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  • Does Your Baby Gurgle or Whistle In Her Sleep? Here's What Those Noises Mean

    by Kate Borbon .
Does Your Baby Gurgle or Whistle In Her Sleep? Here's What Those Noises Mean
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  • We always hear the phrase “sleep like a baby,” but as many parents will agree, it is not the best phrase to describe the way a baby typically sleeps. During the first few months of their lives, most babies tend not to sleep as deeply as their parents might want. Aside from not sleeping through the night, babies may also make different kinds of sounds while they are sleeping that can worry parents. Here is what you need to know about your baby’s sleep noises.

    Is it normal for babies to be restless in their sleep?

    According to experts, babies are typically restless sleepers, which is why they keep waking up in the middle of the night during their first months of life.

    “Newborn babies breathe through their noses, which allows them to eat and breathe at the same time,” pediatrician Samar Bashour tells The Bump. “As tiny as their noses are, the air passages inside them are even smaller, and little particles of mucus can further constrict them, causing crazy grunts, groans, whistles, and squeaks. You might also hear whimpers, laughs, cries, or yells — the baby equivalent of sleep talking.”

    Verywell Family lists down a couple of possible ways to explain why babies are restless sleepers. One is their circadian rhythms take some time to develop, so their bodies are still unable to get used to sleeping cycles.

    Babies also typically spend 50% of their time in a sleep stage called rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, or active sleep, until they are about 6 months old. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), at this stage, a baby may jerk her arms and legs, her eyes move under her closed eyelids, and her breathing is irregular.


    Sleep cycles of babies also usually last up to 50 minutes only, so after that period, they wake up and are unable to go back to sleep by themselves.  Finally, babies feed every few hours, including in the middle of the night.

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    Common baby sleep sounds

    The sounds your baby makes in his sleep can mean many things, and it does not usually require a trip to the doctor. But knowing what these noises mean may help you see if it is a problem that needs your immediate attention like your baby’s airways may be obstructed.


    If you hear your little one gurgling or making other throat noises in her sleep, Bashour says it likely means she is clearing her throat. Newborn babies are still in the middle of developing their swallowing, so they might gurgle up some of their saliva or the milk they just consumed. Eventually, as your baby learns how to swallow better, this occurrence will happen less frequently.


    Babies’ air passages are narrow, so it might get constricted by bits of dried mucus or milk. It can result in whistling noises when your baby breathes.


    Rattling is also a result of mucus being stuck inside your tot’s nose. To help ease your child’s stuffy nose, you can use a nasal aspirator to get rid of whatever may be clogging her airways. You may also simply wipe her nose area to help her breathe easier.


    Hiccups are perfectly normal for babies. In fact, according to What to Expect, even babies in utero can get the hiccups, specifically at around the six-month mark of your pregnancy, which is when the baby’s lungs start to develop. Hiccups can be caused by several things, such as swallowing too much air during feeding. One sign that may tell you your baby is takingtoo much air is if you hear her making too many gulping noises while nursing.

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    Pediatrician Dr. Lynette Mazur tells BabyCenter, “It’s a nuisance to parents, but not so much to the baby. Unless the hiccups interfere with daily activities like sleeping or eating, there’s no need to see a healthcare provider.”

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    When to call your pediatrician

    While the noises mentioned above should not be a cause of concern, there are breathing patterns that may mean your baby requires medical assistance. These include:

    • Persistent grunting. It may mean your child’s airways are blocked, and she is struggling to clear them. Possible causes are asthma, pneumonia, or bronchitis
    • Deep cough. It might point to a blockage in the bronchi (the divisions of the windpipe that lead into the lung).
    • Rapid breathing. Your baby takes more than 60 breaths per minute. Stanford Children’s Health says a newborn’s normal breathing rate is about 40 times each minute, and it this might slow down to 20 to 40 times per minute during sleep.
    • Flaring of her nostrils, which might mean she is working too hard to get enough air
    • Retracting. It happens when the muscles in your baby’s chest and neck contract too deeply and become more visible when she breathes and might be another sign that she is having difficulty taking in air. You can see a video of it here.
    • Blue color. It might be a sign that your baby is not getting enough oxygen.

    If you notice any of these signs in your baby, call your pediatrician immediately as some of these might be symptoms of more serious underlying conditions.

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