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I've seen some parents blowing on their baby's face when crying. The baby suddenly stops crying but he looked very surprised. I wonder if this could harm the baby in some way.

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Blowing on the face is a common trick. It triggers a reflex to hold the breath for a short moment. That stops the crying, and can also be used when washing the child's face etc.

I am not aware of any consequences of this, neither positive nor negative.

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    This trick is also used when taking small baby's for baby swim. You blow on the face to tell the child to hold its breath before you put it below the water then it can swim naturally to our partner standing 2-3 meters away. – Kári Gunnarsson Sep 23 '14 at 9:55
  • @Kári I always assumed it to be the same reflex that makes babies close their eyes and stop breathing when water runs over their faces. Otherwise it seems too much like a misfeature to stop breathing when wind blows into your face. – sbi Sep 26 '14 at 14:35
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    Yes, it's the Diving reflex en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mammalian_diving_reflex It works when you blow on their face for a few reasons: 1) They are breathing through their nose 2) Air is a fluid, like water 3) Blowing the air at the babies face (nose, really) changes the air pressure around the nose 4) This change in air pressure triggers the same response as the change in pressure from submersion. Blowing in the mouth, or at the eyes, or forehead, is not only silly but ineffective. We're made to be primarily nose-breathers, so it's about the nose. – user11394 Dec 12 '14 at 5:05
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If you are blowing softly, it could hardly harm the child. Anything under x knots should be fine, where x is a reasonable value determined by humourless scientists.

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    I think we don't need to state a specific wind speed. It is not like any parent will blow into an anemometer to check for safety (but again, this is the internet-earth we are talking about). Do you have any experience with this technique? We could change the speed measurement to something people can relate, like (for example) "blowing at a speed that makes a candle flicker but not go off is fine". I just never had to use it on my son, so I do not know how soft you can blow in order to still trigger the reflex. – Mindwin Sep 22 '14 at 15:05
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    Surely common sense should prevail. I use the word "softly." – Dave Clarke Sep 22 '14 at 15:15
  • "Affirmative, Dave. I read you." :D (couldn't miss the joke). – Mindwin Sep 22 '14 at 15:19
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    If you're going to state something specific - '3 knots' - it should be because you know what that specific speed means, and have some evidence for it. – Joe Sep 23 '14 at 1:43
  • I'll remove the knottage. Clearly no sense of humour around here. – Dave Clarke Sep 23 '14 at 4:54
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From some googling around, yes, it is safe [1] [2]. BUT there is a caveat.

Whenever you blow air (either through the mouth or the nose), some particles from these cavities are carried by the exiting air.

Always some flakes of dry nose secretion are expelled when you breathe through the nose, more if you breathe heavily or sneezes. (that is why some jurisdictions require cooks to wear surgical masks covering both nose and mouth).

Always some saliva droplets are expelled when you blow air through the mouth.

So when you blow air at the baby's face, you will always have some saliva being sprayed on the child. And this saliva will carry samples of whatever is in your mouth microflora, bacteria or food particles. (that should be avoided, but is not all bad - because having contact with the bacteria will stimulate the baby's immune system; just make sure baby is healthy and well-fed AND parent is not currently diseased).

Drying your mouth before that will reducetthe amount of droplets, but your saliva glands will produce more instantly because the dry mouth triggers the gland's activity.

Taking REALLY good care of you oral hygiene is paramount for the child's safety and health. That applies to kissing too. Also its a very nice habit for the child to acquire by example. Let the baby see that you are brushing your teeth (and enjoying doing that). - And keep the dental hygiene stuff away from his reach.

Do not do this if parent is currently under a respiratory or airborne/saliva carried disease. Absolutely no infecting babies for the sake of making them stop crying.

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    If you're that concerned of hygiene, do you ever kiss your child? What about making a baby laugh while changing diapers? Let me remind you how babies are made. Where's the hygiene in that? And how about the way they come into this world? Gross, huh? Really. Relax. It might be bad for health to raise your kids in the same hut you keep your chickens, but if a healthy child couldn't deal with its parents' germs, we'd be long gone. – sbi Sep 23 '14 at 12:43
  • @sbi Yes, I kiss my child, very often since day one. But I also brush my teeth 30 minutes after each meal and before going to bed, floss twice and use mouthwash at night. And if you think that making babies is not hygienic, I am sorry for your partner. It is water and (adequate PH'ed) soap at the right times and the self-regulating microflora *wonder*( of the woman's genitals that make it VERY hygienic. And to finish, a healthy kid can deal with their HEALTHY parent's germs. But I can assure you that a DISEASED parent's (even during the indetectable incubation period) do make the baby sick. – Mindwin Sep 23 '14 at 12:50
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    When I referred to making babies and the way they come into the world I was referring to the birth canal, which will have more germs than your mouth, no matter how vigorously you clean it. I am all for reasonable hygiene, but I refuse to see a hygienic problem in blowing at your baby's face. (I see other problems with it, but I freely admit that I have done it, too, a few times, when I ran out of other ideas.) – sbi Sep 23 '14 at 14:25
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    Of Course it's no problem. That was my whole point. Regarding those terms: Sorry, I'm a non-native and my knowledge about the proper medical terms in English is a bit vague. – sbi Sep 23 '14 at 17:13
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    Washing your mouth won't cure mononucleosis or stop spreading influenza. The illness that caused your saliva to be infectious is still going to be their. Oral hygiene is good for your own health, but has no measurable impact on transmission. This answer is needlessly fearmongering. If you're infectious, some toothpaste and mouth rinse isn't going to change that. Signs read "Employees must wash hands" not "Employees must brush teeth". The real message here is: Avoid blowing on your baby when you'd also avoid coughing/sneezing on others due to illness. – user11394 Dec 14 '14 at 19:42

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