As an accidental mouth sleeper myself, it didn't really dawn on me that my daughter's occasional mouth sleeping (especially when she was a newborn) was anything out of the ordinary. While I was catching up on some baby book reading, however, it informed me that babies breath through their noses. So why does my baby sleep with their mouth open sometimes? Turns out, there's actually a reason (that might have something to do with that adorable snore she's got going on).
According to What To Expect, newborn babies automatically breathe out of their noses. So when a baby is sleeping with their mouth open, there's a good chance their nose is blocked. The site goes on to explain, saying:
"Just like Mommy and Daddy, your baby has mucus in this tiny nose, which can clog things up, resulting in rattling. If things get too stuffy, use a nasal aspirator (baby size, please), to help clear things out."
It might seem strange that your baby's nose would be blocked if you can't see any goo coming out, and especially if they don't sound stuffed up when they breathe. However, Care.com says babies' nostrils are so tiny they can get blocked by a very small amount of mucus.
In order to clear a newborn's nose so that they can breathe easily through it again, you have a few options. Parents advises caregivers to use a saline spray, putting just a few drops into the stuffed-up baby's nose. Parents are urged to lay their baby down on a flat surface and tilt their head back, just a bit, before dropping a few drops of saline into each nostril. According to Parents, "Don't worry if baby sneezes some of it out — it still made its way into the nasal passage."
In addition to nasal saline, Baby Center says parents can also use the hospital issue bulb syringe or nasal aspirator to suck the goo from your baby's nose after the nasal saline has loosened it up. You'll want to be sure you're not causing more harm than good by pushing mucus further up into their nostril, though, or by poking the bulb too far into their nose and hurting them.
What To Expect reminds reminds parents to clean out that bulb syringe every time so that it doesn't breed bacteria. Use warm, soapy water to clean the bulb syringe, sucking soapy water into it and then expelling it to get rid of whatever was lurking inside. Leave the syringe to dry with the tip facing down.
You can also steam up the bathroom and sit with your baby in the warm steam, or use a cool humidifier in your baby's room, to loosen what's blocking their nose.
You shouldn't be overly worried if your baby sleeps with its mouth open occasionally. However, if your baby sleeps with its mouth open all the time, it might be worth mentioning to his or her pediatrician. According to Best Health, mouth breathing in children can cause the upper jaw to form differently than it should, as well as allow cavities to take root more frequently than they should. As with almost any concern you may or may not have for your child, always feel free to consult with a licensed medical professional. After all, they went to school for this stuff.