Does your baby make gasping noises during sleep?

Perhaps these gasping noises are being picked up by the baby monitor. Or maybe you hear them only when you are right beside your baby.

It’s important for parents to become very familiar with what their baby’s breathing sounds like during sleep.

  • What is your baby’s normal?
  • Are you familiar enough with the normal to recognize when there’s been a change?

How Babies Breathe

“Babies breathe in a pattern called periodic breathing which occurs when they are sleeping,” says Dr. Lisa Lewis, MD, a board certified pediatrician in Fort Worth, Texas, and author of “Feed the Baby Hummus, Pediatrician-Backed Secrets from Cultures Around the World.”

Dr. Lewis explains, “The baby breathes slowly, pauses for a few seconds, and inhales air. The inhalation may sound long like a gasp.

“Some babies may have trouble swallowing saliva at night and make a gasping noise. The baby will make a loud noise that sounds as if inhaling air.

“Some babies make a gasping noise with a squeak, which can be from a floppy vocal cord.

“Babies often take occasional large breaths while sleeping to keep their smaller airways open.

“Any complaint of gasping should be discussed with the doctor. A true gasping noise with distress or grunting is considered an emergency, and the parent should seek immediate care.”

If you do not have a baby monitor, then get one. In the meantime, if your baby makes what you’d describe as gasping sounds while sleeping — and you have not had a pediatrician examine your baby — then you absolutely should make an appointment.

Chances are, there will be nothing serious found in the exam. But at least if that’s the case, you will have peace of mind.

When putting your baby to sleep, make sure that any blankets, coverings or pillows cannot end up in a position that might block their nose or mouth from taking in air.

Having 20+ years’ experience, Dr. Lewis completed her pediatrics residency at Texas A&M University Health Science Center, Scott and White Memorial Hospital. For two years afterward she was assistant professor in the department of pediatrics at Texas A&M University Health Science Center.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.