Breath-Holding Toddlers Are Manipulating Terrified Moms

toddler having tantrumAnythying goes wrong in 3-year-old Rozalynn Cevetto's, world and all hell breaks loose. If she is hungry, tired, hurt or just not getting her way, she holds her breath. Hmmm, this sounds familiar.

Little Rozalynn was only 14 months old when she began this obstinate behavior. Her mom was completely freaked out the first time it happened, her eyes rolled back in her head, her lips turned blue, and she passed out but quickly started breathing again. Oh, did I forget to mention that her mom was a breath holder when she was a toddler, as was her father. Seems it’s hereditary. 


Rozalynn's doctors say she will outgrow it. It sounds cruel to say, “Meh, get over it! Pass out, I don’t care.” It looks scary but doctors say that holding their breath is not harmful to healthy children because if the child holds his breath until he passes out, the body's natural mechanism to breathe kicks in.

Even so, many parents and some child psychologists worry that the incidents are not physiological but behavioral. The concern is that a child will take advantage of their parents' terror and learn to be manipulative. Basically, these little terrorists are using our fear that something bad will happen to them to manipulate us into doing their bidding.

My daughter used to throw such bad tantrums when she was a wee one that sometimes she would lose her breath like this. Believe me, I almost had a heart attack the first time she did it. It's hard behavior to ignore but holding your breath because you are pissed off is crazy and crazy scary for the parents.

I learned to simply blow in her face and she would breathe. It forced her to breathe. There was nothing wrong her other than a bad attitude, so after the first time (and a doctor visit), I never freaked out again.

I think parents should have their child checked and if it is not physiological, they should simply either breathe in their face and go on about their business or ignore it all together. It's for attention, to get their way, just like stomping feet and willfully throwing themselves in the floor. I will not be held hostage by a pissed off toddler. Mommy's got laundry to do.

I know it sounds callous to just blow in their face and walk away but it was for attention. The doctor said she as perfectly healthy. The only time these attacks deserve a medical evaluation is if they occur on a regular basis or happen frequently. There are children who actually have an iron deficiency that can cause the incidents.

If your little one does this, make an appointment with your pediatrician to have them evaluated and if no issue exists, I say ignore them. They will learn that they can’t hold you emotionally hostage. My daughter outgrew it and I suspect so will most.

What would you do if your child were willfully holding their breath just to get their way?

Image via Flickr/ Brungrrl

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