For better or worse, TikTok is chock-full of parenting content. And while some viral videos are helpful and reassuring, some are straight-up nightmare fuel, like mom-of-three Sarah Bendel’s recent viral clip making the rounds. Bendel shared baby monitor footage of her six-week-old daughter experiencing a brief resolved unexplained event, aka a BRUE. Bendel’s infant can be seen suddenly losing color in her crib, as Bendel immediately runs for emergency help.
Other moms have shared similar stories of their babies experiencing a BRUE, with one mom calling it “the living side of SIDS” (sudden infant death syndrome). If you’ve never heard of it, you’re not alone, and it’s understandable why so many moms are hoping to spread awareness about this scary situation.
What is a BRUE, and how common is it?
A BRUE — often pronounced broo-ee — occurs when a baby seemingly becomes unresponsive, stops breathing, and turns color instantly, as Sara Siddiqui, M.D., a pediatrician and clinical assistant professor at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone and Huntington Medical Group in New York, tells Scary Mommy. During a BRUE, parents might notice “a change or decrease in breathing, muscle tightening or weakened muscles, and bluish discoloration of lips or mouth,” says Siddiqui, noting that this all typically happens for less than a minute.
Of course, any sudden change in your child is understandably terrifying, but the good news is that most children are completely fine after experiencing one, says Siddiqui. “After the episode, the infant usually has a normal examination.”
Per Siddiqui, BRUE is not common, and it’s a one-time event that typically occurs in babies under the age of 1. It’s also super mysterious, as there’s no distinct cause. Upon receiving medical care, doctors will rule out any other potential concerns or causes of a brief episode of unresponsiveness, such as gastroesophageal reflux or seizure disorder. “The diagnosis of a BRUE is one of exclusion,” she says. “A history of other medical problems, age under 60 days, prematurity, neonatal intensive care during infancy, heart disease, or reflux would rule out BRUE.”
Essentially, there are lots of potential health concerns that are not related to a BRUE, which is why she advises parents to seek medical attention for any loss of responsiveness or breathing in your baby. “More concerning would be if the infant is less than 60 days, the episode lasts more than a minute, the baby was premature or spent time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) after birth, or has any other medical problems,” she adds.
Physicians will also check for signs of non-accidental trauma or child abuse, with Siddiqui emphasizing the importance of safe sleep practices as well. “Sleeping on the back, alone, without any obstructions like blankets or toys in the crib/bassinet is essential,” she notes. If a BRUE-like event happens more than once, “an underlying diagnosis must be investigated,” as it would not be considered a true BRUE.
Deep Breaths Post-BRUE
All of this sounds downright frightening, but we promise there is a silver lining. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) notes that babies will recover and be back to normal after a BRUE, though Siddiqui always recommends checking in with your pediatrician if you’re ever concerned about your baby’s health and well-being. That said, hearing happy stories from other moms always helps.
Bendel, whose TikTok about her daughter Jojo’s BRUE went viral in late February, tells Scary Mommy Jojo had also been behaving normally and sleeping peacefully prior to her incident. Then, she and her older daughter noticed Jojo spitting up. “She had turned a deep red color, and she looked stiff. I picked her up and she was indeed stiff — more importantly, she wasn’t making any noise. No cries. No grunts. No coughing. She wasn’t breathing.” Within a minute, Jojo began breathing on her own, and her doctors attributed the BRUE to silent reflux. She has not had any BRUE-related instances since.
They aren’t the only family to have (happily) come out on the other side of a BRUE.
Washington D.C.-based mom Kalyn Morse told Scary Mommy about her son’s BRUE, which happened when he was nine months old, a “happy and healthy baby.” He’s now “a thriving 9-year-old boy who had a wonderful toddlerhood with no recurring incidents or any developmental delays from that particular health episode,” she shares.
Morse, a lifestyle newborn maternity/newborn photographer, says “there were no signs or symptoms leading up to the BRUE and it seemed to come on suddenly and seemingly at random.”
One evening after her son had been put to sleep in his crib, she and her husband heard an “odd high pitch whistling/whining type of sound” from elsewhere in the house. “We immediately ran into the nursery and found our son lying on his back, a hue of blue to his face, and his eyes were rolling in the back of his head. I quickly picked him up and noticed he had no head or neck control and his muscle tone was weak with floppy limbs. We knew he was breathing because he was still responsive enough to be making whining noises but would not focus his eyes or ‘come out of it,’” she says.
The couple took their son to the emergency room, where it took “at least 20 minutes” for their baby to regain focus and muscle tone. They were transferred to a children’s hospital for testing and monitoring, and no new events occurred, so they received his BRUE diagnosis. Thankfully, he quickly returned to normal, with Morse adding, “no therapy or additional doctor appointments to continually monitor him were ever needed.”
When her son Kingston was just four days old, Kentucky-based artist Shakia Harris says she believed he was experiencing a seizure due to a family history of epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease. “We were left with even more questions by the time we were discharged and given the BRUE diagnosis,” she says. “His care team said that sometimes infants encounter brief resolved unexplained events and they make a full recovery even though they never have answers to what caused it.”
“Kingston is now a thriving 3.5-year-old,” says Harris. “He’s rambunctious, talkative, and full of life.”
With that, Harris added what she hopes other parents take away from her story (a sentiment surely shared by the other moms): “There is a light at the end of the dark and anxiety-riddled tunnel. I would caution parents to not seek reassurance in a ‘quiet baby’ — monitor them always, take an infant CPR class, and purchase some form of baby monitor that also checks their oxygen levels.”