I love watching my babies sleep. They seem so peaceful at night – until they don’t. Have you been surprised by some of the strange things your baby does while sleeping? If so, you are not alone. Newborn sleeping habits vary. Most are not cause for alarm, but they can still be worrisome for new parents.
For example, does your newborn sleep with his mouth open or his eyes open? Do you worry about the way his breathing changes during the night or the noises he is making while he sleeps? These are common concerns for many parents. Fortunately, I’ve done the research, so by the time you finish this article, you will feel more at peace about bedtime.
Is It Normal for My Newborn to Sleep with His Mouth Open?
The short answer – no. It is not normal for a newborn to sleep with his mouth open. If your newborn is sleeping with his mouth open, there is a good chance that his nose is clogged with mucus. Think about it. When you have a cold, it is more difficult to breathe through your nose. Thus, you breathe through your mouth.
This is where those handy nasal syringes come into play. Your newborn is too little to blow his or her own nose, so you need to help remove whatever mucus is blocking the nasal passages. You do this with a nasal syringe. Additionally, you can use saline drops to help loosen the mucus.
In addition, some newborns sleep with their mouths open because of allergies and congestion or have a tongue tie. But, if you notice your newborn regularly breathes through his mouth, then you need to alert your pediatrician. Prolonged mouth breathing can cause serious issues like excessive dry mouth and cavities and more.
According to Meredith Dault, “In children, mouth breathing can also lead to permanent skeletal deformities. That’s because it promotes the growth of the upper jaw, rather than the lower jaw.” Therefore, if your newborn is not simply sick with a cold or congested and is continually breathing through his mouth, you need to talk to your doctor.
When Do Babies Start Breathing Through Their Mouth?
Along these same lines, your newborn is not even able to breathe correctly through his mouth until he is a few months old. Newborns breathe through their noses unless their nasal passages are closed.
Dr. Nina Shapiro explains, “Until approximately age three or four months, babies have not yet developed the complex reflex to open their mouth if their nose is stuffy. Which is why a young baby with a stuffy nose is truly miserable. Because newborns have such tiny, delicate nasal passages (only about 2 to 3 millimeters, or one tenth of one inch, on each side), it takes very little change in that small space to cause big symptoms.”
Babies Breathing Fast While Sleeping – Should You Be Frightened?
Another sleep concern for parents of newborns is rapid breathing. If you have ever listened or watched your baby sleep, you might have noticed your newborn’s breathing patterns change. He might start breathing fast while sleeping and then appear to stop breathing. It can be a terribly frightening for new parents.
As the experts at What to Expect write, “A newborn's normal rate of breathing is about 40 breaths a minute while he's awake, though that may slow by half once he's asleep. Or, he might speed up the pace, taking shallow, rapid breaths for 15 to 20 seconds followed by — yikes! — a total pause in which he stops breathing entirely.”
This is because your baby’s brain has not yet learned how to control breathing. However, if your baby seems to be taking more than 60 breaths a minute, he may be diagnosed with something known as tachypnea. This condition is generally harmless in infants.
Newborn Breathing Patterns Explained
To help you understand why rapid breathing is not usually a cause for concern, you need to understand newborn breathing patterns. First, babies breathe significantly faster than older children and adults. As they grow, their breathing will slow down.
Next, newborns have irregular breathing patterns. The experts at Baby Center explain, “Your newborn breathes in cycles, with breaths getting progressively faster and deeper, then slower and shallower. This is called periodic breathing. He may pause his breathing for up to five seconds or even longer, then start up again with deepening breaths.”
Is Your Baby Whimpering in His Sleep?
But, weird breathing may not be the only thing that has you worried about your baby while he sleeps. For instance, some parents are startled to hear their baby whimpering while sleeping. You may feel the urge to immediately calm your baby when you hear these little cries, but in many cases, these small cries are occurring during sleep. Your baby may not even be awake.
For example, doctors believe infants will whimper or cry at the end of each REM sleep cycle. Since babies sleep a lot and go through several sleep cycles, it is likely your baby is just transitioning from one sleep cycle to the next. If you rush in to console your little one, you may accidentally wake your little one.
Does Your Baby Sleep with Eyes Open?
Another baby sleep concern occurs when babies sleep with their eyes open. If your little one sleeps with his eyes open, it can be quite a shock. However, it is actually more common than you think. There is even a medical term for it - nocturnal lagophthalmos.
Open-eyed sleep tends to happen more often with infants because they experience REM sleep often. If your baby is an open-eyed sleeper, it does not mean your baby will have sleep problems. The biggest concern is that the prolonged open-eyes may cause dry eye or irritation. If you are concerned, simply try to gently close the eyelids.
Worried About Newborns Grunting While Sleeping?
And, now we come to the far more common newborn sleep concerns – noises. As I mentioned earlier, parents often fantasize about watching their newborns sleep peacefully only to discover their babies are not very peaceful. In fact, some babies make quite a bit of noise when they sleep.
You may hear a rattle, a gurgle, and even a whistle as your baby breathes while sleeping. These are common and are not cause for alarm. Some even gasp for air. If your baby seems to be making grunting sounds, however, you may need to pay closer attention. If your baby seems to grunt after each breathe, he may be struggling to breathe.
When to Be Alarmed
Considering all the weird things baby do in their sleep, when should you be alarmed? Primarily, trust your instincts. If your mama gut is telling you something is wrong, contact the doctor. Additionally, be on the lookout for these other causes for concern:
- Your baby’s breathing does increase to more than 60 breaths a minute
- Grunting at the end of each breath
- Your baby’s nostrils appear to flare when breathing
- Your baby’s chest and neck seems to be sucking in when breathing
- A rasp or a barking cough
- Breathing pauses for more than 10 seconds
- Blue tint in areas with a lot of blood flow like the lips
- Decrease in feeding
It is natural for parents to worry. When you have a newborn, it is easy to become alarmed by their unusual breathing and sleep patterns. If you feel like there is a problem with your baby’s breathing and sleep patterns but do not feel like it is urgent, consider taking a video to show to your pediatrician.
The Best Way to Help Your Newborn Sleep More Peacefully
While it is normal to wonder about all the weird things your newborn does while he or she sleeps, especially when you are concerned about SIDS, there are a few things to do that will help you and your newborn sleep more peacefully.
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggest keeping your baby in a safe crib or bassinet in your bedroom until your little one is at least six months of age. Additionally, you should keep this crib free of anything that may cause suffocation.
Newborns should also be safely swaddled. Pacifiers also work wonders as far as sleep goes and have been linked to a lower risk of SIDS. You should also invest in the right nighttime diapers to avoid having your baby wake up from being wet.
To Wrap Up
Babies can sleep peacefully, but it sometimes takes some work. Until babies are a few months old, they sleep a lot, but they also wake up a lot. And, while they are asleep, they do weird things like breath funny and make strange noises. You will quickly learn your baby’s patterns. If the way your baby sleeps changes, there are many possibilities.
If you are concerned, watch your little one and look for clear signs of respiratory distress. If it appears your baby is struggling to breathe, contact your healthcare provider immediately.