Breath withholding is a terrifying ordeal for a parent. When my youngest, a 14 month old, passed out the first time I was frantic. My husband was 12 hours away at his new job and wasn’t due back for another few weeks. My kids were playing on my bed when the youngest started to cry. Then he stopped. I looked over just in time to see his eyes roll back, his tongue stick out, face turn purple-ish, and his little body collapse. I thought he was choking and stuck my finger in his mouth searching for an object. By this time he was completely out and had an eerie smile on his face. His hands were pulled up and bent against his chin. I seriously thought he was dead.
It was the scariest moment I have had thus far as a Mother. In a brief moment, I thought I watched the life leave my child, and I was immediately devastated and yelling his name desperate to get him back. I held him up, whacking his back still thinking he was choking. My other 4 children were crying and screaming. My oldest ran into the other room and cried out, “he’s dead he’s dead!!” It was horrible!
When his eyes opened, and he looked into my face instant relief flooded me. I held him for at least 2 hours just kissing, smelling, and crying on his sweet head. He was shaken up and very tired. I held him as I researched what could have happened. Breath withholding. He was fine. It was common in kids his age. It wasn’t a seizure. I was so relieved.
If your child is having the same issues, here are a few things I learned to do and not to do.
- When he starts that big cry, you know what I mean, immediately lay him flat.
- Blow in his face. Sounds mean, but it reminds him to breathe.
- Talk in a quiet, soothing voice.
- If he does pass out, don’t freak out (like me) just keep him lying flat and softly blow in his face. He will wake up within 30 seconds. When he does wake up, he will be extremely tired and confused.
- If he doesn’t pass out, that’s great! He is learning to control the breath withholding.
- Don’t hold him up. It keeps the blood from getting to the brain and can prolong the time he is passed out.
My son has not had an episode for a few weeks now, so I think he has grown out of it. For a while there, he was passing out almost every day. This is normal, so don’t worry. Your child will not suffer any damage to the nervous system or brain. Just make sure that when they have their episode, they are safely on the floor laying flat. This keeps them from falling and hitting their head (the only injuries from breath withholding reported).
I hope this helps you if you’re dealing with a breath-withholder. It is scary for any parent, but there is nothing to fear. It will pass, and your child is going to be fine!