES)

Here’s what the experts have to say -


When Sobbing, Gasping and Turning Blue In Your Infant Is Normal

With my son, breath-holding spells happen about 3 or 4 times a year. Doctors just told me to wait till the child outgrows it. Medically it does not imply that the child is in the midst of tantrum throes or has anger issues. It is not dire, transient in nature but with no known cause.

Doctors say turning blue & limp happens in 1 in 100 babies till the age of 3. Know what’s normal and what’s not
(Photo: iStock)

So if the following happens to your little one under the age of 3 then there is nothing to worry about -

  • They turn pale or blue,
  • Have irregular, decreased or no breathing for 10 or 12 seconds,
  • Or turn unresponsive
  • But the episode doesn’t last for more than a minute
    Resolves on its own
Infant breath-holding or turning blue is more common than you think in babies. As a parent you will be scared to death but please understand that the infant does not have it in him to hold his breath long enough to cause damage. The body’s natural mechanism of breathing will kick in and override the forced breath-holding. 
Dr Mukesh Agarwal, Head Pediatrics, King Edward Memorial Hospital

Though doctors don’t know what causes it, this is not a disease, not a sickness and mums, don’t panic and assume the worst.

Bottomline: It can totally be an attention seeking tactic so don’t let your toddler’s breath-holding hold your parenting discipline strategy hostage!

Related Read: Argh! Are Diapers Toxic For Your Baby?


When To Press the Panic Button

Doctors say turning blue & limp happens in 1 in 100 babies till the age of 3. Know what’s normal and what’s not
You can tell if there is insufficient oxygen in the blood by checking the colour of the skin all over your baby’s body. If there is a bluish cast everywhere, this could mean all of the blood is blue and there could be a problem with the heart or lungs (Photo: iStock)

Parents, the key is that as long the blue phase is rare and temporary, there is nothing to worry about. The only time these attacks deserve immediate medical evaluation is if they are too often, or happen because of high-grade fever, seizures or during a feed.

A small number of children can actually have an iron deficiency that can cause incidents.

According to the Indian Academy of Pediatric’s, in rare cases, for roughly one in 20,000 kids turning blue can also be because of Cyanosis.

1. Lack Of Oxygen In the Blood or Cyanosis: If this happens in a child who has a heart condition, respiratory disorder or neurological disorders along with extreme lethargy, it could be a sign that they are not getting enough oxygen. The condition is known as cyanosis.

2. Child Is Struggling To Breathe and Unresponsive: Holding a breath is drastically different from struggling to breathe. Rush to the hospital for an emergent evaluation.

Also make sure your child’s lips are not blue because:

3. They Ate Something Blue: As silly as it sounds but just touch the lips to see if it is could from blueberries or may be a blue candy.

4. It Is Too Cold For Comfort and Your Baby Is Wet: If your child’s body temperature drops lower than 95 degrees F (normal is 98.6 degrees F), then their lips will turn blue. When the body temperatures drop, heat is preserved by reducing blood circulation to the skin and lips. In this case, immediately change their wet clothing and warm them rapidly.

But as a mum, when your baby stops breathing, his body becomes hard or limp, it will scare the living daylights out of you. In my opinion, all such episodes should be looked at by an expert. But like I cited above, a majority of these cases are not serious and correct with age, however as any pediatrician will tell you, there are herds of elephants who come in the emergency room, but it’s the zebra they are looking for. It can’t hurt to get a medical opinion especially when it’s your child.

Also Read: Will You Soak Your Newborn With Vaginal Juices?

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Topics:  Parenting   Newborn   New Mother 

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