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Newborn and Infant Care

Newborn respiratory rate

07/10/2006

Question:

Our newborn`s respiratory rate was between 64 and 70 for the first few hours following birth. Is that too fast?

Answer:

Yes, that is a high respiratory rate for a newborn, however, it may not indicate a serious problem, the upper limit of normal being 60. Many babies need a few hours to have all of the fluid in their lungs, that is normally present while inside mom, reabsorbed. During this period, their rate of breathing increases because the fluid increases the work of breathing. The lungs have a large lymphatic system and this drains the fluid from the lungs over the course of 1-12 hours. Babies who are born by scheduled cesarean section or who have rapid births are most prone to this problem. It is linked to serious illness or lung problems.

A rapid respiratory rate also can be a sign of infection in the newborn period or of problems with the development of the lungs. Doctors and nurses in the nursery carefully watch over and thoroughly evaluate infants with high respiratory rates to identify infants with serious problems and to prevent dehydration and other problems such high respiratory rates might cause.

I hope as you read this that your baby is well and that there are no problems.

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Response by:

Mary M Gottesman, PhD, RN, CPNP, FAAN Mary M Gottesman, PhD, RN, CPNP, FAAN
Professor of Clinical Nursing
College of Nursing
The Ohio State University