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What Are Common Sounds of a Newborn Breathing?

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Updated April 15, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

newborn breathing

Observe the newborn breathing patterns in your precious child.

Bill Davenport
Question: What Are Common Sounds of a Newborn Breathing?
My baby makes the weirdest sounds when he breathes. Is this unusual? Can you describe typical newborn breathing patterns so I don't worry unnecessarily?
Answer:

Despite the fact that your newborn is cute and adorable and so very little, sometimes the noises he makes are anything but. Newborn breathing can have a distinct set of sounds and patterns, and it is a good idea to become familiar with those sounds so you can discern what sounds "normal" and what might need more attention.

Get to Know Your Newborn Breathing Sounds

One of the best things that you can do is simply spend time with your baby, quietly listening to him breathe. Whether he is awake or asleep, just give a listen to the different noises he makes. His breathing sounds may vary depending on what he is doing (eating, sleeping, quietly awake), and getting to know those different sounds can save you from mistakenly being convinced that something is wrong. If you have a hospital birth, that is one of the reasons why rooming-in can be very advantageous.

Make Note of Sounds and Motions as Baby Breathes

So, as mentioned, depending on what your baby is doing might have him producing different sounds. Given the fact that babies are naturally nose-breathers and not mouth-breathers, you'll experience a full range of whistling, gurgling and snorting sounds as their tiny nasal passages breathe in air. As you are getting aquainted with your new bundle of joy, make note of the following behaviors your baby displays in various situations:

  • General sounds and noises he makes as he breathes.
  • The degree to which his nostrils tend to flare as he breathes during different activities.
  • The rhythm of his chest rising and falling.
  • Sounds that are unique to when he feeds from the breast or from the bottle.
  • The sound when he sneezes (don't worry, newborns sneeze frequently for good reasons).
  • How his breathing sounds change as you change his position.

Perfectly Normal Baby Breathing Noises

So after sometime observing your precious bundle, you'll begin to see that he really does make lots of different noises, that are generally no cause for alarm. Some sounds you might hear include:

  • Gurgling: as saliva pools at the back of the mouth.
  • Snorts: if your newborn deep sleep
  • Hiccups: babies are prone to hiccups, both when they were in the womb and when they join the world.
  • Whistling: Because the newborn nasal passage is so narrow, you'll often hear whistling as he draws in a breath.

Periodic Breathing and Newborns

Another perfectly normal breathing pattern you should be aware of is called periodic breathing. You'll see this marked pattern when your newborn is asleep. He'll cycle through rabid breathing, shallow breathing and short pauses of a few seconds. This trend is nothing to be concerned about. It will NOT affect your baby's coloring or heart rate.

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