Newborn Sleeps with Mouth Open: Causes and Concerns

A sleeping baby is very calming, especially for new parents. It’s a time when you can enjoy watching them through their peaceful rest. Sometimes, babies sleep with their mouth open. This could mean there’s a health issue. Normally, newborn babies breathe through their nose only. But if they breathe through their mouth while they sleep, it might be because their nose or throat is blocked. We will look at reasons why newborn babies might breathe through their mouth. We’ll also see what you can do at home and when to ask a doctor. Proper breathing for babies is key for their health.

Key Takeaways

  • Newborn babies are expected to breathe through their nose almost exclusively until around 3-4 months of age.
  • Mouth breathing during sleep may develop due to a blockage in the upper airway, such as the nose or throat.
  • Enlarged tonsils or adenoids can cause sleep apnea, leading to symptoms like snoring and pauses in breathing.
  • Mouth breathing in babies may also occur due to a deviated septum, causing trouble breathing through the nose.
  • Untreated mouth breathing can lead to complications like dental issues, facial deformities, and sleep disturbances.

Is Mouth Breathing Normal for Newborns?

Newborns mostly breathe through their noses. This is true except when their nose gets blocked. Babies, up to 3 or 4 months, don’t know how to breathe through their mouth. They only do it when they cry.

If something is blocking their nose or throat, they might start breathing through their mouth. This blockage could come from a cold, allergies, or more serious issues. With time, they might get used to mouth breathing. It could then become a hard habit to stop.

Nasal Breathing: The Primary Way for Newborns

Newborn sleeping habits mainly include breathing through their nose. This is the best way for them to get oxygen. Their tiny bodies are made to breathe this way. It helps them get as much oxygen as they need.

Mouth Breathing as a Reflex Develops Later

At around 3 to 4 months, babies learn to breathe through their mouth. They do this only if their nose is blocked. It can be because of a cold or allergies. It’s their body’s way of making sure they can still get enough air.

Potential Causes of Newborn Mouth Breathing

Newborns might breathe through their mouth because of many reasons. It’s good for parents to know these causes. This helps in taking action early to avoid issues later on.

Nasal Congestion and Mucus

If your baby is breathing through their mouth, they might have a stuffy nose. This happens a lot, especially if they are sick. A lot of mucus or a cold can block their nose. So, they start breathing through their mouth to get air.

Structural Issues: Deviated Septum

A baby with a crooked or misaligned nose cartilage may find it hard to breathe through the nose. This is called a deviated septum. It can be there since birth or happen later. A deviated septum can make it hard for the baby to breathe normally.

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Sleep Apnea and Airway Obstruction

There’s a condition called sleep apnea. Babies with this stop and start their breathing during sleep. It can be because their tonsils or adenoids are too big. This blocks their airway a bit. So, they breathe through their mouth.

newborn sleeps with mouth open

Some babies start breathing through their noses, especially after being sick. For these little ones, newborn sleeping with mouth open can stick around. This might happen even when the reason, like a stuffy nose, goes away. Their body gets used to mouth breathing habits in newborns.

It seems easier for them to breathe this way. But it’s not the best for getting enough oxygen or keeping out germs.

Home Remedies for Nasal Congestion

If your baby finds it hard to breathe or has a stuffed nose, try these home fixes:

Humidifiers and Steam Inhalation

A cool mist humidifier can make it easier for your baby to breathe by thinning mucus. You can also gently steam their face with a hot shower to help open their nose.

Saline Nasal Sprays and Rinses

Using saline nasal sprays or an aspirator can clear up a baby’s nose. This technique helps by thinning the mucus and easing breathing.

Nasal Aspirators and Bulb Syringes

Suctioning the mucus out gently using a nasal aspirator or bulb syringe can quickly help your baby breathe better. Remember to be soft and not too strong.

Maintaining Hydration

Keeping your baby drink enough is crucial. More liquids can make the mucus thinner, making it easier for your baby to breathe. Give more breastmilk or formula to stay hydrated.

When to See a Doctor

If your baby breathes through their mouth a lot at night, tell your doctor. This could be because their tonsils or adenoids are big, blocking their airways. It’s not something you can fix at home. It might be because of an infection or just how they are genetically.

Signs of Sleep Apnea or Enlarged Tonsils/Adenoids

Watch for certain signs besides mouth breathing, like snoring, choking, and pauses in breathing. If you see these signs, there could be something blocking your baby’s airway. This needs a doctor’s help.

Your doctor might think it’s sleep apnea or big tonsils/adenoids causing the mouth breathing. They could ask for more tests or start some treatment. It’s important to do something early. This helps your baby grow well and avoid problems later.

Medical Treatments for Mouth Breathing

Is your baby still breathing through their mouth even after trying home remedies for a stuffy nose? Your doctor might suggest some medical fixes. For example, if it’s allergies or maybe mild sleep apnea, medicines like Flonase or Rhinocort might do the trick. These meds and nasal sprays reduce swelling. They also clear out the nose.

Allergy Medications and Nasal Sprays

For allergies or sinus problems that cause mouth breathing, doctors might give out special medicines or sprays. These can tackle the real issue. And they help your baby breathe through the nose like they should.

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Surgical Options for Obstructions

When mouth breathing is serious and caused by something blocking the airway, surgery could be needed. Common surgeries involve taking out big tonsils or adenoids. Or they might fix a bent septum. These surgeries unblock the airway. So, your baby can breathe normally.

Positive Airway Pressure Therapy for Sleep Apnea

If sleep apnea is the issue, the doctor could recommend PAP therapy. A special machine keeps the airways clear at night. This is important as it can prevent breathing stops when your baby sleeps. PAP therapy works well for sleep breathing problems that lead to mouth breathing.

Dealing with the reasons behind your baby’s mouth breathing can bring back normal breathing. It’s good for their health and growth.

Potential Complications of Untreated Mouth Breathing

If your baby sleeps with their mouth open, it could lead to health issues. They might get swollen tonsils, a dry cough, an inflamed tongue, and dental problems such as cavities. Other issues are bad breath and gingivitis.

Oral Health Issues: Dry Mouth, Cavities, Gingivitis

Children who breathe through their mouths at night can face dental health troubles. They’re more likely to get dry mouth and tooth decay. Plus, having a dry mouth often can cause enamel erosion and gum disease.

Long Face Syndrome and Facial Deformities

Mouth breathing in babies might cause long face syndrome. This makes their face look different and their jaw not grow well. It can change how the child’s face looks and fits together.

Sleep Disturbances and Oxygen Deprivation

Mouth breathing at night could mean the child has sleep apnea. This leads to snoring, sleep issues, being tired, and headaches. It can also lower the amount of oxygen the child’s body gets, which is bad for their health and growth.

Promoting Nasal Breathing Habits

If your baby stops breastfeeding early, they may start mouth breathing. Even just one breastfeeding a day helps. It strengthens mouth and tongue muscles. This, in turn, helps the jaw grow correctly, widening the airway.

Breastfeeding and Orofacial Development

Breastfeeding is key for a baby’s mouth and face to grow right. When a baby breastfeeds, it works the mouth and tongue. This makes the jaw, palate, and teeth stronger. It helps the baby breathe through their nose, not their mouth.

Avoiding Prolonged Pacifier Use and Thumb-Sucking

Using a pacifier or thumb too much can be bad for the mouth and breathing. It might cause a narrow palate and crooked teeth. It also leads to mouth breathing. So, limit how much your baby uses a pacifier and try to stop thumbsucking. This way, they’ll breathe through their nose more easily.

The Importance of Proper Breathing

Breathing is key for your baby’s health and growth. It’s more vital than you might think. How your baby breathes affects their health a lot. Nose breathing, for instance, is very important for newborns.

Nasal Breathing for Filtration and Oxygen Absorption

A baby breathes in air through its nose. This air gets cleaned of bad stuff. Then, clean air goes to the lungs.

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Nose breathing also lets air into the lungs gently. This helps the body get more oxygen out of the air. It also lets out nitric acid. This stuff is needed for blood to flow well.

Impact on Overall Health and Development

Nose breathing is not just about how you breathe. It’s about staying healthy and growing right. Breathing through the mouth can cause problems.

This includes issues with teeth, how the face looks, and not sleeping well. Not sleeping well can affect how the brain develops. So, teaching babies to breathe through their nose is very important.


Now, you understand that how your baby sleeps and breathes tells a lot. Mouth breathing could be okay sometimes. But, if it happens a lot, it might mean something more serious.

There are many reasons why a baby might breathe through their mouth. It could be due to a stuffy nose or other issues. If you notice this often, talking to your baby’s doctor is a good idea.

Your doctor can give you tips to help, like using a humidifier. But in some cases, your baby might need special care or even surgery. The goal is to keep their airway open and healthy.

It’s really important to help your baby breathe well early on. This supports their body, mind, and emotions. Healthy breathing means better sleep and a healthier life later on. So, always keep an eye out and talk to your health team as needed.


Is mouth breathing normal for newborns?

No. Newborn babies usually breathe through their nose. They might mouth breathe if something blocks their airway.

What can cause newborn mouth breathing?

Newborns might breathe through their mouths due to nasal problems or something blocking their airways.

Why does my baby keep sleeping with their mouth open?

Sometimes, babies start breathing through their mouth at night. This can happen even if their nose isn’t stuffy anymore.

How can I help clear my newborn’s nasal congestion?

You can help by using a humidifier, saline sprays, or a nasal aspirator. Also, make sure your baby drinks enough water.

When should I see a doctor about my baby’s mouth breathing?

If mouth breathing continues after a cold or if your baby snores, see a doctor. They might check for sleep problems or swollen tonsils.

What medical treatments are available for newborn mouth breathing?

Doctors can give allergy medicines or use nasal sprays. They might also do surgery or recommend airway therapy for sleep problems.

What are the potential complications of untreated mouth breathing in newborns?

Mouth breathing might lead to teeth problems or problems with how the face grows. It could also trouble sleeping.

How can I promote nasal breathing habits in my newborn?

Breastfeeding and limiting pacifier use can support healthy breathing habits in babies.

Why is proper nasal breathing important for newborns?

Breathing through the nose helps babies get clean air and oxygen. This is key for their growth and well-being.