Asthma in Infants
The person who is learning the Buteyko method takes control of their breathing and by reduction of the use of their deep breathing muscles reduces the depth of their breathing until a desire for a deeper breath is felt. This indicates that a higher level of CO2 is being trapped in, so in a short time avoiding the conditions associated with CO2 deficiency.
For you to apply the Buteyko Method in infants it is necessary to
recognize the ways in which your breathing can be affected indirectly. This simply means that you must recognize what makes your breathing deeper,and avoid it where possible. Once you have followed how this applies to adults then you simply apply it to babies.
1. Keeping your mouth closed.
This is the first step for all people learning to apply the method. It is
active in the sense that you control the separation of your lips, but the way that this alters your breathing is passive. You simply close your mouth and the increase in CO2 levels happens to you. [Providing that you do not become stressed and increase your breathing depth, still with your mouth closed. This may be a factor if you suffer from panic attacks.] In most cases people who have been used to breathing through the mouth will feel a little suffocated or feel the desire for a deep breath within a minute or two of having their mouth closed.
This feeling is an indication that you have trapped in a little more CO2 than you are used to, and your normal response to this is for your body to believe it should get rid of some of this extra CO2. This is the reason for the desire for a deeper breath. After a time your body becomes used to the higher level of CO2 that keeping your mouth closed causes. Once used to this level the desire for a deeper breath [or feeling of slight suffocation] disappears. At this point keeping your mouth closed feels absolutely normal, and breathing through your mouth will feel a little odd.
The application of this wisdom to infants requires a little lateral thinking as it is unusual for a baby to actually do what you tell it. The simplest approach is the use of a 'dummy' or 'pacifier'. While these do allow a little mouth breathing they reduce it greatly. Try it yourself.
There are lots of discussions about these devices and the problems that people have associated with them. Crooked teeth, thumb-sucking habits, and so on.
If you were to be given the choice of a baby who was A. Miserable with asthma and associated problems, or B. Much healthier but uses a 'dummy' and who may (and this is not proven at all) develop teeth problems.
Which would you choose? It is not a difficult choice at all. The dummy can help!
So, the first step in improving your babies breathing is to encourage nasal breathing. The dummy is part of this, other parts include simply pushing your babies lips together. This can be done at anytime, and done automatically by you even if the child is asleep. Some Native American Indian tribes did this as part of their culture, it was simply a normal part of the mothers job. [I do not know if the father also participated]
2. The other positive aspect of infants is that they will copy you almost exactly Do not under-estimate their ability to absorb information from around them.
This includes you! You are examined regularly ó so what you do with your breathing is very important. If you wander around like a 'complete wally' with your mouth hanging open then your baby is likely to copy you.
An excellent example of this is watching how toddlers learn to sneeze. You already are aware of the wonderful variation we see in different peoples sneezes. Some have a powerful and loud explosions that are preceded by a series of warning noises such as 'AHHHH, AHHHH' or AHHHHH' ending with a violent 'CCHOO!!' Others have something like a mouse shriek which is like a gentle and brief 'zthco' often causing people to turn around to see what that odd noise was.
If you follow a powerful sneezer home and observe how his [more
pronounced in the male] toddler sneezes guess what you will find. The
child will have learned without being officially told that appropriate way to deal with a nose tickle is loud, violent and irrigating method that dad does, or whichever person the baby has learned from.
Another excellent example of this is how to blow your nose. Study
the nose blowing method of a child whose modelled parent is from the
'enraged elephant school'. I have even seen parents coaching toddlers in power blowing or something that almost guarantees continuing demand for handkerchiefs and tissues.
3. The next part of helping your asthmatic child is to look carefully at what and how much you are feeding him or her You will have heard of the impact of dairy food on people in general.
You may have heard that dairy food is 'mucus-forming'. This implies that the food itself causes the formation of mucus, but you now know that the food simply causes a change in the depth of breathing which then causes the production of mucus. [The increased depth of breathing causes you to lose a little more CO2, which causes your 'mucus factories' to increase production!]
Different people have different levels of response to different foods. Some people can eat a whole bucket of double chocolate icecream, and have almost no change. Others can observe mucus after one teaspoon. With others it might be strawberries, or oranges.
Your child is an individual, but has similar genes to you. Look at the sensitivities of both parents and grandparents when looking at your child's diet. Find all of the clues you can about how your entire family handles their food. Quiz your parents by asking what you were fed, and if you had any problems. It is amazing what people remember about their own babies!
Once you have gathered as much information as you can then begin to observe what happens to your baby after meals PAY ATTENTION AND MAKE NOTES!
If you find that coughing is more common after any particular food ó replace it or reduce the quantity. Realize that a huge meal of anything can make your [and your baby's] breathing much worse. [This is apart from any effect of any individual food.] If your meal is too big your breathing will suffer! Try it. Measure your breathing using the Measurement Pause, then stuff yourself until you are past full.
After each 30 minutes measure it again. Look for mucus formation, drowsiness, and irritability. See if your ability to think clearly is reduced. Unless you are breast-feeding your child [which limits the total amount of food he gets], then it is worthwhile reducing the size of each bottle. A childs stomach is quite small ó and too much of any food will soon overfill it. Like you, your child can take a little time to realize it is full and naturally keeps sucking away at the bottle until it is overfull. Just like breast feeding is the best for babies and toddlers in small meals often.
The other challenge here is to not confuse hunger with thirst. Not every bottle has to be milk or formula. We all need water. When you give your baby [or yourself] water it should be filtered. If you do not have a
high quality filter, then at least boil the water, and let it sit. This not only
ensures it is free of nasty bugs ó but as importantly gets rid of the chlorine.
And it will taste much better than tap water.
Apart from experimenting with the size of each meal/snack you give your child, you must also look at the timing of each meal. Think about what happens to adult asthmatics if you have a large meal, followed then by having a good sleep.
Both of these factors increase your breathing depth by themselves.
This impact is much greater when you do both. This is very important so
let's go over it again.
A large meal will increase your breathing depth, causing loss of CO2, increase in mucus production and greater likelihood of breathing problems. Similarly, lying down, [especially if you lie on your back] will increase your breathing depth. Test this for yourself right now.
A good slouch will do for demonstration. Right now slouch right back in your chair, just like you were watching TV. Without consciously altering your breathing, note how long each breath takes, how easy or hard it is to breath in and out. Do this for about a minute.
Then compare your breathing when you sit up straight. A good model is the following. Sit forward on the edge of your chair, as if it were a bench edge. Imagine that your spine is like a broomstick, and that your body is like a jacket. Your shoulders [the shoulders of the jacket] will drop down towards the floor, not forward or back ó but down. The lapels of the jacket [your chest] will also just hang, not pushed in or out. The belly of the jacket will also just hang. Now check to see that your spine is still a little like a broomstick again. And relax.
Now observe your breathing again. Note to see how long each breath takes, how easy or hard it is to breathe, whether your breathing is nice and regular or erratic. Do this for a minute or two.
You could see the difference. Slouching made your breathing become much deeper. This effect is even further enhanced when you lie down completely. If you lie on your back your breathing can become massive ó unless you are awake to control it. Lying on your side or front simply makes it physically more difficult to take as deep a breath. It is interesting that sitting or standing up straight results in your breathing become less deep. For all of these years we have been told to stand up straight and breathe more deeply!
If you allow yourself to go from the nice straight sitting position to the slouched position ó what is the first thing that happens to your breathing? You find yourself taking a nice lovely big deep breath! Ahh. Let's apply this to your baby. Large meals increase their breathing depth. Sleeping [worse on back] increases breathing depth. You want your child to cough then give a large meal then put them down for their big sleep!
This is traditionally done because the big meal makes them drowsy, [the huge dose of insulin released does it], and therefore easier to put to sleep. If your child is getting asthma ó then you have to forego this shortcut.
Give the larger meal well before bedtime, and then a smaller snack before bed. If you are using milk or formula, then use a small bottle at bedtime or give water or [unsweetened] juice at that time.
In effect this usually means breaking the larger before bed feeding into two smaller feedings. Just like when breastfeeding. This same rule also applies to adults that have either a very small meal before going to bed or nothing at all.
What food is best for your baby? Breast milk is best. Sometimes this is not possible or always available so mostly you will use or supplement with milk [cows] or some kind of 'formula'. If you are having problems or at least your baby is with coughing or wheezing, then you need to experiment.
Many children are lactose intolerant which means that cows milk will not allow them to thrive, and will adversely affect their breathing.
As a general rule if your child has problems go off cow's milk and other dairy. Substitute non-dairy formula or soy or goats milk. Experiment! Try different things for a week or so, making notes of coughing, wheezing and runny noses.
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