You must have adored seeing your baby sleeping. Sometimes, babies show weird patterns in sleeping, such as only sleeping when they are held or making odd noises while sleeping. If you have observed the latter pattern, you must be wondering why your newborn is grunting and squirming while sleeping. Is it normal?
Suppose someone has made you anxious about these noises being the signs of any pain or discomfort experienced by your newborn. In that case, this idea is entirely wrong. Well, occasional grunting from your newborn while sleeping is perfectly normal. Most of the time, these noises are made by your newborn’s digestive system. And it only means that your newborn’s digestive system is getting used to your breast or formula feed.
However, this isn’t always the case. When the grunting occurs on each baby’s breath or comes with fever, rapid breathing, crying, or distress, it could mean some underlying severe illness.
Newborn grunting and squirming while sleeping: What are the causes?
Newborns make a weird noise while sleeping after they reach the age of 2 weeks, and this odd noise can last up to 6 months of the age. This happens because, after 2 weeks of age, newborns start spending more time in the REM (rapid eye movement) phase of the sleep. REM defines the active part of the sleep in which you see dreams, make noise, and can act weird as well.
Newborns between 2 weeks and 6 months can have up to half of their sleep in the REM phase. Thus, they are making all these weird noises because they have dreams. However, there are more explanations for it which include:
Small nostrils of the newborns
Like their cute little bodies, their nostrils are little too, which often get clogged with mucous or milk making them narrow passages for the air. So when the air passes through them, they produce whistling or rustling sounds. Your baby finds it annoying too, just like you, and tries to clear them, making that grunting noise. Try to wipe the nose, and it mainly helps with the noise. Sometimes, using saltwater helps the dry nose clear the passage. You may try it after consulting your doctor.
Babies do sleep-talk
Grunting is not the only voice your baby makes during sleep. You can hear your baby crying, laugh, whimper, and even yelp while sleeping. Pediatricians often equate these sounds with sleep-talking, and these sounds are completely normal. Moreover, your newborn will learn to overcome these noises with the passing weeks.
Gas is troubling your baby
It is expected for your baby to develop gas in their stomach at this age. This gas can be troubling enough for your baby to cause grunting while passing it. Make sure to feed your baby a healthy diet. You shouldn’t worry too much about the gas unless it’s associated with diarrhea or constipation. In that case, you might want to consult a pediatrician.
If you are a new parent and the grunting noise and pauses in the breathing alarmed you, there is nothing to worry about. Your newborn is just too young, and they have to learn many things, and regular breathing is one of them.
When your baby is awake, they usually breathe up to 40 times per minute. However, when they sleep, the control over breathing becomes irregular. The newborn may be taking half as many breaths and double the breaths at another time. They are just a newborn and learn to control their breathing. These alternative fast and shallow breathing pattern is called periodic breathing of newborn.
Sometimes you may hear deep and raspy breathing because of their soft trachea (tracheomalacia). If you are worried about soft trachea, please consult your doctor because noisy breathing with a soft trachea is different from the usual noisy breathing. Again! Nothing to worry about; this soft trachea improves over time within the first year of life in most babies. There are other causes of noisy breathing, which are worrisome and rare. In those conditions, every breath is grunting, and the baby is unsettled and squirming. If you are worried about grunting and squirming, consult your doctor.
Baby’s spit-up reflex
Just like breathing, digestion is still developing in the newborn. However, babies eventually take control of these things over time.
When you feed your baby at night and place them on their spine, the excessive meal causes the stomach to spit up the meal back into the esophagus (food pipe). And even up to the mouth, which produces intense grunting noise.
To avoid this from happening, you should:
- Space out feeds appropriately, like feed every three hours for the newborn and space out as they grow up.
- Feed the required amount only, don’t overfeed.
- Keep the baby upright for at least 15-20 after feeding and let them wind out/burp.
- Incline the mattress up about 15 degrees from the head side in the baby cot or crib.
Remedies for newborn grunting and squirming while sleeping
You can always visit a pediatrician and get your satisfaction that the grunting of your baby is normal or not. However, save this hustle for a little later and try these simple remedies:
- Observe your baby and see if there are any red flags as described below
- Wipe the nostrils if you find any blockage.
- Use saline water to clear dry nose
- Keep the room temperature to around 19 degrees centigrade or 66 Fahrenheit
- Feed the baby appropriately, as described in the above paragraph
Your baby is going to learn the control these things with time. So there is nothing for you to worry about at all.
When to worry?
Newborn grunting and squirming while sleeping is not always a normal phenomenon. Rarely could it indicate an underlying respiratory disorder like asthma, pneumonia, and sepsis. Here are some signs which can help you distinguish between typical and respiratory disorder:
- Is it associated with fever?
- There is a bluish coloring of the tongue
- There is nasal flaring with respiratory distress and effort in breathing
- Frequent pausing in breathing
- Frequent grunting than before
- Weight loss or not gaining
- Refusal to food and drink
- Sweating a lot while feeding
- Getting tired while feeding
- Taking a lot longer time in feeding than usual
All these signs raise the suspicion of underlying respiratory or digestive system disorder. If you find these signs and grunting, you should visit a pediatrician. However, if there is no such sign and you are still worried, consider your intuition and see a pediatrician. If your pediatrician assures you that it is normal, you shouldn’t worry. Your young one will learn to control with time.