Panting at the breast

Why does my baby pant at the start of a feed?

Panting, or quick breathing, at the start of a feed is normal. The baby is drinking quickly, affecting the breathing rate. It is a sign that the baby is getting a lot of milk. When the breast is full, the panting is more noticeable, and mothers with a large milk supply may hear quick breathing throughout the feed. After a few months, the baby becomes better at handling the milk supply and the panting usually decreases. In rare cases, panting at the breast indicates an illness.

A) Describing panting

Humans cannot breathe in air at the same time as they are swallowing. Swallowing large amounts of liquids changes the breathing rhythms and can result in rapid, loud breathing (panting).

When a baby is taking in large amounts of milk while breastfeeding, the baby’s rate of breathing is affected, just as an adult’s rate would be. Panting is generally a sign the baby is getting a lot of milk. Panting often occurs at the same time as gulping.

The video below shows a baby breastfeeding. Heavy breathing and a few soft swallows can be heard. 

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B) Timing of panting

Panting tends to happen at the beginning of the feed during the “I’m starving” stage of breastfeeding. This is when larger let-downs occur and babies are swallowing large amounts of milk.

Panting is more noticeable if the mother has a large milk supply or the breast is full. In these situations, panting may even persist through the whole feeding.

After a few months, the baby becomes better at handling the milk supply and the panting generally decreases.

In rare cases, quick or abnormal breathing at the breast indicates an illness.