Mom’s Question:

My baby is 3 months old and I notice that on occasion her body shakes slightly while she falls asleep. It happens very sporadically (maybe once every week or two), but it has been happening ever since she was born. Is this normal?

It lasts probably 10-20 seconds and then stops. If I try to arouse her by calling her name or touching her during an episode, she will not wake up but maybe will roll her eyes. My concern is that she is having a seizure. My doctor does not seem to take this seriously when I mention this. Am I just overreacting to a still immature respiratory system? Also…

More frequently (nearly every time she falls asleep), I notice that she has periods of very erratic breathing while she falls asleep during which she breaths very deeply with her chest almost pumping. Sometimes she twitches or smiles during this time and sometimes she even whimpers and seems like she is going to start crying. My doctor says this is periodic breathing. However, I thought periodic breathing follows a period of not breathing (which I do not notice in my baby).

Please let me know if this is normal?


Baby Helpline:

Erratic Breathing – A Normal Sleep Pattern?

From what you describe, it is indeed likely that your baby is just fine and that the shaking and erratic breathing is simply part of her sleep pattern. Her nervous system and breathing maybe a little bit immature still.

The shaking can, for example, be similar to what adults do when they are about to fall asleep and dream that they are falling. It makes you jump or tremble.

The erratic breathing can also be due to dreaming or even just a normal baby breathing pattern, so-called periodic breathing, just like your doctor mentioned. However, periodic breathing, which is common for babies younger than 6 months, usually means that the baby breathes faster for a period, then more slowly, then pauses for up to 15 seconds before resuming normal breathing.

Even though it doesn’t sound like your baby is having any serious problems, I think you should still get a second opinion from another pediatrician, if for nothing else, so to give yourself some peace of mind!

If possible, try to capture the shaking and breathing on film, make sure you write down as much as you can about it and contact another doctor. They can get your daughter an EEG and also have her meet a neurologist.

Does your daughter seem healthy otherwise? Does she gain weight and meet her milestones? If she does, the risk is probably low that something is wrong. But I don’t think one can ever be too careful with a little baby.

I really wish you good luck and would love to hear how things go for you and your little daughter!


More On Babies’ That Shake When Sleeping

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Comments for “Erratic Breathing And Shaking While Falling Asleep”

Jul 25, 2013 REM and non-REM sleep

by: Connie

Your baby is just going through normal sleep activity. My baby used to be very noisy when she was falling asleep(in her REMphase) – squeals, squeaks, sucks, even give out the occasional load cry, rolls her eyes back and smiles – but when you look at her, she’s fully asleep and oblivious to you.

Hope this helps.

Aug 24, 2013 Shaking baby
by: Anonymous
Mine does the same thing! He’s 7 months now, and I was really worried until I remembered that one time, I caught his father doing the same thing.

At the time it scared me, and I woke my husband up, thinking he was having a seizure. My husband awoke, wondering what the heck I was going on about… he was perfectly fine!

I don’t notice anything wrong with my son when he’s awake, and he only shakes for about ten seconds or so. He’s not a self-sleeper… I have to bounce him face down over my knees to get him to sleep, and in that position, he snores a lot and occasionally shakes.

I’ve learned to turn him onto his back once he’s asleep, which usually helps the breathing, but I don’t know if he shakes in his bed. I only notice when he sleeps in my lap. I do know that he wakes up from nightmares more often in his bed…

I can tell because it’s a more frantic, scared cry than his usual grumpy/hungry cry. At any rate, I just wanted to let you know there were more of us out here, and while I agree you should check with your pediatrician (I’m gonna), it’s not just babies that do it… sometimes grown-ups do, too.

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