Mouth Breathing And Baby Sleep: What You Need To Know

Whether you are seasoned as a parent or a first-timer, you’ll know there isn’t anything cuter than watching your little one sleep. At times like those, the world slows down, and you can really appreciate your little bundle of joy. During this quiet time, you might have noticed your baby sleeping with mouth open and questioned whether or not this is normal.

It is not typical for babies of any age to sleep with their mouths open unless there is an obstruction to their nasal passageways, such as mucus. Babies learn to breathe through their mouth at around 3-4 months. Before this, babies do not have the reflex capabilities to mouth breathe correctly.

All parents should be aware of mouth breathing and its impact on their baby’s sleep. Understanding the connection between mouth breathing and baby sleep is crucial for providing a nurturing environment that fosters restful slumber. Therefore, knowing the common causes of mouth breathing and ways to prevent it is beneficial for all parents.

Is Sleeping With Their Mouth Open Normal Behavior For Babies

Remember that babies don’t typically breathe through their mouths unless there is an underlying issue causing them to do so. That doesn’t mean that you should worry every time you notice your baby breathing through their mouth, as occasional mouth breathing is not uncommon.

Typical questions a parent might ask themselves include: can newborns breathe through their mouth, and is your baby sleeping with mouth open common?

An important thing to note is that newborn babies have not developed the reflex needed for mouth breathing. If your newborn continuously breathes through their mouth while sleeping, you should look for an underlying issue.

From around 3-4 months, babies have developed the necessary reflexes to breathe through their mouths, but this is still not the usual healthy method for breathing. You should only notice them breathing through their mouths if they suffer from nasal congestion, such as allergies or mucus buildup.

Common Causes Of Mouth Breathing In Babies

Typically, babies prefer to breathe through their noses. However, there are instances when babies may resort to mouth breathing. So, when do babies breathe through their mouths:

  • Nasal congestion: Babies are susceptible to nasal congestion due to common colds, allergies, or other respiratory infections. When their tiny nasal passages are blocked, they naturally breathe through their mouths.
  • Anatomical factors: In some cases, babies may have anatomical conditions such as a deviated septum or enlarged adenoids that make breathing through the nose challenging, leading to mouth breathing.
  • Allergies: Allergic reactions to substances such as dust mites, pollen, pet dander, or certain foods can cause nasal congestion and trigger mouth breathing in babies.
  • Habitual mouth breathing: In some cases, babies develop a habit of mouth breathing, which may not be associated with any underlying medical condition. This habit can become persistent if not addressed.
  • Sleep apnea: Sleep apnea can occur in babies for several reasons, including enlarged adenoids, inflamed tonsils, or infection. Other symptoms that could indicate this issue include snoring, irregular breathing, and restless sleep.
  • Pacifier use: If your baby frequently uses a pacifier, it can inadvertently encourage mouth breathing during sleep. Pacifiers can cause the tongue to rest in a low position, obstructing the nasal passages.

How Can Mouth Breathing Impact Babies Sleep Quality

Mouth breathing can affect your baby’s sleep quality and overall well-being. If your baby sleeps with mouth open, there are a few ways this might affect their sleep quality, including the following:

  • Disrupted sleep patterns: Mouth breathing can disturb your baby’s sleep patterns, leading to frequent awakenings throughout the night. This disruption can result in restless sleep, leaving your little one tired and irritable during the day.
  • Dry mouth, lips, and throat: Breathing through the mouth can cause dryness on the lips, mouth, and throat, leading to discomfort and potential irritation. This dryness can further disrupt your baby’s sleep and contribute to nighttime restlessness.
  • Coughing and throat irritation: When air filters through the nose, it heats up before getting to the throat and lungs. This heating process does not happen during mouth breathing and can result in irritation and coughing, continuously waking your baby and resulting in broken sleep.

How Can You Prevent And Manage Mouth Breathing During Sleep

Now that we understand the possible impact of mouth breathing on your baby’s sleep, let’s explore some helpful tips to prevent and manage this issue:

  • Clear nasal passages: Regularly use a bulb syringe or a nasal aspirator to gently remove mucus from your baby’s nose. Saline nasal drops can also help loosen congestion and facilitate easier breathing through the nose.
  • Elevate the head: Placing a small pillow or a rolled-up towel under the crib mattress can elevate your baby’s head slightly. This position can help alleviate nasal congestion and promote better airflow through the nose.
  • Humidify the air: Using a cool-mist humidifier in your baby’s room can add moisture to the air, reducing nasal dryness and congestion. Ensure you clean your humidifier often to prevent mold or bacteria from growing.
  • Minimize allergen exposure: Keep your baby’s sleeping environment clean and free from potential allergens like dust, pet dander, and pollen. Regularly wash bedding, vacuum carpets, and dust surfaces to create a healthier sleeping space.

Ways To Promote Healthy Breathing And Sleep Habits In Babies

Beyond managing mouth breathing, fostering healthy breathing and sleep habits is vital for your baby’s well-being. Consider implementing these best practices:

  • Establish a bedtime routine: A consistent bedtime routine indicates to your baby that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep. To promote relaxation, include relaxing activities like a warm bath, gentle massage, and soft lullabies. Warm baths also help clear mucus from your baby’s airways.
  • Create a sleep-friendly environment: Ensure your baby’s sleep environment is quiet, dimly lit, and comfortably cool. Use blackout curtains, white noise machines, and a comfortable crib mattress to optimize sleep conditions.
  • Frequent hydration: Ensure your baby stays hydrated through regular milk or formula feeds. Regular hydration will ensure your baby is not dehydrated and keeps the mucus flowing.

How Can Mouth Breathing Affect Other Health Issues In Babies

Mouth breathing in babies may be associated with other health issues that require attention. Some potential concerns include:

  • Speech and dental problems: Chronic mouth breathing can impact speech development and lead to dental issues such as an open bite or misalignment of the teeth. Consulting a pediatric dentist or speech therapist can help address these concerns.
  • Facial changes: Chronic mouth breathing can influence the development of facial structures in babies. It may lead to changes in the shape of your baby’s face, such as a long face, flattened cheekbones, or a narrow upper jaw.
  • Postural changes: Prolonged mouth breathing can affect your baby’s posture as mouth breathers tend to tilt their heads while breathing. It may lead to changes in the alignment of the jaw and neck, potentially impacting their overall body posture and musculoskeletal development.
  • Behavioral changes: Mouth breathing can contribute to behavioral changes in babies. Sleep disturbances caused by mouth breathing can result in irritability, difficulty concentrating, and mood swings. Increased risk of infections: Mouth breathing bypasses the natural filtration system provided by the nasal passages, making it easier for allergens, bacteria, and viruses to enter the respiratory system. This lack of filtration can increase the likelihood of respiratory infections or other health issues and can also cause irritants to land up in the throat and cause coughing.


By understanding the causes, impacts, and management of mouth breathing in babies, you are better equipped to promote healthy breathing and sleep habits for your little one. Remember to address underlying causes such as nasal congestion, elevate the head, and create a sleep-friendly environment.