New AAP guidelines explain why babies sometimes stop breathing
There’s nothing more terrifying for parents than when a newborn temporarily stops breathing, but did you know there are actually instances in which it might not signal a major problem? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) just announced a new definition of which parents will definitely want to take note. Brief Resolved Unexplained Events, or BRUE, is the new term used to describe an event in which a baby stops breathing for several seconds with no discernible cause.
Per the AAP description, BRUE episodes occur in healthy, low-risk babies and are characterized by absent or irregular breathing, a blue pallor, unresponsiveness, and/or loss of muscle control. Symptoms last for a minute or less and resolve on their own. It sounds completely nuts, but it really does happen. As one mom says in a discussion about the condition on Facebook:
“My daughter had these breath holding episodes for about a year… Called 911 the first time because I thought I was watching her die. It eventually became so routine that I would just tell people to hang on for a second until she came to and regained her color. Then they just disappeared and we never dealt with it again.”
Formerly, doctors referred to these events as “Apparent Life-Threatening Events” but the AAP says that term was too broad and unnecessarily alarming. “You can imagine as a parent being observed overnight and nothing happens — no new event… then imagine the parent being told after this experience: ‘It looks like your child had an apparent life-threatening event, but I’m not worried as a physician,'” says Dr. Joel Tieder, an author on the new guideline.
With the new term, the AAP hopes to raise awareness about BRUE and help to reassure parents that it’s not a precursor to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). In fact, researchers have found that BRUE has no link to SIDS and does not put infants at an increased risk. Says Dr. Tieder, “[BRUE is a term] that really helps us tell parents, ‘Not only is there low risk that it will recur, but there is a low risk of a serious underlying disease.’”
Of course, any time you’re worried you should always, always visit your doctor or at least give them a call. The guidelines aren’t meant to keep parents from asking important questions or to encourage them to self-diagnose. Rather, the AAP just wants doctors to have concrete guidelines for identifying BRUE episodes and for patients to be better informed about what the episodes are and how concerned they should be.
Lots of things about parenting a newborn are terrifying. While having more information doesn’t necessarily eliminate our fears, it does help us process some of the scarier things that can go on. No one wants to think about their baby not breathing, but at least with this change we have some increased awareness and we know exactly what to tell our doctors when something happens. If it prevents even one parent from having a total panic attack, it’s worth getting to know the new acronym.