Catherine Completely Baby Sleep Consultant

Catherine Thompson
Baby Sleep Consultant & Owner of Completely Baby

Good quality sleep is crucial for your little one’s development, but what happens when that sleep is disrupted by snoring? Occasional snoring in babies and toddlers can be quite common and often isn’t a cause for concern, whether due to a stuffy nose, allergies, or particular sleep positions. However, snoring can be a sign of a bigger baby sleep issue so it always helps to get it checked out. Here’s everything you need to know about baby and toddler snoring to help you recognise what’s normal and when you need to seek a little help. Let’s get started.

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baby snoring in bed dressed in romper

Baby’s are noisy sleepers!

One of the first things you discover as a new parent is exactly how noisy little ones can be in their sleep. And it’s generally completely normal! Think back to that first night home as you lay awake listening to every little grunt, groan and noise that came out of their mouth. They can make so many different baby noises when sleeping.

If you have a 6-week-old grunting and straining all night, or a 7-month-old baby grunting and straining, these are most likely common noises often related to digestion. It’s enough to keep you awake with worry. A baby grunting in sleep isn’t usually a cause for concern. Their tiny tummies are still learning how to work on the outside and simple causes like trapped air can result in discomfort for your little one. If you want to help your newborn, then try keeping them upright for longer after a feed and burping them to help pass the uncomfortable air.

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In general, these noises are completely normal. You even get used to them over time… Snoring, however, can seemingly come out of nowhere, so when it doubt, always get it checked out.

Babies and snoring

Newborns snore? Yes! Snoring can often come as a shock, after all how does such a little person make such big noises. However, it’s also fairly common and up to 15% of children snore – that’s a lot of loud sleepers. It’s usually caused by narrow airways, which is nothing to worry about in certain circumstances. As you would expect, a toddler’s and baby’s breathing airways are very small and narrow, and these tiny passages can fill with mucus and fluids. This can result in snoring. For example, while having a cold isn’t ideal, it can narrow the airways and cause extra mucus to be produced, temporarily resulting in snoring until your little one gets better.

Snoring vs stridor

While occasional snoring can be normal, if you notice a stridor in your little one then take them to get checked out straight away. It’s important to know the difference between snoring and stridor.

  • Snoring: their chests will rise and fall normally, however a sound will escape with each breath. This sound is caused by narrow airways. It’s usually a low-pitched sound.
  • Stridor: on the other hand, a stridor produces a high-pitched, squeaky sound with each breath and the chest can sink in depending on the severity of it. When this happens, it’s a key indicator that your little one is working too hard to breathe and needs to be seen straight away. It can often be caused by an upper airway infection.

Other causes for snoring

While occasional snoring can be normal, persistent, loud snoring in babies and toddlers can also sometimes be a sign of a larger issue, like obstructive sleep apnea.

While many children snore (about 15%), only 1 to 3 percent of children experience sleep apnea. They are most commonly between the ages of three and six years.

This condition, though rare in children, can lead to disruptive sleep patterns, daytime behavioiur issues, and developmental delays.

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) is a sleep disorder that involves breathing difficulties in babies and toddlers when they are asleep. As you fall asleep, your muscles relax, which includes those in the upper airway. These can then be blocked by enlarged adenoids or tonsils, which results in the snoring. This form of sleep-disordered-breathing It can lead to disrupted sleep, excessive daytime sleepiness, and in severe cases, developmental problems.

Recognising OSA in babies and toddlers

Is it normal for babies to snore? The big question you will be asking is how to tell whether your little one’s snoring is simply a cold they are getting over, or if it’s caused by OSA. The key indicator is how long the snoring lasts for. If it’s caused by a cold, you can expect it to improve as your child’s cold symptoms ease up.

If your child is experiencing prolonged snoring, here are some of the key signs to be on the lookout for:

  • Gasping or choking during sleep
  • Loud snoring with pauses in breathing and difficulty breathing during sleep
  • Restlessness
  • Mouth breathing
  • Headaches/tired in the morning

If you notice any of these signs and suspect your little one has OSA, then the best thing to do is schedule an appointment with your GP. They will then refer your child on for a sleep study to diagnose the OSA, or onto a pediatrician or Ear, Nose & Throat specialist to help.

Managing OSA in babies and toddlers

OSA in babies can occur due to various factors, such as enlarged tonsils or adenoids, obesity, or certain medical and genetic conditions. Management of OSA will depend on the severity and the underlying cause.

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The GP might recommend using an oximeter on your little one, which is a tool that measures their oxygen levels during the night. This will help determine if they stop breathing at any point during the night and can help with diagnosing the underlying cause.

Treatment options can range from changes in sleep environment and positioning to medical interventions, like surgery to take out the tonsils and adenoids.

toddler boy snoring clothed in bed

What can you do about baby and toddler snoring?

Creating a healthy sleep environment is also essential. By eliminating any environmental factors, you will gain a clearer picture of exactly what is causing your little one’s snoring. Keep your child’s room free of allergens, ensure the room is a comfortable temperature, and ensure your child is well-hydrated. Consider using a vaporiser if you think your child’s snoring is due to dry air.

If you’re concerned about your snoring baby or snoring toddler, the first step is to observe their sleep patterns. Make note of their noisy breathing, it’s worth taking a video if you can! the frequency and volume of their snoring, and any other sleep disturbances causing restless sleep. If the snoring is caused by something temporary, like a cold, then their snoring should disappear along with the symptoms. If it lingers, then it’s time to get them checked out with your GP.

Signs snoring is a problem for your little one

Even though occasional mild snoring can be normal, if you’re worried then it’s advised to get your child checked out. Not sure when to get them checked? Here are some common issues to be on the lookout for, which are worth mentioning to your GP:

  • Snoring frequently: three or more nights a week
  • Gasps or difficulty breathing while sleeping
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Below-average weight gain

toddler girl snoring in bed clothed

FAQ About Baby & Toddler Snoring

1. When should I be concerned about my baby or toddler’s snoring?

Persistent, loud snoring could be a sign of a larger issue, such as obstructive sleep apnea, a condition that can lead to disrupted sleep, daytime lethargy and even developmental delays. This is why all snoring should be checked out by a medical professional, just to be safe. If your child’s snoring is frequent, loud, or comes with other symptoms such as gasping or choking, it’s even more important to consult with a healthcare professional.

2. Can a 7-month-old snore?

Yes, babies can snore at times from the day they are born, generally caused by narrow airways. However, If the snoring persists at any age or you are unsure/ concerned, this should be investigated – take them to your GP who can review them.

3. When should I be concerned about my toddler snoring?

In many cases, occasional snoring can be completely normal in toddlers and not a cause for concern, for instance when they have a cold. However, if your child is regularly snoring or noisily breathing there’s no harm in getting your little one checked out. If they have been snoring over a period of time or are tired and falling asleep during the day and showing behavioural changes, or if you are concerned about their breathing – then it’s always best to take them to the GP.

4. How can I help reduce my baby or toddler’s snoring?

Creating a healthy sleep environment is crucial. This includes keeping the room free of allergens, ensuring a comfortable temperature, and keeping your child well-hydrated. A vaporiser may help if your child’s snoring is due to dry air.

toddler boy snoring in bed

Expert help at Completely Baby

At Completely Baby, we’re here to support you through every stage of your child’s development, including addressing concerns about baby and toddler snoring. See our home page here for more resources on baby and toddler health and development. If you’re worried at any point about your baby or toddler’s snoring or breathing, it’s important to make an appointment with your GP.

* The information in this article should not be used for medical purposes. If you’re concerned you should always reach out to a Child Health Nurse or your GP.

Catherine Completely Baby Sleep Consultant

Catherine Thompson
Baby Sleep Consultant & Owner of Completely Baby

Did you find this article helpful? I am a highly experienced baby sleep consultant with a unique educational and healthcare background who supports tired parents to help their babies find sleep more easily. If you want to chat about your situation please book in a free chat today by clicking the below button now! Alternatively you can text or call me on: +61 406 344 010.