Baby Clothes May Contribute to Your Baby's Breathing Problems--Now and in the Future!
I am frequently asked, “If humans are born to breathe correctly and effectively, why do so many of us become shallow breathers?” I can think of scores of reasons. But one blares alarmingly into my mind: Parents may be causing their babies to alter their natural inborn breathing ability without knowing it!
Not so long ago, with much joy and pride, I joined the league of first-time grandmothers. I thoroughly enjoy seeing little Nicholas every week. Even changing his diapers has been fun for me. The lucky little fellow has a wardrobe that many adults would envy. When, at about three months, he grew into his two-piece clothing, my attention was drawn immediately to the tightness of the rubber waistband on some of his pants. A question flashed through my mind: “Could this pressure be restricting his breathing?” I was distracted, and the thought evaporated.
More new baby clothes came along--size 6 months, then 9 months--and my daughter and I joyfully tried those beautiful little outfits on Nicholas. Suddenly, that nagging flash of concern resurfaced when I noticed that the pants he was wearing had a strong, resistant, half-inch-wide elastic waistband, much too tight around the waist in proportion to the overall size of the rest of the garment. How ridiculous and horrifying! How can a baby breathe properly when he is so tightly bound across the middle of his torso--just at the place where the diaphragm muscle should ebb freely with each breath? His abdomen, which needs to be able to expand easily with each inhalation, is instead being challenged.
Imagine that you, an adult, are bound with a tight, resistant, 4-inch-wide elastic band across the middle of your torso. Your breathing will be affected, too. You have the freedom to select your own clothing, but the poor little baby is stuck with what you choose.
I asked my daughter to give me all of Nicholas's pants with tight elastic waistbands. I bought some soft, narrow, elastic tape, got out my sewing machine, and replaced all those that were binding and too wide.
Suddenly, I thought of what must be countless infants lying in their cribs struggling to breathe against confining waistbands. They have no choice but to resort to breathing into only the top portion of their lungs, which is “shallow breathing.” How alarming!
Later, I noticed that disposable diapers with convenient Velcro Ô tabs can be misused, too. To make sure the diaper stays on securely, the diaper changer tends, unconsciously, to over-tighten the diaper, restricting the baby's stomach from expanding with each inhalation.
In my days as a young mother, using cloth diapers and safety pins had its advantage. To insert the pin safely, we automatically put our index and middle fingers inside the diaper, separating the diaper from the baby's skin so as not to prick the baby. In doing so, without realizing the effect, we automatically assured that the diaper was not too tightly bound. With disposable diapers, you can assure that the diaper is not too tight by leaving enough room to place at least one of your fingers inside the top edge of the diaper. It would be a great idea to tell your babysitter or nanny and the baby's grandmother, for that matter, about this precaution.
Watch a baby lying on its back with no restricting clothing. The stomach rises on inhalation and subsides on exhalation. This is how nature intends us to breathe deeply. Shallow breathers do the opposite: When they inhale, they pull in their stomachs, and they expand their stomachs on exhalation. Pulling in the stomach on inhalation causes the diaphragm muscle to push upward, fighting with the inflow of inhaled air. This minimizes air inflow, wastes energy, and creates tension.
The diaphragm muscle is the sheet of muscle that separates your lung cavity from your abdominal cavity. You lower your diaphragm by expanding your stomach, which is your lower abdomen. To inhale correctly, the diaphragm muscle should lower, allowing the lungs to elongate and draw in air efficiently along their entire length.
Shallow breathers will go through life with not only physical problems but emotional ones as well. Many physicians, psychotherapists, and other specialists are regularly publishing articles and books confirming the fact that how we breathe affects every aspect of our daily living.
Breathing is our most important act, and we do it every moment of our lives. We breathe more than 20,000 times a day. If we can improve with each breath, think of the benefits we can accumulate. On the opposite end, consider how we shortchange ourselves by diminishing the benefit of each breath we take.
To ensure that your child does not lose the natural endowment of correct breathing must surely be the most important thing you can do as a parent. That begins with making sure that your child can breathe freely in the clothes he or she is wearing. After all, breath is life. How we breathe affects the well-being of every fiber in us and everything we think, feel, or do--throughout our entire lifetime.
By Nancy Zi, author of The Art of Breathing – Six Simple Lessons to Improve Your Performance, Health and Well-Being, book, video and DVD