Newborns often have noisy breathing, especially when they’re sleeping. This breathing can sound like snoring, and may even be snoring! In most cases, these noises are not a sign of something dangerous.
The nasal passages of newborns are very small, so the least bit of dryness or extra mucus in their noses can make them snore or have noisy breathing. Sometimes, what sounds like snoring is just how they breathe as a newborn. As they grow, a newborn’s breathing typically gets quieter.
However, if your baby starts snoring, and has other symptoms, you’ll want to make sure that those noises aren’t an indication of something more serious.
Read on to learn about possible causes of snoring in babies.
As babies grow, the size of their nostrils increases, and the problem of snoring usually subsides with age.
However, snoring can occasionally indicate more serious issues.
If your baby’s snoring continues and worsens after using saline drops, Kerrin Edmonds, a California-based pediatric sleep consultant, recommends recording the sounds with a camera or tape recorder and playing them for the pediatrician.
“Even though snoring is just our body making a sound, it’s usually a symptom of a greater issue, and all of the possible issues make it harder for our children to breathe and get quality sleep,” says Edmonds.
A deviated septum may be a relatively common occurrence in the first days after birth, appearing in nearly 20 percent of all newborns, according to one study. Many of these babies have no symptoms from this, though, and it may resolve with time. However, other causes of snoring are more likely to appear in older children than in babies.
Dr. Thomas M. Seman, a Massachusetts-based board-certified pediatrician, says parents should be concerned if their children are habitual mouth breathers.
A child who snores, is a poor eater, or doesn’t gain weight well may have significant mouth, throat, lung, or cardiac issues. Many of these issues would most likely be known relatively early on in the child's life, but they may develop over the first year.
Snoring in babies can also be a sign of laryngomalacia. This condition causes a softening of the tissues of the voice box, or larynx. The laryngeal structure is malformed and floppy, which causes the tissues to fall over the airway opening and partially block it.
Ninety percent of children will see their symptoms resolve without treatment. The condition usually goes away on its own by 18 to 20 months of age.
For the very few babies with severe laryngomalacia that interferes with breathing or eating, a breathing tube can be used or reconstructive surgery can be performed. Breathing tubes can occasionally cause infections, which can lead to the need for reconstructive surgery as well.
The primary goal of laryngotracheal reconstruction surgery is to establish a permanent, stable airway for a child to breathe without the use of a breathing tube. Surgery can also improve voice and swallowing issues.
Children who habitually snore may not be getting proper deep waves of sleep if they also have sleep apnea. Their bodies may wake them up due to labored breathing and the buildup of carbon dioxide within the partially collapsed or blocked airways.
Not only is labored breathing noisy but it impedes proper sleep, causing additional problems.
Sleep deprivation can be detrimental to growth and development. It can even be associated with:
- poor weight gain
- behavior resembling attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- night terrors
Any child with the following symptoms should be fully evaluated by their pediatrician:
- having a hard time sleeping at night
- having difficulty breathing during the day
- getting winded easily
- having a difficult time eating and gaining weight
- snoring with long pauses (more than ten seconds) between breaths
While sleep tests are usually recommended for older children, it’s a procedure that could be necessary if a child has abnormal snoring issues that began in infancy.
For instance, the parent can sleep in the room with the child, wearing the same pajamas, ordering takeout food, and staying up late. That way, the sleep test will feel more like a slumber party than a medical exam.
Other medical screenings for snoring babies and children may include:
Snoring in babies is rarely the result of a serious medical condition. Stuffy noses, the most common cause of snoring, can be managed with simple home remedies, or may not need any treatment at all. A deviated septum or laryngomalacia may also not require any treatment.
However, if you’re concerned about your child’s snoring or breathing, make an appointment with their pediatrician. The doctor can talk to you, examine your baby, and perform tests and screenings if needed to determine what’s causing the snoring.