New parents can become concerned when they notice that their infant stops breathing for several seconds. This is a normal newborn reflex called periodic breathing.
Infants may pause for as long as 5-10 seconds, usually while sleeping, then breathe rapidly for the next several seconds. This is OK. This behavior occurs more often in babies born prematurely, but can also be seen in healthy full-term infants. If your infant’s pause in breathing is associated with a change in skin color, lasts longer than 10 seconds, or is followed by gasping breaths, call 911 immediately as this may be a sign of a serious illness.
Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, July 2019