Some newborns have very fast or labored breathing in the first few hours of life because of a lung condition called transient tachypnea of the newborn (TTN). "Transient" means it doesn't last long — usually, less than 24 hours. "Tachypnea" (tak-ip-NEE-uh) means to breathe quickly.
Babies with transient tachypnea are closely watched in the hospital, and some might need extra oxygen for a few days. Most babies make a full recovery. TTN usually does not have any lasting effects on a child's growth or development.
What Causes Transient Tachypnea of the Newborn?
Before birth, a developing fetus does not use the lungs to breathe — all oxygen comes from the blood vessels of the placenta. During this time, the baby's lungs are filled with fluid.
As the baby's due date nears, the lungs begin to absorb the fluid. Some fluid also may be squeezed out during birth as the baby passes through the birth canal. After delivery, as a baby breathes for the first time, the lungs fill with air and more fluid is pushed out. Any remaining fluid is then coughed out or slowly absorbed through the bloodstream and lymphatic system.
Babies with TTN have extra fluid in their lungs or the fluid leaves too slowly. So they must breathe faster and harder to get enough oxygen into the lungs.
Who Gets Transient Tachypnea of the Newborn?
Transient tachypnea of the newborn is more common in:
How Is Transient Tachypnea of the Newborn Treated?
Babies with TTN are watched closely and may go to a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) or special care nursery. There, doctors check babies' heart rates, breathing rates, and oxygen levels to make sure breathing slows down and oxygen levels are normal.
Some babies with TTN need extra oxygen. They get this through a small tube under the nose called a .
A baby who gets extra oxygen but still struggles to breathe might need continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) to keep the lungs from collapsing. With CPAP, a machine pushes a steady stream of pressurized air or oxygen through a nasal cannula or mask. This helps keep the lungs open during breathing.
Good nutrition can be a problem when a baby is breathing so fast that he or she can't suck, swallow, and breathe at the same time. If so, (IV) fluids can keep the baby hydrated while preventing blood sugar from dipping too low.
If your baby has TTN and you want to breastfeed, talk to your doctor or nurse about pumping and storing breast milk until your baby is ready to feed. Sometimes babies can get breast milk or formula through a:
nasogastric (NG) tube: a small tube placed through the baby's nose that carries food right to the stomach
orogastric (OG) tube: a small tube placed through the baby's mouth that carries food right to the stomach
If your baby has one of these tubes, ask the doctor about providing breast milk for your baby.
Symptoms of transient tachypnea usually get better within 24–72 hours. A baby can go home when breathing is normal and he or she has been feeding well for at least 24 hours.
When Should I Call the Doctor?
Babies with TTN usually recover fully. Call your doctor right away if your baby: