Oh my goodness! Did my little bundle of joy just snore? At first, you would be thinking, “oh, how adorable!” While the occasional noisy breathing and one-off little snort are cute, you might begin to wonder if your newborn is okay if this continues.
The good news is that noisy breathing or even snore-like sounds while sleeping is fairly common in newborns. There is no cause for alarm because occasional loud breathing doesn’t mean that your newborn has some underlying health problems.
First of all, we need to bear in mind that newborns are born pretty small at birth and have even smaller nasal passages. So whenever a newborn’s nose is irritated, or there’s more mucus production than usual, it could result in them breathing louder than usual when they sleep. Thankfully this phase is only temporary, and their noisy breathing will become quieter or diminish as they begin to grow.
Still, it is good to be aware of the possible causes for newborn snoring so that we know when to breathe easy and when to make that next appointment with the paediatrician.
Possible causes of Newborn Snoring
If your newborn feels a little congested from a mild cold, then the remedy for this is simple. Any mucus obstructing your baby’s breathing can be cleared away with the use of saline drops because they do not contain any medication. They are far gentler than nasal sprays and do the same job of thinning out the mucus.
The mucus, which now has a thinner consistency, can easily slide down the throat, or parents can opt to suction it out with a bulb syringe. Do not fret about needing to do this forever, as the size of your baby’s nostrils will also increase as they grow. However, if your little one continues to snore despite using saline drops, try recording the sounds of your baby snoring and show it to the paediatrician on the next visit. This will help the paediatrician rule out health issues like enlarged tonsils, sleep apnea or a deviated septum.
While a deviated septum is common in newborns, they usually present no symptoms and resolve with time. It is also good news that infants rarely suffer from sleep apnea which is more common in toddlers and preschoolers aged 3 to 6.
As long as your baby does not have any mouth, throat and lung issues is feeding well, sleeping well and gaining weight, they should be alright.
Only babies born with severe laryngomalacia (a condition that causes tissues of the voice box to fall over and partially block airways) may require breathing tubes or reconstructive surgery. Naturally, early detection is best, although laryngomalacia is not life-threatening and tends to resolve itself when the child is 18 to 20 months of age without medical intervention.
Why is it important to rectify newborn snores and noisy breathing?
Getting quality sleep is essential for the body to grow, develop, and restore itself. This is especially true for newborn babies in their first year of life when their brains develop at high speeds along with physical growth. Even studies have shown that quality sleep plays a positive role in infants’ cognitive development and physical growth. Obstructive breathing will impede much-needed sleep, which could cause additional problems like:
- Slower weight gain
- High risk of SIDS
- Feeding problems
- Slower brain development
- Irritable behaviour and restlessness
It is common to see short pauses in breathing followed by rapid breathing during sleep in infants. However, you should schedule an appointment with a paediatrician if your infant or child is showing these prolonged symptoms:
- Difficulty in sleeping at night and frequent awakenings
- Mouth breathing
- Sleeping with neck significantly extended
- Laboured / noisy breathing during the day
- Being more winded than usual
- Difficulty in eating and gaining weight
- Snores with long pauses of more than 10 seconds between breaths (for younger children instead of newborns)
Tests and screenings
Usually, most newborn snoring and noisy breathing are due to mucus obstruction and nasal passage dryness. So it is rare to be calling sleep tests and other screenings because they are more for older children. Still, it is good to know what sleep tests and medical screenings are available so that you know what to expect.
Upon detecting that your child has sleep problems, a Sleep Study or Polysomnogram(PSG) would be called to determine if it is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and other snoring disorders. You and your child will have to spend the night at the hospital until the following morning. This is so that they can monitor your child’s sleep pattern, including activities of the brain and heart, breathing, blood oxygen, snoring, chin and leg muscles, eye movement, etc., via sensors attached to the body. The sensors are not painful or difficult to wear, and they transmit measurements that will be recorded on a computer where the data can be later analysed. While you may accompany your child when they are awake, you might be required to leave the room once they are asleep to minimise any disturbance during sleep.
Other medical screenings for snoring babies and children may also include
- endoscopic exams to check the airways,
- pulmonary function tests (PFTs) to evaluate the lungs,
- CT scans to check if sleep disorders are associated with specific changes in brain structure and
- MRI tests to detect structural abnormalities. Respiratory/Chest, Neurology, and Ear, Nose & Throat (ENT) doctors may also request voice and swallowing screenings for your child just to be sure.
Snoring in babies is rarely the result of a severe medical condition, and more often than not, they are just congested.
However, if you would rather get it checked out for your peace of mind, you can make an appointment with their paediatrician. Their doctor will be able to do a quick examination of your baby and determine if more tests and screenings are needed to find the cause of the snoring.