Apnea of Prematurity

What is apnea of prematurity?

Apnea of prematurity refers to what happens when a child doesn’t breathe for more than 20 seconds. It is more common in premature babies than in full-term babies. The more premature the baby, the greater the chances of apnea. About half of all premature babies have apnea of prematurity.

Most babies who develop apnea are premature. It appears to be more common during sleep, especially during active sleep — a period when your baby has rapid eye movement (REM) while sleeping.

Apnea may be followed by bradycardia (decreased heart rate). With bradycardia, when your baby’s breathing slows, the heart rate also slows. A common term for apnea with bradycardia is "As and Bs."

How we care for apnea of prematurity

At Boston Children’s Hospital we treat apnea through one of our childhood respiratory programs, such as the Center for Healthy Infant Lung Development (CHILD). At CHILD, we offer a comprehensive, team-based approach to maximize the growth and development of your child’s lungs. Our staff is available 24 hours per day, seven days per week, and we pride ourselves in how available we are to our families.