When you have a newborn baby, you worry about everything they do, especially every little sound they make. Grunts, giggles, snorts, yawns, whistles, smacks, sniffles — they do it all, sometimes even when they’re asleep. But what about a snore? As it turns out, there are many reasons why your little one might do that, and most of them are totally normal.
Newborn Snores Can Be Normal
Much of the time, when a newborn baby snores, it’s nothing at all to worry about. In many cases, what sounds like snoring isn’t even that at all. It’s simply breathing noises your baby makes due to too much dryness or moisture in their tiny little nostrils. They almost always age out of it.
Sniffles or a stuffy nose can cause something that sounds like a snore. Oftentimes, something as simple as a couple of saline drops in each nostril can clear that right up, but it’s best to always talk to your doctor before giving your baby anything, even saline nose drops. You might also want to consider what’s causing the stuffy nose. Many parents opt to add a humidifier or HEPA air filter to their infant’s room. Keep pets out of the nursery and make sure it remains dust-free.
When your baby has a snore but has other symptoms too, that’s when it might be time to worry.
When adults snore, it’s often caused by sleep apnea. Babies can actually develop this condition as well. Essentially, it’s a condition that causes reduced breathing or even pauses in breathing during sleep. Infants can either develop central sleep apnea, which occurs when the brain doesn’t cooperate with the rest of the body during sleep, or obstructive sleep apnea, which is when throat tissue blocks the airway during sleep. Sometimes, both can occur at once. Premature infants, as well as infants with other medical conditions or abnormalities, are at a greater risk. Some conditions that may contribute to sleep apnea include drug exposure, anemia, acid reflux, infections, neurological disorders, and metabolic diseases.
So, how can you know if your baby’s snoring is sleep apnea? They will usually exhibit other signs and symptoms as well. These might include pauses in breathing during sleep that last 20 seconds or longer, drooling during sleep, sleeping with their mouth open, a slow heartbeat, and low oxygen levels. In severe cases, a baby can lose consciousness during sleep. Babies with sleep apnea may also show other symptoms during the day, like poor weight gain, too much weight gain, irritability, sleepiness, and trouble going to sleep.
Another problem that sometimes causes a newborn to snore is called laryngomalacia. This is a condition caused by the softening of the tissue around the larynx. Laryngomalacia basically causes that tissue to flop around and block the airway, much like obstructive sleep apnea does. The majority of babies grow out of this, usually by around the time they reach 20 months old. In some rare cases, the tissue can interfere with an infant’s ability to breathe and eat. Usually, surgery is required for those cases. Otherwise, it doesn’t require treatment.
While those are the main causes of a snore in newborns, there are a few other potential conditions to consider, such as enlarged tonsils or adenoids. These are the glands that keep germs from going down your airway, but if they’re too big, they can prevent oxygen from getting in there too, which can cause a snore. A deviated septum can also cause problems, as can other various types of sleep disorders. Even your baby’s positions can affect the sounds they make while sleeping. Pediatricians recommend that newborn babies sleep on their backs, which can lead to them making more noises while sleeping, including a snore. As they age and shift in their sleep, they will likely grow out of those sounds.
A newborn’s snore isn’t usually a cause for concern, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. If you are worried about your baby’s snoring, talk to their doctor about whether it’s normal and what you can do to help them get a better night’s sleep.
By David Smith