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Why is My Baby Noisy When They Sleep?

by Safe Sleep Space January 12, 2015

Why is My Baby Noisy When They Sleep?

It is often hard to believe how noisy tiny babies can be when they sleep. These little bodies are capable of big sounds, especially when contrasted to the still of the night. What then makes babies noisy when they sleep?

Age, anatomy, illness and a range of factors contribute to the noises babies make, and this is not even considering the numerous ‘digestive’ sounds that can be ‘produced’ as your baby slumbers.


Preterm babies are known for their tiny size and their big sounds when they sleep. The sounds they make are seemingly disproportional to their delicate, petite bodies! Snorting, grunting and almost groaning sounds are totally NORMAL for preterm babes. Even at sleep time, little premmies are letting us know ‘they are here’, even if a little early.

Overtime they are less ‘apparent’ when they sleep. Nothing needs to be done; they need no assistance. Preterm babies often just grunt and groan and sleep at the same time. If it bothers you, try some quiet background white noise to help their sounds blend a little more! Overtime the noises just become less and less until they no longer are audible, but the time when quiet emerges differs enormously from one individual to another.

Anatomy and Illness

Little airways can easily become congested by excessive mucous. So the slightest drop can sound like a huge obstruction, then one sneeze, and all is clear.

Babies are naturally nose breathers, and will only mouth breathe once their nose is almost completely blocked.

Therefore we often hear very loud snuffles and congested noises, before a baby will breathe through their mouth. If your baby is struggling, it’s often kind to just take the dummy out for a little while, pause the feed or just sit your baby up, so breathing is easier.  

Also any minute swelling of the airways can result in rather large sounds. This is called a ‘stridor’, or the noise heard when the baby breathes in or out, or both, past an obstruction.

If you find yourself wondering if that ‘noise’ is normal, have it checked out by your Doctor.

It is always best to have a ‘noisy sleeper’ assessed. Noisy sleeping doesn’t always mean there is a problem, but let your health professional be the judge. Record it on your phone and let them ‘see and hear’ what your baby does at sleep time. Some things like a floppy larynx can result in airway sounds, and can be quite harmless, but other times noises can be related to obstructive sleep apnoea. That is why consulting with your doctor is essential.

Little noises can mean lots, and can also mean little, so be sure to allow someone help you decipher so you and your baby can sleep … as best you can.

JAMA Pediatr. DOI: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.2560 (September 30, 2013) Editorial: JAMA Pediatr. Published online September

Safe Sleep Space
Safe Sleep Space


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