Breath-Holding Toddlers Are Manipulating Terrified Moms

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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

discipline, in the news, tantrums


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Lovex23 Lovex23

My son did this but I don't believe it was behavioral. He did this from the time he was born and the doc says he's healthy.

Const... Constant_Reader

LOL! I had a friend whose son used to do this very thing. He would turn blue, fall back, and normally wake up not even remembering what he was upset about to begin with.  I agree with you, if it's not caused by a medical condition, ignore it. 

NatAndCo NatAndCo

I used to scare the heck out of my parents because i used to pass out but not on purpose. Something would upset me and id start crying and be unable to breathe and just pass out. I stopped passing out as i got older but had issues breathing when i cried into my teens. All doctors said it was "normal".

kelti... kelticmom

My son would kind of do this since he was a few months old up until he was two. He would cry so hard, and then just gasp and hold his breath for so long it would scare me. I would blow in his face and he would gasp again and then just scream. The last time it happened, he had smacked his head on the corner of a table. He gasped, held his breath, then when I blew in his face, his eyes "jiggled" back and forth and he shook for a minute. Our pediatrician said that when really young children get so worked up or in pain, their nervous system misfires because it doesn't know how to deal with the overload. Scary, but harmless.

Nancy... NancyJ422

My son did this a few times when he was little (1 year to maybe 3 years old) - he's 22 now! It seemed like he would cry so hard and expel so much breath and then not be able to breathe in. Scared the CRAP out of me!

He did it in the pediatrician's office once and she said "oh, we have a breath holder here". Made me so mad I switched doctors!

Bridg... Bridget1981

 My little guy who just turned 3 (number 4 in the birth order) would pretend to choke at the dinner table.  The first couple of times it freaked me out, but then I realized he would only do it until he got a rection then he would start laughing.  My dad just about had a heart attack when he was having dinner at our place and he did it (I had forgotten to warn him beforehand).  If you just looked like you were ignoring him he would stop.  I could never be completely comfortable at mealtimes because I was afraid of missing the fact that he was choking for real at some point.  Thankfully he never did.


Waag Waag

My son did this from the time he was a couple months old but never actually passed out from it cause I knew what he was mad about and new if he passed out breathing becomes an involuntary action so he would just start back he doesn't really do it to me but to his grandma and great grandma. I forgot to worn his great grandma and she was babysitting she popped him on the leg when he started doing it and he instantly stopped and just looked at her like she was crazy he is a healthy nearly 2 year old. If your child doesn't start to back breathing as soon as they pass out then something more serious is wrong and of course CPR and 911 otherwise don't give in to it kids are going to do whatever they can to get what they want

momto... momtolittleg

I'd enjoy the few minutes of peace, to be honest!  Breath holding has got to be quieter than screaming, right?  I'm with you- you want to pass out?  Knock yourself out.  Literally.

Brittney Hottle

my son did this same thing and it was so frequent they ordered an EEG to be done on him...turns out he was fine..and he rarely does it anymore thank god! lol

spiri... spirit236

my daughter did that sometimes. it used to scare the hell out of me. one day she wanted my laptop and when i said no she did that falling out thing and then held her breath. i know it sounds bad but this time i just sat next to her and let her do it. a few seconds later she gave up and walked over to her toys. after that day she did it a couple more time and when she saw it didnt work anymore she stopped... she hasn't done it since.

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