We’re gonna go ahead and say it: Anyone who claims they “slept like a baby last night” has never actually slept near a human baby. Baby sleep, especially in the newborn months, isn’t close to being deep, peaceful, or quiet. It’s unpredictable and restless and full of unusual sounds.
If you’re a new parent, all of this nighttime commotion is stressful. Are you supposed to be checking baby’s breathing every time it slows down or speeds up? You weren’t expecting to get a ton of sleep after they were born, but you thought you might be able to get, you know, like… some. Maybe just an hour or two?
If you’re worrying about every little peep your baby makes while they drift away into dreamland, let us stop you right there. Almost all of these noises are normal and can be totally ignored. Here’s how to rest easy while baby’s sleeping — or at least as easy as you can with a newborn in the house.
Listening to your baby sleep is like downloading a playlist of EMDR sounds. There are gurgles and grunts, whines, and squeals. Don’t stress if you hear baby make any of the following (totally normal) noises. Just roll over and go back to sleep.
In and out, in and out. You know what this sounds like! Your baby’s regular breathing sounds may be short and sweet, almost like soft panting, but that’s OK. You may also catch a few dreamy sighs. (We’ll wait while you squeal from the cuteness.).
Yes, we did put irregular breathing sounds under the “normal” category. That’s because for newborns, irregular breathing is normal. Your baby’s lungs aren’t quite firing on all cylinders yet (or, more accurately, their brain is still figuring out how to talk to the other body systems).
While baby learns to regulate their breathing, there will be short periods of time when their breathing speeds up, slows down, or even pauses altogether.
As long as these periods of time are fairly short — think seconds, not minutes — your baby doesn’t show signs of distress, and their breathing pattern goes back to normal, you can chalk this up to your baby’s growth and development instead of a cause for concern.
We don’t need to remind you that your baby is eating and pooping around the clock, but that means their digestive system is working 24-7, too. You might hear their tummy rumbling or gurgling, or they may even burp or pass gas in their sleep.
There’s actually a wide range of “normal” when it comes to the sounds your baby’s respiratory system might make while they’re asleep. You’ve probably been programmed to react with panic to whistling or wheezing sounds in your baby, but truthfully, these noises are typically not an issue while your child is sleeping.
Babies’ airways are narrow, so dry air or even the slightest bit of mucus can cause whistling, rattling, or wheezing sounds while they sleep. Acid reflux or even all that milk-chugging can clog their throat and cause uneven breathing sounds as well.
It’s also normal for baby to cough or sneeze while sleeping for these same reasons. Unless they’re showing other signs of illness, don’t worry.
Yup, your little vampire baby is always hungry, even if they’re asleep and just ate 10 minutes ago. You might overhear lots of lip-smacking, suckling, and rooting noises while your little one is dozing. Take it as a sign that they’ll probably be waking up soon and will want to be fed ASAP.
Blame gas, blame dreams, blame their insatiable need to be close to you at all times. Whatever the reason, babies are rarely ever settled during periods of sleep.
There’s a whole bunch of stuff going on in that tiny body, and it doesn’t stop just because your baby is sleeping.
After birth, some of your baby’s body systems continue to be in development and not exactly operating at peak capacity. Your baby’s lungs and stomach, especially, are still working out how to, well, work. That means there will be a lot of (harmless) misfires when it comes to running smoothly.
Your baby mostly breathes through their nose, believe it or not, and those airways are pretty small. Congestion and dry or swollen nasal membranes can clog up the works, making breathing audible instead of peaceful.
Short sleep cycles
Newborn babies have short sleep cycles, which means they’re constantly drifting in and out of sleep. It would actually be weird if you didn’t hear them making some noise as they nod off, and then making noise again as they wake about an hour later.
Babies also have a higher percentage of REM sleep, which is a lighter sleep state associated with dreaming. Your baby might be noisier when their brain is full of dream activity.
While some babies are always noisy sleepers, no matter how old they are, most of these sleep sounds settle down after the newborn phase ends.
By the time your baby is between 3 and 6 months old, they’ll be spending more time in deep sleep versus active REM sleep. Their overall sleep cycles will lengthen, too, meaning there will be fewer sleep-wake disruptions. And all those newborn growing pains, where their lungs were still working out some kinks, have resolved.
We’ve told you a lot of things that are 100 percent normal about baby sleep sounds, but, of course, there are a few things that aren’t.
Two sounds, in particular, should prompt you to call your baby’s doctor ASAP or even seek emergency care:
- Rapid breathing. While it’s normal if baby has brief periods of faster-than-average breathing, these periods of time shouldn’t:
- last for more than a few seconds
- persistently occur (i.e., over and over again during a short nap)
- speed up to more than 60 breaths per minute if they’re under a year old
- Grunting at the end of every breath. The occasional grunt and groan is A-OK, but if your baby is grunting after each individual breath, this could be a sign of something blocking their airway.
Wondering how you would know your baby is in distress while sleeping if all these strange noises are considered normal? Here’s a tip: Their physical appearance can clue you in to their overall health more so than the sounds they make.
In other words, if your baby has any of the following symptoms (whether they’re making weird noises or not!), you should seek emergency medical attention:
- a bluish coloration to their skin
- visible muscle contractions in your baby’s chest or neck
- listlessness or lethargy
- nostril flaring with each breath
- long pauses where your baby stops breathing (more than 10 seconds)
If you know you can reach your child’s doctor quickly, you can try calling them first. But if you’re unsure of their response time or it’s after hours, don’t leave a message and wait for a call back. Instead, call 911 or head to the nearest emergency room or urgent care clinic.
There’s an alarming number of baby sleep sounds that are totally normal despite how strange they may seem. Babies are still working on their ability to regulate their digestive and respiratory systems, plus their sleep cycles are super wonky. This means that “normal” sleep for your baby will usually be a pretty noisy affair.
By the time they’re about 6 months old, it should settle down. In the meantime, never ignore a baby who is struggling to breathe, looks blue, or has any other signs of illness, like fever or lethargy.