3 Causes: Why Does My Baby Sleep with Mouth Open but Breathes Through Nose?

Why Does My Baby Sleep with Mouth Open but Breathes Through Nose? Understanding why your baby sleeps with their mouth open but breathes through their nose can be perplexing. It’s a common concern among parents, and as someone who’s been there, I know how important it is to ensure your little one is comfortable and healthy.


If you’ve ever found yourself watching your baby sleep and noticed they tend to sleep with their mouth open but breathe through their nose, you’re not alone. This behavior can be puzzling and even a bit concerning. I remember the first time I saw my little one sleeping with their mouth open, I immediately started worrying about whether something was wrong. Over time, and with a lot of research and consultation with pediatricians, I learned that this is a common issue among infants. Here, I’ll share what I’ve learned about why this happens, how to address it, and when to seek medical advice.

Understanding the Phenomenon

Babies often sleep with their mouths open due to their still-developing respiratory systems. This behavior can be completely normal, especially if they are still able to breathe through their nose without any issues. In many cases, the muscles around a baby’s mouth and jaw are not fully developed, which can cause the mouth to fall open during sleep.

Developmental Factors

  1. Muscle Control: Infants have weaker muscle tone in their mouths, which can cause their mouths to open during sleep.
  2. Jaw Position: The lower jaw may naturally fall open due to gravity, especially when the baby is lying on their back.
  3. Breathing Patterns: Babies breathe differently than adults, often alternating between mouth and nose breathing.
  4. Growth Stages: As babies grow, their muscle control improves, and this behavior often resolves itself.
  5. Feeding Habits: Bottle-fed babies might develop different muscle usage compared to breastfed babies, which can affect mouth position during sleep.

3 Causes of Mouth Breathing in Babies

While occasional mouth breathing in babies can be normal, persistent mouth breathing may indicate underlying issues. Understanding the causes can help address the problem effectively.

1. Nasal Congestion

Nasal congestion is one of the most common reasons babies sleep with their mouths open. Their tiny nasal passages can easily become blocked, making it harder for them to breathe through their nose.

  1. Colds and Infections: Babies are prone to colds and respiratory infections, which can cause congestion.
  2. Environmental Allergens: Dust, pollen, and pet dander can cause allergic reactions leading to nasal blockage.
  3. Dry Air: Dry indoor air, especially during winter, can dry out and irritate nasal passages. Ensure the right balance of humidity.
  4. Deviated Septum: Some babies may have structural issues like a deviated septum that can obstruct nasal breathing.
  5. Foreign Objects: Sometimes, small objects or mucus can get lodged in a baby’s nasal passages, causing blockage.

2. Enlarged Adenoids or Tonsils

Enlarged adenoids or tonsils can obstruct the airway, causing the baby to open their mouth to breathe. This is something that might need medical attention if it persists.

  1. Genetic Factors: Some babies naturally have larger adenoids or tonsils due to genetics.
  2. Chronic Infections: Repeated throat infections can cause these tissues to swell.
  3. Sleep Apnea: Enlarged adenoids or tonsils can contribute to sleep apnea, a condition where breathing stops and starts during sleep.
  4. Breathing Issues: Persistent mouth breathing can cause these tissues to enlarge further, creating a cycle of obstruction.
  5. Feeding Problems: Enlarged adenoids or tonsils can also interfere with feeding, causing further health complications.

3. Allergies

Allergies can also cause inflammation and congestion in the nasal passages, leading to mouth breathing.

  1. Food Allergies: Certain foods can trigger allergic reactions that cause nasal congestion.
  2. Seasonal Allergies: Pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds can affect babies, especially in certain seasons.
  3. Indoor Allergies: Mold, dust mites, and pet dander can cause year-round nasal issues.
  4. Chemical Sensitivities: Babies may react to strong smells from cleaning products or perfumes.
  5. Genetic Predisposition: A family history of allergies increases the likelihood of allergic reactions in babies.

Signs and Symptoms

Recognizing if your baby’s mouth breathing is problematic is crucial. Look out for signs such as snoring, restless sleep, or frequent waking. These could indicate that your baby’s sleep quality is being affected.

Key Indicators

  1. Snoring: Frequent or loud snoring can be a sign of airway obstruction.
  2. Restless Sleep: If your baby is tossing and turning, it might indicate breathing difficulties.
  3. Frequent Waking: Waking up multiple times during the night can be due to discomfort from congestion.
  4. Difficulty Feeding: Trouble sucking or feeding can be related to breathing issues.
  5. Daytime Irritability: Poor sleep quality can lead to a fussy and irritable baby during the day.

Behavioral Signs

  1. Mouth Dryness: A dry mouth in the morning can indicate mouth breathing during sleep.
  2. Breathlessness: Struggling to breathe comfortably can cause breathlessness and anxiety.
  3. Frequent Crying: Persistent discomfort can lead to increased crying and fussiness.
  4. Nasal Flaring: Visible flaring of the nostrils while breathing can indicate difficulty in nasal breathing.
  5. Feeding Issues: Difficulty in feeding, such as choking or gagging, can be related to mouth breathing.

Health Implications

Why Does My Baby Sleep with Mouth Open but Breathes Through Nose?

Chronic mouth breathing can have several health implications. It can lead to dry mouth, dental problems, and even impact facial development if not addressed early on.

Immediate Health Concerns; Why Does My Baby Sleep with Mouth Open but Breathes Through Nose?

  1. Dry Mouth: Mouth breathing can cause dryness, leading to discomfort and potential infections.
  2. Dental Problems: Chronic mouth breathing can affect dental health, leading to issues like cavities and gum disease.
  3. Sleep Disruptions: Poor sleep quality can affect a baby’s overall development and mood.
  4. Ear Infections: Persistent mouth breathing can contribute to fluid buildup in the ears, leading to infections.
  5. Dehydration: Breathing through the mouth can lead to dehydration, especially if the baby isn’t drinking enough fluids.

Long-term Effects

  1. Facial Development: Prolonged mouth breathing can affect the development of the facial bones and muscles.
  2. Orthodontic Issues: Misaligned teeth and jaw problems can arise from chronic mouth breathing.
  3. Behavioral Problems: Poor sleep quality can lead to behavioral issues and learning difficulties as the child grows.
  4. Respiratory Problems: Persistent mouth breathing can lead to chronic respiratory issues.
  5. Sleep Apnea: Chronic mouth breathing can increase the risk of developing sleep apnea.

Tips for Parents

Addressing the issue of mouth breathing in babies requires a proactive approach. Here are some tips to help ensure your baby breathes comfortably and sleeps well.

Ensuring a Clear Nasal Passage

  1. Use Saline Drops: Saline nasal drops can help clear out mucus and reduce nasal congestion.
  2. Gentle Suction: Use a nasal aspirator to gently remove mucus from your baby’s nose.
  3. Humidify the Air: A humidifier can add moisture to the air, preventing nasal passages from drying out.
  4. Elevate the Crib: Slightly elevate the head of the crib to help reduce nasal congestion.
  5. Avoid Irritants: Keep your baby away from smoke, strong odors, and other irritants that can cause nasal congestion.

Maintaining Good Sleep Hygiene

  1. Consistent Bedtime Routine: Establish a calming bedtime routine to help your baby wind down before sleep.
  2. Comfortable Sleep Environment: Ensure the room is dark, quiet, and cool to promote better sleep.
  3. Regular Sleep Schedule: Stick to a regular sleep schedule, even on weekends, to help regulate your baby’s internal clock.
  4. Avoid Overstimulation: Limit stimulating activities and screen time before bed to help your baby relax.
  5. Comfort Objects: Provide a comfort object, like a favorite blanket or stuffed animal, to help your baby feel secure.

Creating a Comfortable Sleep Environment

  1. Room Temperature: Keep the
    room temperature comfortable, ideally between 68-72°F (20-22°C), to prevent overheating or chilling.
  2. Clean Bedding: Ensure the crib bedding is clean, breathable, and free from allergens.
  3. Proper Ventilation: Maintain good air circulation in the room to keep it fresh and prevent stuffiness.
  4. Noise Control: Use white noise machines or soft music to drown out any disruptive noises.
  5. Safe Sleep Position: Place your baby on their back to sleep, which is the safest position for preventing SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

When to See a Doctor

If you notice persistent mouth breathing along with other symptoms like difficulty feeding or if the baby seems unusually irritable, it’s time to consult a pediatrician. Here are some signs that indicate you should seek medical advice:

Recognizing When Medical Intervention is Needed

  1. Chronic Snoring: Regular, loud snoring can be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea, which needs medical attention.
  2. Frequent Infections: Recurrent ear, sinus, or throat infections could indicate underlying issues like enlarged adenoids or tonsils.
  3. Feeding Difficulties: If your baby struggles to feed properly, it might be linked to breathing issues.
  4. Slow Growth: Poor sleep and breathing problems can impact your baby’s growth and development.
  5. Behavioral Changes: Noticeable changes in behavior, such as increased irritability or lethargy, can be linked to poor sleep quality.

What to Expect During a Doctor’s Visit

  1. Medical History: The doctor will ask about your baby’s medical history, sleep patterns, and any symptoms you’ve noticed.
  2. Physical Examination: A thorough physical examination will be conducted, focusing on the baby’s nasal passages, throat, and ears.
  3. Diagnostic Tests: If necessary, the doctor may recommend tests like a sleep study or imaging to identify underlying issues.
  4. Treatment Plan: Based on the diagnosis, the doctor will suggest a treatment plan, which may include medications or lifestyle changes.
  5. Follow-up Visits: Regular follow-up visits may be needed to monitor your baby’s progress and adjust the treatment plan as necessary.

Common Treatments

Addressing mouth breathing in babies often involves treatments that help clear the nasal passages and ensure easy breathing. Here are some common treatments:

Saline Nasal Drops

  1. Frequent Use: Saline drops can be used multiple times a day to keep nasal passages clear and moist.
  2. Safe and Gentle: These drops are safe for babies and can be used from birth.
  3. Effective for Mild Congestion: Saline drops are effective for treating mild nasal congestion caused by colds or allergies.
  4. Easy to Apply: They come in easy-to-use dropper bottles, making application straightforward.
  5. Combination with Suction: Using saline drops in conjunction with a nasal aspirator can provide quick relief from congestion.


  1. Adding Moisture: Humidifiers add moisture to the air, which can help prevent and alleviate nasal dryness and congestion.
  2. Cool Mist vs. Warm Mist: Both types of humidifiers can be effective, but cool mist is generally safer for babies.
  3. Regular Cleaning: Ensure the humidifier is cleaned regularly to prevent mold and bacteria growth.
  4. Placement in Room: Place the humidifier close to the baby’s crib but out of reach to ensure safety and effectiveness.
  5. Continuous Use: Using a humidifier regularly, especially during dry seasons, can help maintain optimal humidity levels.

Allergy Medications

  1. Antihistamines: Medications like antihistamines can help reduce allergic reactions and relieve nasal congestion.
  2. Nasal Sprays: Certain nasal sprays are safe for infants and can help reduce inflammation and congestion.
  3. Prescription Medications: In some cases, a doctor may prescribe medications to manage severe allergies.
  4. Avoiding Allergens: Identifying and avoiding allergens in the home can complement the use of medications.
  5. Monitoring Side Effects: Always monitor your baby for any potential side effects when using allergy medications and consult a doctor if needed.

Home Remedies

In addition to medical treatments, there are several home remedies that can help alleviate mouth breathing in babies. Here are some natural methods to consider:

Natural Ways to Help Clear Nasal Passages

  1. Steam Inhalation: Sitting in a steamy bathroom with your baby for a few minutes can help clear nasal passages.
  2. Breastfeeding: Breast milk has natural antibodies that can help fight infections causing nasal congestion.
  3. Hydration: Ensuring your baby is well-hydrated can help thin mucus and keep nasal passages clear.
  4. Herbal Baths: Adding chamomile or eucalyptus to your baby’s bath can help relieve congestion naturally.
  5. Essential Oils: Diffusing baby-safe essential oils like lavender or chamomile can promote relaxation and clear airways.

Simple Changes to Improve Sleep Quality

  1. Elevating the Head: Slightly elevating the head of your baby’s crib can help reduce nasal congestion and improve breathing.
  2. Consistent Bedtime Routine: A consistent bedtime routine can help your baby relax and prepare for sleep.
  3. Avoiding Overheating: Dress your baby in light, breathable clothing to avoid overheating, which can worsen congestion.
  4. Limiting Feeding Right Before Bed: Avoid feeding your baby right before bed to prevent reflux, which can cause congestion.
  5. White Noise: Using a white noise machine can create a soothing sleep environment and mask any disruptive sounds.

Parental Reviews and Experiences

Many parents have shared their experiences and solutions for dealing with babies who sleep with their mouths open. Here are some anecdotes and ratings of common solutions:

Anecdotes from Other Parents

  1. Saline Drops and Aspirators: Many parents find that using saline drops and nasal aspirators significantly improves their baby’s breathing.
  2. Humidifiers: Parents often praise humidifiers for helping maintain optimal humidity levels and reducing nasal congestion.
  3. Allergy Management: Some parents have found success by identifying and minimizing allergens in their homes.
  4. Elevating the Crib: Slightly elevating the crib has helped numerous babies breathe more comfortably at night.
  5. Herbal Remedies: Natural remedies like steam baths and essential oils have received positive feedback for their gentle effectiveness.

Rating Common Solutions

  1. Saline Drops: Rated highly for their safety, ease of use, and effectiveness in clearing nasal passages.
  2. Humidifiers: Widely appreciated for their ability to maintain moisture in the air and reduce nasal congestion.
  3. Nasal Aspirators: Rated positively for their effectiveness, though some parents find them tricky to use.
  4. Allergy Medications: Generally rated well when prescribed and monitored by a pediatrician.
  5. Home Remedies: Mixed ratings, with some parents finding significant relief and others preferring medical treatments.

Expert Opinions: Why Does My Baby Sleep with Mouth Open but Breathes Through Nose?

Why Does My Baby Sleep with Mouth Open but Breathes Through Nose?

Pediatricians and sleep experts offer valuable insights into managing mouth breathing in babies. Here are some recommended practices from the experts:

Insights from Pediatricians and Sleep Experts

  1. Regular Check-ups: Pediatricians recommend regular check-ups to monitor your baby’s breathing and overall health.
  2. Proper Sleep Positioning: Experts emphasize the importance of placing babies on their backs to sleep to prevent SIDS.
  3. Environmental Control: Keeping the sleep environment clean and free from allergens is crucial for maintaining clear airways.
  4. Monitoring Growth: Tracking your baby’s growth and development can help identify any issues related to mouth breathing.
  5. Parental Observation: Parents are encouraged to closely observe their baby’s sleep patterns and report any concerns to their pediatrician.

Recommended Practices: Why Does My Baby Sleep with Mouth Open but Breathes Through Nose?

  1. Routine Nasal Care: Regularly using saline drops and aspirators to keep nasal passages clear.
  2. Humidifier Use: Maintaining optimal humidity levels in the baby’s room to prevent nasal dryness and congestion.
  3. Avoiding Irritants: Keeping the sleep environment free from smoke, strong odors, and other irritants.
  4. Consistent Bedtime Routine: Establishing a soothing bedtime routine to promote relaxation and better sleep.
  5. Prompt Medical Consultation: Seeking medical advice promptly if you notice persistent or severe symptoms.

Products That Can Help

Several products on the market can assist in managing mouth breathing in babies. Here are some reviews and ratings of useful products:

Reviews of Useful Products

  1. Nasal Aspirators: Products like the NoseFrida and electric nasal aspirators are popular for their effectiveness in clearing mucus.
  2. Saline Drops: Brands like Little Remedies and Simply Saline are well-rated for their gentle and safe saline solutions.
  3. Humidifiers: Cool mist humidifiers from brands like Vicks and Honeywell receive high ratings for their reliability and effectiveness.
  4. White Noise Machines: Machines from brands like Hatch and Marpac are praised for creating a calming sleep environment.
  5. Air Purifiers: HEPA air purifiers from brands like Dyson and Levoit are recommended for maintaining clean air and reducing allergens.

Ratings and Effectiveness

  1. Nasal Aspirators: Generally rated highly for their ability to effectively clear nasal passages, though some parents find them challenging to use.
  2. Saline Drops: Consistently rated as a must-have for managing nasal congestion safely and effectively.
  3. Humidifiers: Praised for their ability to maintain optimal humidity levels and ease of use.
  4. White Noise Machines: Highly rated for helping babies sleep better by masking disruptive noises.
  5. Air Purifiers: Receive high ratings for improving air quality and reducing allergens, making them a great investment for a baby’s room.

Creating a Safe Sleep Environment

Ensuring a safe and comfortable sleep environment is crucial for your baby’s health and well-being. Here are some tips and considerations for creating the ideal sleep setting for your baby.

Importance of Room Temperature and Humidity

  1. Optimal Temperature: Keep the room temperature between 68-72°F (20-22°C) to ensure your baby is comfortable without overheating or getting too cold.
  2. Maintaining Humidity: Use a humidifier to keep humidity levels between 40-60%, which helps prevent dry air that can irritate nasal passages.
  3. Ventilation: Ensure good airflow in the room to prevent stuffiness and maintain fresh air.
  4. Monitoring Devices: Use a thermometer and hygrometer to regularly check and maintain the ideal room conditions.
  5. Seasonal Adjustments: Adjust the room’s temperature and humidity settings based on the season to keep your baby comfortable year-round.

Choosing the Right Crib and Bedding

  1. Crib Safety Standards: Ensure the crib meets safety standards with properly spaced slats and no drop-side rails.
  2. Firm Mattress: Use a firm, flat mattress to reduce the risk of SIDS and provide adequate support for your baby.
  3. Breathable Bedding: Choose breathable materials for crib sheets and avoid using pillows, blankets, or stuffed animals in the crib.
  4. Mattress Covers: Use a waterproof mattress cover to protect against spills and keep the mattress clean and dry.
  5. Avoid Overcrowding: Keep the crib free from unnecessary items to ensure a safe and comfortable sleep space.

Monitoring Baby’s Sleep: Why Does My Baby Sleep with Mouth Open but Breathes Through Nose?

Why Does My Baby Sleep with Mouth Open but Breathes Through Nose?

Monitoring your baby’s sleep can provide peace of mind and help you track their sleep patterns for any potential issues.

Using Baby Monitors

  1. Video Monitors: Use video monitors to visually check on your baby without disturbing their sleep.
  2. Audio Monitors: Audio monitors can alert you to any sounds, such as crying or coughing, that may indicate discomfort.
  3. Smart Monitors: Smart monitors track sleep patterns, breathing, and movements, providing detailed insights into your baby’s sleep.
  4. Two-Way Communication: Monitors with two-way communication allow you to soothe your baby with your voice without entering the room.
  5. Portable Monitors: Portable monitors are convenient for keeping an eye on your baby while you’re in different parts of the house.

Tracking Sleep Patterns

  1. Sleep Journals: Keep a sleep journal to track your baby’s sleep times, durations, and any disturbances.
  2. Sleep Apps: Use sleep tracking apps designed for parents to monitor and analyze your baby’s sleep patterns.
  3. Wearable Devices: Wearable devices for babies can track sleep quality, movements, and vitals, providing comprehensive data.
  4. Routine Adjustments: Use the data collected to adjust bedtime routines and identify any factors affecting sleep quality.
  5. Consulting Experts: Share the sleep data with your pediatrician for professional insights and recommendations.

Conclusion: Why Does My Baby Sleep with Mouth Open but Breathes Through Nose?

Understanding why your baby sleeps with their mouth open but breathes through their nose can be a journey filled with worry and learning. From ensuring clear nasal passages to maintaining a comfortable sleep environment, there are many steps you can take to help your baby breathe easier and sleep better. Remember, if you have any concerns, don’t hesitate to consult your pediatrician for advice and guidance. With the right care and attention, you can create a safe and comfortable sleep setting that promotes your baby’s health and well-being.


1. Is it normal for babies to sleep with their mouths open?
Yes, it can be normal for babies to sleep with their mouths open due to underdeveloped muscles and nasal congestion. However, persistent mouth breathing may need to be evaluated by a doctor.

2. How can I help my baby breathe better at night?
Using saline drops, a humidifier, and ensuring a clean, allergen-free sleep environment can help your baby breathe better. Elevating the crib and using a nasal aspirator can also provide relief.

3. When should I be concerned about my baby’s mouth breathing?
You should be concerned if your baby shows signs of difficulty feeding, chronic snoring, frequent infections, slow growth, or noticeable behavioral changes. These may indicate an underlying issue requiring medical attention.

4. What are the long-term effects of mouth breathing in babies?
Chronic mouth breathing can lead to dental issues, facial development problems, and respiratory problems. It can also affect sleep quality, leading to behavioral and learning difficulties.

5. Can allergies cause my baby to sleep with their mouth open?
Yes, allergies can cause nasal congestion, leading to mouth breathing. Identifying and managing allergens in the home can help alleviate this issue.

By understanding and addressing the reasons behind your baby’s mouth breathing, you can help them achieve better sleep and overall health. With the right tools and knowledge, you can ensure that your little one breathes easy and sleeps soundly.

Avatar photo

Pat Anderson

Parenthood is a transformative journey filled with love, challenges, and countless precious moments. From pregnancy and newborn care to toddler tantrums and teenage milestones, I cover a wide range of topics, offering practical tips, personal anecdotes, and helpful resources. Together, let's embrace the joys, conquer the challenges, and create a nurturing and loving environment for our little ones to thrive.

More to Explore