If you’ve never taken care of a newborn before, hearing what they sound like — especially when they sleep — might surprise you. Newborns are noisy. They frequently gasp, pant, gurgle, and even snort.
When babies are first born, they may still have amniotic fluid and other substances caught in their sinuses. This is the reason behind the “newborn congestion” that might last anywhere from a few weeks to three months. Another reason that babies make odd noises is they cannot breathe through their mouths yet.
The good news is that most of the noises your baby makes are normal. That said, it can be nerve-wracking for first-time parents to listen to their noisy little babies and wonder whether they need to call the pediatrician. Here are a few noises that are normal for infants and a few that aren’t.
Newborns breathe fast — much faster than adults do. To put it in perspective, infants have on average 30 to 60 breaths per minute, while adults average 12 to 20. So, to a new parent, it may sound like their newborn baby is always panting.
Don’t worry. Your baby isn’t in distress. They’re just tiny and breathing the way they need to at that stage in their development. The main reason they need to breathe so fast is that their lungs take up most of their chest cavity, so they can’t save air like we do.
Normal: Irregular Breaths
It’s also perfectly normal for a baby to take several quick breaths in a row, seemingly out of nowhere, and then slow down again. Infant breathing patterns can be odd, and if your baby’s color is good and they don’t seem to be in distress or struggling for air, it’s probably safe to assume that irregular breaths aren’t a cause for concern.
Normal: Periodic Breathing
Periodic breathing is one phenomenon that sends many new parents into a tailspin of panic. This term refers to a short cessation of breath during sleep. Your baby may stop breathing altogether for a few moments, then breathe rapidly a few times, followed by breathing normally again. This is a normal part of a baby’s development so don’t worry, they’ll grow out of it.
As long as they don’t stop breathing for longer than 10 seconds and their skin isn’t changing color, there’s no reason to worry. Periodic breathing is a natural part of a baby’s REM cycle and is usually outgrown by the age of six months.
Abnormal: Extremely Rapid Breath
As we said earlier, babies naturally breathe fast. But more than 60 breaths a minute is a cause for concern. If you notice your infant breathing extremely fast, don’t hesitate to call the pediatrician.
Abnormal: Struggling To Breathe
There are a few signs that can indicate your baby is having trouble getting air. Flared nostrils are one sign. This is because infants cannot yet breathe through their mouths, so their only option is to flare their nostrils in an attempt to get more oxygen. Other signs of struggling to get air include breathing with effort, stopping respiration for more than 10 seconds, and chest retractions. These are when the chest looks like it’s sinking beneath the neck or breastbone with each breath. This is a definite sign that your baby is struggling to get air.
Abnormal: Signs Of Infection
Signs of respiratory infection can be hard to spot. Your baby may have an infection if they have a fever, seem lethargic, wheeze, have coughing fits, lose their appetite, or grunt with each breath. Some grunting is very common in newborns, so it can be difficult to tell the difference. If your baby seems like they’re grunting an excessive amount or with every breath, it’s a good idea to call the doctor.
Of course, you should always seek emergency care if you notice that your baby is turning blue, a sign that they’re not getting oxygen. You may notice a triangular shape on their face, with blue on their forehead, nose, and lips. If this occurs, don’t wait — get your baby to the hospital right away.
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