Newborns are adorable and fascinating creatures, but they can also have some behaviors that may puzzle or worry their parents. One of these behaviors is sleeping with their mouth open. While this may seem harmless or cute, it could actually indicate some underlying problems that need attention. In this article, we will explore the causes, risks, and prevention of newborn sleeping with mouth open.
Causes of Newborn Sleeping with Mouth Open
There are several reasons why a newborn may sleep with their mouth open. These reasons can include nasal congestion, enlarged adenoids or tonsils, or simply a natural sleeping position. Additionally, newborns are still learning how to coordinate their breathing and swallowing, which can lead to them sleeping with their mouths open at times. If you have concerns about your newborn’s sleeping habits, it’s always best to consult with a pediatrician for personalized advice.
Risks of Newborn Sleeping with Mouth Open
Sleeping with the mouth open can have several consequences for newborns, such as:
- Dry mouth and lips: Mouth breathing can cause the saliva to evaporate, leaving the mouth and lips dry and cracked. This can increase the risk of oral infections, tooth decay, and gum disease. It can also affect the taste and digestion of food.
- Poor sleep quality: Mouth breathing can affect the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the blood, which can disrupt the sleep cycle and cause frequent awakenings. This can affect the growth and development of the newborn, as well as their mood and behavior.
- Facial and dental changes: Mouth breathing can affect the shape and structure of the face and mouth, especially in the long term. It can cause the lower jaw to drop and the upper jaw to narrow, resulting in a long and narrow face, a high and arched palate, and a small and recessed chin. It can also cause the teeth to become crowded, crooked, or protruded, affecting the bite and the appearance of the smile.
- Breathing and speech problems: Mouth breathing can affect the development and function of the respiratory and vocal systems, especially in the long term. It can cause the nasal passages to become inflamed and swollen, reducing the airflow and increasing the risk of infections and snoring. It can also affect the tone and quality of the voice, as well as the articulation and pronunciation of words.
Prevention of Newborn Sleeping with Mouth Open
If your newborn sleeps with their mouth open, you should consult your pediatrician to determine the cause and the best course of action. Depending on the diagnosis, some of the possible treatments or preventive measures are:
- Clearing the nasal passages: If your newborn has congestion, you can use a saline spray or drops to moisten and loosen the mucus, and a bulb syringe or a nasal aspirator to gently suction it out. You can also use a humidifier or a vaporizer to add moisture and warmth to the air and avoid exposure to smoke, dust, or other irritants.
- Correcting the deviated septum: If your newborn has a deviated septum, you may need to consult an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist to evaluate the severity and the need for surgery. Surgery may be recommended if the deviation is causing significant breathing problems, recurrent infections, or facial deformities. Surgery may be performed at any age, but it is usually delayed until the nose has fully grown, which is around 15 to 18 years old.
- Treating the tongue-tie: If your newborn has a tongue-tie, you may need to consult a lactation consultant, a speech therapist, or a dentist to evaluate the impact and the need for intervention. Intervention may be recommended if the tongue-tie is affecting the feeding, speech, or oral health of the newborn. Intervention may involve a simple procedure called frenotomy, which involves cutting the band of tissue under the tongue with sterile scissors or a laser. This can be done at any age, but it is usually done within the first few weeks of life.
- Encouraging nose breathing: If your newborn has developed a habit of mouth breathing, you can try to encourage them to breathe through their nose by gently closing their mouth with your finger or a pacifier, or by placing them in a position that facilitates nose breathing, such as on their back with their head slightly elevated. You can also monitor and control any allergies that may affect their breathing, and maintain a clean and comfortable environment for them to sleep in.
Newborn sleeping with mouth open is not a normal or healthy behavior, and it may indicate some underlying problems that need attention. Sleeping with the mouth open can have several negative effects on the oral, facial, and overall health of the newborn, as well as their sleep quality and development. Therefore, it is important to consult your pediatrician if you notice your newborn sleeping with mouth open and to follow their advice on how to prevent or treat this condition. By doing so, you can help your newborn breathe better, sleep better, and grow better.