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The Baby Belly-Breath

Nov 8, 2007
Watching a newborn or pre-one year old baby breathe is, well, often peaceful, but not as informative as many have been led to believe. Is it or isn't it the right way to breathe?

Many point to the belly and how it rises and falls. They deduce that because the baby breathes that way it is the right way for adults to breathe as well. This is not true. The baby belly breath is simply a beginning, not the whole picture by any stretch of the
imagination. It is perhaps 40-50% of an optimal breath.

The baby's belly rises so much because:

1. There has been little development by that time of the lungs and breathing sequencing during standing in gravity. The baby actually closes its throat so that it can breathe and suckle at the same time. This ability is lost as it grows older and sits up more. This of course reduces flow of air and forces more attention in the abdominal area. Breathing is harder this way.

2. The stomach has replaced the umbilicus now with solid food and it invites some fat accumulation and bulking of the belly giving a visual impression of excessively implied importance.

3. There is a minimum of chest expansion because the lungs have not gotten large enough to need more space.

4. Balanced integrated breathing has not developed and the belly, mid chest, sides, back and abdomen is still to be.

5. The mid back above the kidney area has the larger lung volume but when the baby is on its back there simply is no where else for the baby to be able to breathe but into the belly area.

6. The soft tissue of the frontal belly area is the path of least resistance so the majority of visual emphasis is in that area. Being on the back is mostly better then the side or stomach as it allows the rib cage to raise and that allows the diaphragm to rise for a deeper easier inhalation and the baby, or most people for that matter, to breathe easier, but not necessarily "better".

Ideally, standing straight up, or swimming the breast stroke or side armed-back stroke aretwo of the best ways (with exceptions) to get the easiest lung volume while moving the body. Neither of which are readily available to the unstable non walking baby.

The back breath is critical to optimal breathing. Posture-wise, the baby has not been upright much at all and its body is compressed in the areas it is lying on; generally the back. After all, it has just spent the last several months or its intrauterine life in a bent forward position. Try bending forward and taking a deep breath and you will soon see that bending over restricts the breath quite a bit.

Does this imply that the baby should breathe into the upper chest? Nope. Not yet unless it is well coordinated and there is enough 360 degree belly breath as a foundation.

Believe it or not, you don't really want to sleep like a baby. Why? Babies' sleep, especially in the early months, is typically full of interruptions because their sleep cycles are much shorter than an adult's. It takes time for these cycles to lengthen and for our baby to learn how to fall back to sleep on his own if he wakes up in the middle of the night.

To summarize, the classic baby breath example most often involves under developed lungs which makes it not a very good example or at least a very limited one and is only during quiet breathing anyway. Most breathing issues involve an abnormal percentage of high chest breathing that occurs more often during activity (making it harder to track) and increased oxygen needs, including more severe aspects of anxiety, high blood

pressure,hyperventilation, asthma, most bronchitis and many forms of COPD. They breathe deeper and in the effort of that they cough, gasp or wheeze even more. That encourages shallow breathing and the cycle repeats itself.

Essentially non-activity oriented forms such as bronchitis, emphysema and COPD stem from BOTH mechanical and toxemia/chemistry aspects, the variations of issues related to air quality, diet, stress, smoking history and lifestyles. Both mechanics AND chemistry need be addressed to achieve optimal breathing.
About the Author
Michael White is a health educator, author, breathing development specialist, public speaker, vocalist, and CEO of Breathing.com and the Optimal Breathing School. He has studied breathing development since 1975 and helped thousands transform their lives through correct breathing and nutrition. Visit Breathing.com
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