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Apnea Of Prematurity


Apnea of prematurity (AOP), is a breathing problem in a premature baby. A baby is premature if he is born earlier than 37 weeks gestation. A baby normally breathes in every 2 seconds. With AOP, there is a pause in breathing for at least 15 to 20 seconds. AOP may also be a pause in breathing of any length when it is combined a slow heartbeat and bluish or pale skin or fingernails.



  • Stimulants: Your baby may be given medicine to make blood flow and breathing go faster.
  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Contact your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him or her if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Apnea monitor:

Your baby may go home with an apnea monitor. Your baby's healthcare provider will monitor your baby until he feels that your baby's lungs are working well. Ask for more information on apnea monitors.

Care for your baby:

The following may help your baby feel more comfortable:

  • Keep your baby in a room with a constant temperature. Keep the room warm and quiet.
  • Let your baby get plenty of sleep. It is best to have him sleep for at least 4 hours straight.
  • Look at your baby's belly to see if it is bloated. Your baby's belly should stick out a bit, especially after he has just been fed. Between feedings, his belly should feel soft. If it feels swollen and hard, call your baby's healthcare provider.

Help your baby breathe easier:

  • Remove mucus from your baby's nose using a bulb syringe:
    • Squeeze the bulb and gently put the tip into one of your baby's nostrils . Close the other nostril with your fingers. Release the bulb so that it sucks out the mucus. Empty the bulb syringe into a tissue and do it again if needed. Repeat the steps for the other nostril.
  • Let your baby lie with his head in midline: Your baby may be able to breathe better when his head is not turned to the side. Make sure your baby's head does not flop forward or his neck does not bend too much. Make sure to lay him on his back when he is sleeping. Avoid placing your baby on his stomach to sleep .
  • Take extra care when feeding your baby: Hold your baby so his head is higher than his stomach. Feed your baby in a place with enough light so you can see any changes in his skin color. Stop from time to time to allow him to take breaths between sucks on the bottle or breast. Stop the feeding if he looks tired.
  • Use a cool mist humidifier to increase air moisture in your home. This may make it easier for your child to breathe and help decrease his cough.
  • Do not let anyone smoke around your child: Cigarette smoke can affect your child's lungs and make it more difficult for him to breathe.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR):

If your baby appears to have stopped breathing, try to stimulate him by rubbing him with your hand. You may also try rubbing your baby's back or striking the soles of his feet. Never shake your baby. If your baby still does not cry or move, begin CPR and have someone call 911. If you are alone, begin the steps of CPR and do them for 2 minutes. After 2 minutes, call 911 yourself. CPR on a baby is different from an adult. Ask your healthcare provider for more information on baby CPR.

For support and more information:

  • American Academy of Pediatrics
    141 Northwest Point Boulevard
    Elk Grove Village , IL 60007-1098
    Phone: 1- 847 - 434-4000
    Web Address:

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your baby has a fever.
  • Your baby has chills or a cough.
  • Your baby's skin is swollen or has a rash.
  • You have questions about your child's condition or care.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • Your baby has trouble breathing.
  • Your baby is not able to eat or drink anything for 24 hours.
  • Your baby's skin, lips, or fingernails are pale or blue.
  • Your baby is not able to wake up after he has an apnea event.
    • Call 911 immediately. Begin CPR. Take your baby to the hospital even if CPR makes your baby start breathing again.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Apnea Of Prematurity (Discharge Care)

Associated drugs

Micromedex® Care Notes