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An infant sleeps with mouth open when they have difficulty breathing. A newborn baby is, however, not adept at breathing from the mouth. It takes some time for babies to develop their survival reflex. Breathing through the mouth often indicates blockage or obstruction in the nasal passages or airways. It is not advisable to leave it unattended, and parents must seek a medical opinion sooner or later.
Is It Normal for a Baby to Sleep With the Mouth Open?
Newborn babies mostly breathe via their nose unless there is an obstruction in their nasal passage. Young babies do not develop the impulse to breathe via their mouth until they are 3–4 months old. Research says that breathing through the mouth, mainly during sleep, develops due to blockage in the higher airways, stuffy nose, or a swollen throat. While breathing from the mouth is harmless, it is not as helpful as breathing through the nose. More oxygen is absorbed when breathing from the nose, and it also filters out bacteria and irritations from entering the body.
Healthy newborn babies breathe through their noses as a natural reflex. However, breathing with an open mouth is not a healthy way to breathe in the long run. If a newborn sleeps with the mouth open, there is a fair chance that the nose is congested owing to a cold or runny nose. If it is for a short period, then there is not much reason for concern. However, research and experts have proved that it could result in a disorder. Babies sleeping with their mouths open could develop sleep disorders, behavioral problems, and other issues with their mouths. Babies could struggle to eat and move their tongues. It is vital to find out why your baby sleeps with the mouth open if the problem persists.
What Causes My Newborn Sleep With Her Mouth Open?
As mentioned earlier, a few reasons why babies breathe with their mouth are blockage of nasal passages and airways due to a common cold or illness. Let us explore the potential causes for newborns to sleep with their mouth open or breathe through their mouth:
Mucus accumulated in your baby’s nose blocks the nostrils making it difficult to breathe. Once they find it hard to breathe through their nose, they begin breathing from the mouth. Mucous could accumulate owing to a cold or allergic reaction to something present in the environment. Babies cannot get rid of mucus by themselves and compensate by mouth breathing.
2. Sleep Apnea
It is a disorder where the airways (upper) are blocked due to different reasons like swollen adenoids, infection of enlarged tonsils. Such a condition in babies could exhibit symptoms like snoring, irregular breathing, mouth breathing, sleep terrors, exhaustion even after a long sleep, and restless sleep.
3. Deviated Septum
The nasal septum is a thin wall of tissue that separates the nasal passages. When this septum is deformed or displaced on one side, it makes breathing through the nose difficult. Deviation of the nasal septum can occur at the stage when the fetus is formed. This generally causes an abnormality of the cartilage and bone, which forms the nasal septum. This could lead to babies breathing through their noses.
Babies can develop allergies easily due to excess mucus production that could block nasal passages. An aspirator for the nasal passages could help to decongest the nose and breathe comfortably.
Babies with respiratory issues could automatically develop a tendency to breathe with their mouths open.
6. Tongue Tied
Newborns with restricted tongue movement cannot touch the tongue on the roof of the mouth. This makes it difficult to suck. The tongue stays stuck to the roof of the mouth when breathing through the nose, failing which the mouth opens. This abnormality results in breathing through the mouth during sleep and could also make breastfeeding difficult. Sometimes, the tongue slips back into the airway passage, causing some obstruction.
Effects of Infant Sleeping With an Open Mouth
Below are some indicators and symptoms that you will notice when your child sleeps with the mouth open:
1. Dehydrated Lips and Mouth
Saliva evaporates rapidly when one breathes through the mouth and causes the lips and mouth to go dry.
2. Aggravates Asthma
The tiny hair inside the nose filters and sifts the dust, irritants, and pollutants to help breathe. The mouth is not equipped to perform these actions. Breathing through the mouth will cause the allergens to go into the lungs and aggravate the risk of an asthma attack in babies who suffer from this condition.
3. Tongue Thrusting
Babies who constantly breathe through their mouth tend to prod the tongue to the front teeth. This is called tongue thrusting. Repeatedly breathing through the mouth could weaken the tongue and mouth muscles, causing problems like inability to chew food, speech disorders, irregular mouth posture, and crooked teeth.
4. Changes in Facial Features
Breathing through the mouth interferes with the development of the facial muscles, jaw muscles, and mouth. This could lead to structural changes in the face.
5. Irregular Sleep Patterns and Behavior Disorders
Babies breathing through their mouth have irregular sleep patterns resulting in hyperactivity and attention deficit leading to behavioral needs.
6. Change in Body Posture
To breathe effectively through the nose, babies may need to put additional pressure on the neck, shoulders, head, and pelvis to breathe better. This could result in poor posture over time.
Tips to Getting Rid of the Habit of Mouth Breathing in Babies
If you find your baby struggles to breathe with the nose or displays symptoms of breathing from the mouth, then seek a consultation with the pediatrician. The doctor could rule out any medical condition or infections and suggest further tests. A few things you could try yourself are:
A humidifier could surge the moisture content in the air and help to prevent blockage in the nasal passages. Alternatively, a hot bath could help. Sit yourself down with your baby in the bath. The steam will clear their stuffy noses.
2. Saline Water
Saline solution or saltwater available could help to drain out the thick mucus in the nose. This will help you to draw it out of the nose. A neti pot or saline rinse will help as your baby grows. Boil water from the tap and cool it or use purified water for safety.
3. Drink Lots of Fluids
4. Bulb Syringe
A tiny amount of mucus could make it difficult for the baby to breathe. A bulb syringe could suck it out, and even the fancy snot suckers, like NoseFrida, will help. Try to be gentle not to hurt the nose. Clean the syringe after every use.
5. Clean Surroundings
If you live in an area with a lot of dust and pollution or own a pet, make sure to vacuum regularly to get rid of dust and invisible hair, which cause allergies.
When to See a Doctor
Most times, babies breathe with their mouth if their nose is blocked. The above remedies could help in easing breathing problems. If there are apparent issues, like a baby struggling to breathe or a change in the pattern of breastfeeding, you might want to consult a pediatrician. If your 6 month old sleeps with the mouth open and you suspect that your baby suffers from conditions like sleep apnea, deviated septum, or any other, the doctor will conduct further tests to assess the same. Babies grow, and their habits in their infancy change gradually as they move towards becoming toddlers. The preventive measures you take at home could help. Make sure to supervise your baby constantly, and regular medical check-ups to assess the progress of your baby’s health will help.
One of the most calming sights for parents- a sleeping baby. The best time to examine their tiny fingers and toes and soak in their innocent face. Who does not adore those snores, stretches, and grunts in their sleep? Mouth breathing could seem fun to look at but could also spell an underlying medical condition. So make sure to visit a pediatrician if you suspect anything.