If a baby turns blue while breastfeeding, it can be a very scary situation for a new mother. Although it can be overwhelming, breastfeeding can be one of life's most rewarding experiences for a new mom. However, when something goes wrong, like the baby turning a dusky blue, it is very scary.
Why a Baby Turns Blue While Breastfeeding
Talking about what might happen while breastfeeding before your baby is born does not prepare you if the baby really does turn blue while nursing. Rest assured, it does not normally happen. The key is to remain calm when and if it does happen. Babies turn blue while breastfeeding when they confuse the suck-swallow-breath pattern necessary to successfully nurse. A healthy newborn without heart complications or other complex medical issues usually does not turn blue. Remember not to panic, and follow some simple logic if you find your baby turning blue while you are trying to breastfeed him.
Avoid Extreme Hunger
A newborn may suck hard initially due to an urgency caused by hunger. The baby sucks, sucks, and sucks again and forgets to take a breath in the process of trying to get milk from the mother's breast.
The baby can suck so hard that they become dusky or bluish in color. This can happen when the infant has cried for several minutes while waiting to be fed. The baby is so anxious to get started they confuse the suck-swallow-breath pattern and either cough and choke or turn the dusky bluish color for a few seconds. Therefore, if you can avoid making the baby wait too long to eat, you can often avoid the situation all together.
Disengage the Baby from the Breast
The first action should be to disengage the infant from the breast when you see the infant first starting to turn blue. Breaking the suction for the infant, allows him to open his mouth and take a breath, starting a regular breathing pattern again. Give the baby a couple of minutes to return to a pink color before you try breastfeeding again. Most often this process is enough to remind the baby how to suck-swallow-breath and he is able to continue breastfeeding without incident.
Normal healthy babies do not turn blue or stay blue for more than a few seconds without taking a breath. If this process does not improve the color of the baby, and the infant appears to have stopped breathing, immediately call 911 for medical assistance.
Other things to keep in mind while breastfeeding:
- Position the infant so the nose is free from obstruction. This sounds like common sense, but when mom is tired, it is the middle of the night, the infant is wrapped in a blanket and mom is in a warm cozy robe, it is easy to see how the infant's nose could be obstructed.
- Remain awake and observant while breastfeeding. Observe the baby for color changes and signs of respiratory distress while sucking. Disengage the infant if the baby needs to take a breath.
- The newborn may get an easier start at latching on if mom expresses a drop or two of breast milk onto the infant's lips to get the process started. This tells the baby to start the suck-swallow-breath pattern immediately and avoids the urgency. It is especially helpful for moms who have trouble initiating the flow of breastmilk.
If your baby turns blue while breastfeeding, it doesn't have to turn into a scary situation. Do not panic. Assist the baby in getting a breath quickly. Discuss the incident with your pediatrician if you feel the blue spells happen frequently or the baby doesn't recover quickly.