Literally, this means cessation of breathing. It is common for premature newborn infants to stop breathing for a few seconds. They almost always restart on their own, but occasionally they need stimulation or other drug therapy to maintain regular breathing. The heart rate often slows with apnea. This slowing is called bradycardia. The combination of apnea and bradycardia is often called an A & B spell and refers to the slowing of the heart rate in response to apnea.
Apnea gradually becomes less frequent as premature infants mature and grow. Unfortunately, it may not disappear before the baby is otherwise ready to go home. In this case, the infant is sent home with an apnea monitor and the parents are instructed in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). No relationship between apnea and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) has ever been proven.