My toddler holds his breath- why & how do I get him to stop?

You asked and you shall now receive. It’s only fair for us to share all of this stored up knowledge about a toddlers and what happens when they start toddling (and talking)! We now will answer, in a very public forum, all of those burning questions about children in their second year. Each Wednesday, we will tackle a commonly-asked-question from the point of view of a parent with a toddler. Chiming in to give her feedback will be an expert who has been there and done that. Earmark, share and add your own input to today’s question; it’s good karma.

My toddler holds his breath- why & how do I get him to stop?

Expert: Marsha Greenberg

Many toddlers will hold their breath when they are having a tantrum. When children hold their breath, it is a scary thing for parents to deal with. Involuntary breath is most often a result of intense crying and toddlers can not do it on purpose. A toddler can begin to cry and at some point fails to inhale. If you are concerned it is important to talk to your doctor to be sure there are no underlying medical issues.

If you have a breath holding episode try to stay as calm as possible; sometimes startling your child with clapping your hands can help start the breathing again or try putting a cold washcloth on their forehead. Most toddlers grow out of this before too long but always check with your doctor when you are in doubt.

Marsha Greenberg M.S., M.S. W

Marsha is a therapist in New York City. She is the author of the newly released book, Raising Your Toddler, by Globe Pequot Press. She has masters degrees in Child and Family Development and Social Work from the University of Michigan. As the Director of the Health Systems Child Care Program for over 14 years, she was responsible for over 250 children between the ages of 6 weeks and 6 years of age. Marsha teaches in the Early Childhood Special Education department at NYU and has a private psychotherapy practice in NYC. Marsha is the mother of three grown sons and has three grandsons (aged 4 and 18 months and 4 months) with a new grandchild on the way.

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