Little Known Reasons Why Newborn Sleeps With Mouth Open

Let me guess:

You’ve checked different sites about reasons your newborn sleeps with mouth open, and you saw the same reason: mouth breathing.

And when these sites say mouth breathing, the usual reason that follows is clogged nose.

However, you are certain that your baby’s nose is not clogged at all. You’ve checked it and cleaned it. You also made sure the temperature and humidity are optimal. Hence, you are confident it is not clogged nose, so she’s not mouth breathing.

But why does she still sleep with mouth open?

Three Reasons Newborn Sleeps with Mouth Open


1. Airway problem

Not all airways problems are about colds and stuffy noses. Hence, if your little one has no colds whatsoever, there could be a deeper issue.

Registered dental hygienist Sarah Hornsby says it could be asthma, enlarged tonsils, deviated septum, and other concerns affecting the airways.

How do you know the airways are affected?

The normal breath rate for babies is 60 breaths per minute. Beyond that, along with the problem signs listed below, your baby could be having any of the listed issue above. According to WebMD, these are the signs:

  • Grunting
  • Flaring
  • Retractions
  • Cyanosis
  • Poor feeding
  • Lethargy
  • Fever

Talk to your doctor about it. If she’s having cyanosis, take her to the nearest hospital.

2. Finger sucking habit

The babies I know--including mine--suck their finger a lot. That’s not something to be worried about, but Hornsby says overtime, “the oral and facial muscles will develop around this habit.”

Thus, even though your baby no longer does it, your newborn may still sleep with mouth open.

3. Tongue-tie

This medical condition is about not just the speech difficulty but also the restricted lingual frenulum. Others call it the tethered tongue.

This condition generally restricts the tongue’s movement because the lingual frenulum (a tight band of tissue) attaches the tongue to the floor of the mouth.

About 3% of children are affected by this say researchers William V. Stenberg Jr. And Alexander Alcaraz. Generally, this is nothing to worry about, but if it affects feeding, talk to your doctor about it.

Are There Risks if a Newborn Sleeps with Mouth Open?

happy baby

Yes. There are risks if you let your newborn sleep with mouth open. More often than not, you baby will be mouth breathing when her mouth is open, and that’s not a good practice.

Dr. Artour Rakhimov, an alternative health educator enumerates the following reasons mouth breathing should not be encouraged:

  • Abnormalities in blood gases
  • Cell hypoxia
  • Reduced perfusion of vital organs
  • Suppressed immune system
  • Permanent structural changes in the shape of the phase

It’s not only Dr. Rakhimov that discourages mouth breathing. Several studies concluded that mouth breathing is indeed not beneficial.

Aside from the fact that it promotes drooling and snoring, it may also lead to nasal obstruction, nocturnal sleep problems, and irritability during the day concludes one study.

What Should You Do?

Each case of newborn sleeping with mouth open needs a different approach, but here are some experts’ suggestions:

  • If you suspect an airway obstruction, talk to your doctor about it. 

  • If your baby is having a hard time breathing, checked via the breathing rate and/or turning blue, call 911.

  • If she has a tied tongue, and she’s not feeding properly, ask your doctor for the best solution.

  • If the above points do not apply, start with monitoring your child for open mouth resting posture. Check if it happens only at night or during the day as well. If it’s only at night, it could be an indication of some illness such as allergies or asthma.

  • Close your baby’s mouth whenever you can. Co-sleeping will be very helpful in this case.

  • If she keeps on opening it, ask a myofunctional therapist what can be done. Myofunctional therapy is what sleep specialists use to improve breathing problems during sleep.

Newborn’s Breathing

Before you chalk it all up to breathing problems, though, it’s good to know your newborn’s breathing patterns.

According to Healthline, here are what’s normal:

  • They know how to breathe through their nostrils. Hence, mouth breathing is out of the ordinary.
  • They have smaller breathing pathways, which means their airways get obstructed easily. This is one of the main reasons we encourage safe sleeping all the time. And by safe sleeping, we mean getting rid of unnecessary items in your baby’s bed.
  • Newborn’s breath rate is 30 to 60 breaths per minute when they’re awake. When asleep, it can be as low as 20 breaths per minute.
  • Newborns are periodic breathers. This means they can pause breathing up to ten seconds at a time.
  • Newborns can also be rapid breathers then pause. If there are no pauses, it could mean they’re having difficulty breathing (may be caused by fluids in the lungs or fever). Have her checked right away.

Newborn Breathing Noises

Newborns may create noise while breathing too, so be sure to understand what each of them means. Healthline enumerates the following:

  • Whistling noise. If you hear this sound, no matter how low the volume is, it could indicate blockage in the nostrils. You can suction the mucus using a newborn bulb syringe.
  • Hoarse cry and barking cough. This could be a blockage in the windpipe caused by mucus or inflammation.
  • Wheezing. Wheezing may be caused by a blockage as well but in the lower airways. The common causes are asthma, pneumonia, or respiratory syncytial virus.
  • Snoring. Mucus can also cause snoring not just whistling. It can also mean sleep apnea or enlarged tonsils.
  • Grunting. When you newborn seems to be grunting every time she exhales, it could mean an issue with her lungs.


When newborn sleeps with mouth open, it’s not only because of mucus due to common cold. There could be other underlying, not to mention more serious, problems such as asthma, enlarged tonsils, or deviated septum.

Whatever the cause is, sleeping with mouth open is not a good practice for both children and adults. Hence, you should ask your doctor how to correct it as early as now.

Ibeaa Perdon

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