Baby Grunting While Sleeping Explained & What To do About It (2023)

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on understanding why babies grunt so much while sleeping.

In this article, we will delve into the common causes of this intriguing behavior and discuss whether it’s a normal part of infant development.

We will also explore potential signs of distress or illness that parents should look out for.

Later, we’ll provide some practical tips for soothing a grunting baby and advice on when to consult a pediatrician.

Our aim is to help you better understand your baby’s behavior and alleviate any concerns you may have.

Common Causes of Grunting in Babies During Sleep

1.Immature Nervous System

Babies’ nervous systems are still developing, and sometimes this can result in irregular breathing patterns during sleep.

Their brain is learning to regulate all bodily functions, including breathing and muscle movements.

As a result, they may grunt as they learn to control their diaphragm and vocal cords while breathing.

2.Digestion Process

The digestive system of babies is also in the process of maturing.

As they adjust to feeding and digesting milk, whether breast milk or formula, they may experience gas or bloating.

This can lead to discomfort and grunting, especially while they’re sleeping.

3.Sleep Cycles and Dreaming

Babies, like adults, go through different sleep cycles.

During the REM (rapid eye movement) phase, which is when dreaming occurs, babies might make various noises, including grunting.

This is completely normal and a part of healthy sleep patterns.

4.Transitioning Between Sleep Stages

The transition between different sleep stages can sometimes cause babies to grunt.

This is especially true when they’re moving from a deep to a lighter stage of sleep, or vice versa.

Grunting at these times can simply be a part of their body’s adjustment to these transitions.

(Video) Is it normal for my baby to grunt?

5.Need for a Diaper Change

Sometimes, a wet or soiled diaper can cause discomfort leading to grunting noises.

The baby might be in the process of filling their diaper, or the diaper might be uncomfortable, causing them to grunt in their sleep.


Babies can also grunt due to nasal or chest congestion.

If your baby has a cold, allergies, or a respiratory infection, they might make grunting noises while trying to breathe through blocked nasal passages.


This is a condition where the soft tissues of the larynx fall over the airway opening and partially block it, leading to noisy breathing or grunting.

It’s usually harmless and resolves on its own as the baby grows.

Remember, while grunting is usually normal, it’s important to pay attention to other signs or symptoms.

If your baby’s grunting is accompanied by other distress signals such as blue or pale skin, labored breathing, or refusal to eat, it’s essential to seek medical advice promptly.

Always trust your instincts as a parent, and when in doubt, consult a healthcare professional.

Is Grunting While Sleeping Normal?

Yes, grunting while sleeping is quite normal in babies, especially in the first few months after birth.

This grunting can often be attributed to the immature development of a baby’s physical and nervous systems.

They are still learning to control their bodily functions, which includes their breathing and digestion.

As a result, they may grunt during sleep due to irregular breathing patterns or digestive discomfort.

Also, babies make a variety of noises while they sleep, including grunting, cooing, whimpering, and even occasional crying.

These sounds can be a part of their sleep cycles, particularly during the REM (rapid eye movement) phase of sleep, which is associated with dreaming.

When to Worry: Signs of Distress or Illness

While many of the sounds and behaviors your baby displays are completely normal, there are certain signs and symptoms that may indicate distress or illness.

Here are some signals to watch for:


1.Changes in Breathing Patterns

While irregular breathing is common in newborns, certain patterns can indicate a problem.

These include:

Rapid breathing (more than 60 breaths per minute)

Persistent grunting with every breath

Pauses in breathing for more than 10 seconds

Struggling or appearing to work hard to breathe, such as flaring nostrils or using abdominal muscles to breathe

2.Color Changes

Changes in your baby’s color can also be a sign of distress.

These include:

Persistent blueness around the mouth, lips, or tongue

Paleness or a grayish color to the skin

Yellowish skin or eyes, which could indicate jaundice

3.Feeding and Digestion Problems

Trouble with feeding or digestion can also indicate a problem.

These signs might include:

Consistent difficulty with feeding or refusal to feed

Frequent spitting up or vomiting

Blood or green bile in the vomit

Not gaining weight or growing as expected

(Video) Infant Distress Warning Signs (Grunting Baby Sound)

4.Changes in Behavior or Activity Level

A baby’s behavior or activity level can also signal distress.

Watch out for:

Persistent crying or irritability that can’t be consoled

Lethargy or lack of responsiveness

Changes in muscle tone, such as being either too floppy or too stiff

5.Other Signs of Illness

Additional signs that your baby might be ill include:

Fever, which in a baby is considered to be a rectal temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher

Diarrhea or persistently watery stools

Unusual spots, rashes, or swelling on the skin

Remember, while this list covers many of the key signs of distress or illness in babies, it’s not exhaustive.

You know your baby best.

If something doesn’t seem right, trust your instincts and seek medical advice.

It’s always better to be safe when it comes to your baby’s health.

Tips for Soothing a Grunting Baby

Soothing a grunting baby can sometimes be a challenge, but there are several strategies you can try:

1. Gentle Rocking

Babies often find the gentle, rhythmic movement of rocking soothing. This can be done in your arms, a baby swing, or a rocking crib.

2. Swaddling

Swaddling can help comfort a baby, especially during sleep. It provides a sense of security and warmth similar to the womb. However, ensure your baby is swaddled safely, with enough room at the bottom for them to bend their legs up and out.

3. White Noise

White noise can help soothe a grunting baby, as it mimics the constant sounds they heard in the womb. This could be a white noise machine, a fan, or even the sound of a vacuum cleaner.

(Video) Newborn sneezing, grunting, hiccups and blowing bubbles, noise from the chest - is it normal?

4. Pacifier

A pacifier can help soothe a baby who is grunting or making noises due to discomfort or restlessness.

5. Burping

If your baby’s grunting seems to be related to digestion, make sure to burp them properly after each feeding. This can help to release any trapped gas that might be causing discomfort.

6. Tummy Time

Providing supervised tummy time when your baby is awake and alert can help promote digestion and gas release. This can, in turn, reduce grunting related to digestive discomfort.

7. Consult a Pediatrician

If you’ve tried these methods and your baby continues to grunt excessively, it might be time to consult a pediatrician. They can help determine if there’s an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.

Remember, every baby is unique, and what works for one might not work for another. It might take some trial and error to figure out the best way to soothe your baby.


In conclusion, grunting in babies during sleep is usually a normal part of their development, often linked to their immature nervous system or digestion process.

However, if your baby exhibits signs of distress or illness, it’s important to consult with a pediatrician.

As a parent, understanding these behaviors can help you ensure your baby’s well-being and provide comfort when needed.

Always remember, every baby is unique and it’s important to get to know your own baby’s patterns and signals.

Baby Grunting While Sleeping Explained & What To do About It (1)


Christina is a passionate mother of two and a writer who specializes in parenting topics. She has been writing about parenting and family life since she had her first child as a teenager. Christina is a firm believer that a strong family is built on a solid foundation of communication and understanding, and she loves to share her experiences and advice with other parents.

(Video) Grunting / respiratory distress of newborn born by Cesarean


Baby Grunting While Sleeping Explained & What To do About It? ›

Grunting is a normal sound for your baby to make during sleep, along with gurgles, squeaks, and snores. Most of these sounds are completely normal and do not indicate any health or breathing problems. To lower the risk of any breathing issues during sleep make sure: Your baby's clothes are loose, but not too loose.

Why does my baby grunt and squirm all night? ›

Some babies squirm, grunt, and even wheeze at night as they develop their breathing muscles. Their breathing patterns change and they breathe more slowly when they are asleep, which can cause them to grunt. Check that your baby is breathing calmly and there are no other signs of distress.

At what age do babies stop grunting at night? ›

Most babies will outgrow their grunting habits between six and twelve weeks. The muscles your baby uses for digesting and breathing will strengthen in the first few months, eliminating the grunting habit.

Should I ignore baby grunting? ›

Is it okay to ignore a baby who is grunting, but not unhappy? Yes! Parents of second or third or fourth babies learn that babies grunt and it doesn't always mean they need us. Parent of first babies are a little more anxious and are tuned in to every squeak and rustle.

Why does my baby grunt and kick legs in his sleep? ›

Many parents worry that a baby's grunting means something is wrong or the baby is in pain. Rest assured, most babies grunt and squirm a lot during rest and it isn't necessarily a sleep problem. A newborn baby grunting and squirming while sleeping is perfectly normal. Baby sleep is restless.

What is grunting baby syndrome? ›

Infant dyschezia is a specific condition. Another name for infant dyschezia is grunting baby syndrome. Infants with dyschezia appear to have difficulty pooping, but they have no signs of constipation. They might strain, grunt or cry for 10 to 30 minutes before they poop, but when the poop comes out, it's normal.

How can I relieve my baby's gas? ›

Some positioning tips: Feed your baby as upright as possible; lay your child on their back and pedal their legs with your hands to help expel gas from below; if your child is awake after a feeding, place them on their belly. Increase tummy time.

How do I stop grunting habits? ›

There are also pharmacological approaches to alleviating involuntary grunting noises, which might include things like antidepressants, antipsychotics, cannabinoids, and other psychoactive drugs. Outside of formal behavioral therapy, communicating with your loved one about the noise they're making is often a good start.

How many months do babies stop grunting? ›

The bad news is there's nothing you can do to stop or cure grunting baby syndrome in your baby. The good news? It will clear up on its own by the time your baby is 3-4 months old.

What makes a baby restless at night? ›

The average adult sleep cycle lasts between 90 and 120 minutes (with 20 to 25 percent in REM). In contrast, your infant's sleep cycle lasts only 50 minutes (with 50 percent in REM) until they're six months old. These shorter cycles and frequent REM phases are what causes restlessness in your baby.

Is grunting a part of autism? ›

For a child with autism, stimming might involve motor tics like rocking back and forth, licking lips, flapping hands, or repetitive blinking. It may also verbal tics like grunting, or repeating words or phrases, a behavior known as scripting or echolalia.

Why is my baby grunting and groaning so much? ›

Newborn grunting sounds are generally related to their digestion. Your child is getting familiar with formula or breast milk. They may have gas in their belly, causing discomfort. A newborn grunting usually means they are moving gas and stool through their digestive system.

Does grunting mean trouble breathing? ›

A grunting sound can be heard each time the person exhales. This grunting is the body's way of trying to keep air in the lungs so they will stay open. Nose flaring. The openings of the nose spreading open while breathing may indicate that a person is having to work harder to breathe.

Should I give my newborn gripe water? ›

Gripe water is not recommended for babies younger than 1 month. The digestive tract is sensitive and still developing at this age. Most pediatricians will advise parents to try other methods of soothing a colicky baby before giving them gripe water.

Can babies smell their mom? ›

The tiniest newborn babies can sniff out breast milk and even lactating women because breast milk has very specific fragrances that are extremely attractive to babies. Infants can also recognize their own mothers simply by smell.

What causes uncontrolled grunting? ›

Constant grunting and groaning are involuntary and uncontrollable vocalizations, typical for several types of dementia, and have also been associated with advanced progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP).

Is grunting serious? ›

Though grunting is normal, but in rare cases, it could also indicate severe health issues such as respiratory disease. Parents and doctors may provide appropriate care if the baby constantly grunts and experiences fever.

What is the best position to sleep a gassy baby? ›

When a baby has trouble sleeping due to gassiness, it may be tempting to place them on their side or stomach to see if that helps their digestion. However, to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), the best sleeping position for a gassy baby—and every baby—is on their back.

Do pacifiers help with gas? ›

Using a pacifier.

Almost all babies will find some baby gas relief by sucking on a pacifier,” O'Connor says, because the sucking action releases endorphins that will soothe them.

What are the signs of colic in a baby? ›

What are the symptoms of colic?
  • Burping often or passing a lot of gas. This is likely because of swallowing air while crying. It doesn't cause colic.
  • Having a bright red (flushed) face.
  • Having a tight belly.
  • Curling up their legs toward their belly when crying.
  • Clenching their fists when crying.

What is grunting in sleep? ›

Catathrenia is the medical term for groaning during sleep. Persons with this condition emit long, sometimes loud groans on exhalation or out-breathing, most commonly during REM or deep sleep. Catathrenia is, in this sense, the opposite of snoring, which occurs on inhalation or in-breathing.

What is the meaning of the grunting sound? ›

It's an animal-like sound that people make when they're inarticulate, angry, sullen, or lazy — or sometimes if they're hurt or afraid.

Why is grunting important? ›

By grunting, you're essentially channeling your inner animal, which helps you move more weight. In fact, a Drexel University study found that grunting instead of regular breathing can boost maximum static handgrip strength by as much as 25 percent.

Is it OK that my baby grunts a lot? ›

Don't be alarmed if your newborn sounds like a piglet – grunting by babies is totally normal.

Why is my 2 month old baby grunting and squirming while sleeping? ›

Why does my baby grunt and squirm while sleeping? Basically, they're learning how to drive that little body, even in their sleep. And a grunt is a sign that they are working hard on learning to poop. You may have heard this referred to as grunting baby syndrome or infant dyschezia.

Why is baby gas worse at night? ›

At nighttime, there's less movement and the gas can build up and get trapped. Additionally, babies tend to feed close to bedtime, and air introduced during this feed can become trapped. Also, our digestive systems are still very active at night and the results of digestion can be… gas!

What is witching hour baby? ›

The witching hour is a time when an otherwise content baby is extremely fussy. It typically occurs daily between 5:00 pm and 11:00 pm. It can last a few minutes to a couple of hours. For most babies, the witching hour starts to occur around 2-3 weeks and peaks at 6 weeks.

What is grunting in pediatrics? ›

GRUNTING OCCURS when a newborn exhales against a partially closed glottis.

What noises trigger autism? ›

Hyperacusis (say it with me: HY-per-uh-CUE-sis), is an increased sensitivity to sound that is commonly found among people with autism. This means that certain noises, such as classroom bells, the radio or the TV, may be uncomfortable for your child to hear.

What are the 5 main symptoms of autism? ›

Social Communication and Interaction Skills
  • Avoids or does not keep eye contact.
  • Does not respond to name by 9 months of age.
  • Does not show facial expressions like happy, sad, angry, and surprised by 9 months of age.
  • Does not play simple interactive games like pat-a-cake by 12 months of age.

What are 5 signs of respiratory distress? ›

Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome Symptoms
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Fast breathing, or taking lots of rapid, shallow breaths.
  • Fast heart rate.
  • Coughing that produces phlegm.
  • Blue fingernails or blue tone to the skin or lips.
  • Extreme tiredness.
  • Fever.
  • Crackling sound in the lungs.
Mar 24, 2022

What are 4 common signs of respiratory distress in a newborn? ›

What are the symptoms?
  • Fast and shallow breathing.
  • Grunting.
  • Flaring of the nostrils with each breath.
  • Bluish tone to a baby's skin and lips.
  • Pulling inward of the muscles between the ribs when breathing.
Mar 24, 2022

What are 3 signs of breathing difficulty? ›

Signs and symptoms of breathlessness
  • difficulty catching your breath.
  • noisy breathing.
  • very fast, shallow breaths.
  • an increase in your pulse rate.
  • wheezing.
  • chest pain.
  • skin that looks pale and slightly blue, especially around your mouth.
  • cold, clammy skin.

What happens if baby doesn't burp and falls asleep? ›

What happens if a sleeping baby doesn't burp? If you're concerned about what happens if your baby won't burp after feeding, try not to worry. He'll likely be just fine and will end up passing the gas from the other end.

Why is gripe water not recommended? ›

One such irrational practice is the use of gripe water for infants on a routine basis and for colic. [2] Anything (including gripe water) other than breast milk administered to a baby during the first six months may increase the risk of introducing bacteria, causing allergies and irritating the baby's intestines.

Is mylicon better than gripe water? ›

Gripe water and Mylicon are important products that can be used specifically for babies to relieve some mild conditions. The key difference between gripe water and Mylicon is that gripe water is more like a natural herbal remedy, whereas Mylicon is an FDA-approved medication.

What does a squirmy baby mean? ›

When babies are uncomfortable, it's sometimes hard to pinpoint the cause of their distress. Babies with gas may be squirmy, as they struggle to get comfortable. They may cry and be fussier than normal, bring their legs up to their chest and kick, or have trouble sleeping.

Why does my newborn make noises all night? ›

Babies' airways are narrow, so dry air or even the slightest bit of mucus can cause whistling, rattling, or wheezing sounds while they sleep. Acid reflux or even all that milk-chugging can clog their throat and cause uneven breathing sounds as well.

How do I stop my baby from being restless at night? ›

Putting drowsy babies in bed helps link it with the process of falling asleep. Remember to place newborns on their backs to sleep unless your health care provider says another position is better for your child's medical needs. And clear the bed of blankets and other soft items.

How do you calm a restless baby sleep? ›

Gently rub their back. If your baby goes to sleep, remember to always lay her down in her crib on her back. Turn on a calming sound. Sounds that remind babies of being inside the womb may be calming, such as a white noise device, the humming sound of a fan, or the recording of a heartbeat.

What are 4 signs of stress or distress in babies? ›

Signs of stress—cues that your baby is getting too much stimulation:
  • hiccupping.
  • yawning.
  • sneezing.
  • frowning.
  • looking away.
  • squirming.
  • frantic, disorganized activity.
  • arms and legs pushing away.

Why is my 4 week old grunting and straining all night? ›

Baby grunting: When your baby grunts while sleeping, it often means that they're adjusting to having bowel movements. Newbies are still getting used to using their abdominal muscles to move poop and gas through their system.

Why does my son keep making grunting noises? ›

Involuntary repetitive sounds, such as grunting, sniffing, or throat clearing, are called vocal tics. Tic disorders usually start in childhood, first presenting at approximately 5 years of age. In general, they are more common among males compared with females.

What stage of sleep does SIDS occur? ›

Infants at the age when SIDS occurs quite frequently spend most of their sleep in a stage known as rapid eye movement or REM sleep. This sleep stage is characterized by the dysregulation of various mechanosensory airway and chemosensory autonomous reflexes that are critical for survival (18, 19).

What month should babies get teeth? ›

When do babies start teething? Some babies are born with their first teeth. Others start teething before they are 4 months old, and some after 12 months. But most babies start teething at around 6 months.


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