Got a noisy, wriggly, but sleepy newborn on your hands?
It’s not unheard of, but there are some things you can try to calm your newborn grunting and squirming while sleeping.
There’s so much they don’t tell you about having a new baby in the house.
And now your newborn is grunting and squirming while sleeping?
That can definitely be distressing ‒ particularly when you don’t know the reason for the moaning.
First up, if your baby is showing any other signs of serious illness, like fever or trouble breathing, it’s important to get them to the doctor right away.
But the good news is, in most cases, grunting and squirming are likely nothing to worry about.
We’ll take you through the details.
In this article: 📝
- Is it normal for newborns to move and make noises while sleeping?
- Why does my baby grunt and squirm while sleeping?
- How do I stop my baby from grunting in his sleep?
- When should I worry about my baby grunting in his sleep?
- When will newborn grunting and squirming while sleeping stop?
Is it normal for newborns to move and make noises while sleeping?
Yes. If you find yourself with a baby grunting in their sleep, you’re in good company.
Sleeping like a baby is actually a pretty noisy affair, complete with grunts, whimpers, and the occasional digestive rumble (you know what we’re talking about).
That being said, there are times when those little noises signal a health condition that may need attention.
But more often than not, your newborn is grunting and squirming in their sleep from all the… digesting they’re doing right now.
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.
(Dyschezia simply means trouble pooping.)
While it may all sound quite dramatic, it’s just the result of them figuring out which muscles to use to get that waste matter out of them, and it’s pretty common early on.
It’s definitely not something we think of too often, but when we poop, we relax our pelvic floor and use our stomach muscles to help get things moving.
Newborns haven’t quite figured out this complicated dance, and they still need to work on those abs a bit before the process becomes smoother.
For this reason, they use their diaphragm muscles instead.
And this can have the knock-on effect of putting pressure on the voice box.
And there you have it ‒ the sleeping baby grunt.
Their grunts may be accompanied by some cries and straining.
They might even turn red or purple in the face.
But provided their poops are normal ‒ we’ll take you through how to tell here ‒ and they’re not showing any other signs of illness, there’s probably nothing to worry about.
It will typically resolve on its own within a few months as they get the hang of this new activity.
But if their poop is not soft and comes out as small, dry pellets, they may be constipated.
Other signs of constipation include less frequent poops, really stinky poops and farts, and a belly that feels hard.
They may also not be as keen on eating as normal.
And there are other possible reasons they may be grunting.
- Irregular breathing
- Nasal or chest congestion
- Gastroesophageal reflux (GER)
In rare cases, grunting can be a sign of a serious illness like pneumonia, meningitis, or even heart failure.
Again, these are rare, but keep reading for more info on when to call your pediatrician.
A final possibility?
Newborns spend most of their sleep in REM sleep, which is active sleep, so they might be getting more active with it.
How do I stop my baby from grunting in his sleep?
If your newborn making noises while sleeping is concerning you, it’s not a bad idea to check in with your pediatrician, particularly if your baby is showing other symptoms.
Things to watch out for are blueing skin, a fever, and trouble breathing.
If they are losing weight or appear to be seriously fatigued, that’s also a sign to get them checked promptly.
But while that may all sound very scary, it’s more likely that it’s simply a matter of them learning how to poop.
If this is the case, they tend to eventually figure it out on their own.
Some healthcare professionals may recommend helping them along in the process by using a thermometer or rubbing petroleum jelly on their anus.
But there’s some talk in the science community about this approach ‒ some think it’s not necessarily the best idea as it may delay them figuring out how to poop on their own.
Here’s what to know about the different potential causes of your newborn grunting and squirming while sleeping:
If you think your baby is constipated, talk to your doctor.
The solution may lie in changing their formula or your own diet, if you are breastfeeding.
Steer clear of giving your baby any laxative medication unless under the guidance of your doctor.
This may sound terrifying, but in most cases, it’s also a matter of them figuring out how to use this new apparatus they are now in charge of.
Learning to breathe on your own is a process just like learning to poop on your own.
If your baby’s breathing seems really quick and irregular, check in with your doctor.
Don’t feel like you just have to struggle through this alone.
Your peace of mind is important.
Nasal or chest congestion
It may be the case that your little one has mucus trapped in their airways.
A suction bulb can really help clear things up.
As can dropping a few drops of saline solution into their nose.
We’ll show you how here.
If you suspect that your baby has congestion in their chest, it’s best to talk to your doctor, particularly if they have other symptoms.
GER & GERD
GER (gastroesophageal reflux) is basically acid reflux, and it’s quite common.
In fact, it happens in up to 85% of babies.
It means that food is heading in the opposite direction from where it should be going.
And yes, it can cause spit-up and grunting.
(Head here for all the details.)
If the symptoms persist and your baby seems to be uncomfortable or struggles to sleep on their back, your baby may have something called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which is definitely worth talking to your doctor about.
Reflux can often be an indication of a feeding issue, so getting a feeding assessment done can help to get to the root of the issue and hopefully avoid medication.
Some common causes of reflux can be things like undiagnosed oral ties or improper latch (bottle or breast) causing your baby to take in air, leading to gassiness or reflux (the air has to go somewhere).
Does baby grunting mean reflux?
Not always, but it can mean reflux.
If baby’s grunting is accompanied by tummy rumblings and gurgling, it could well be reflux.
It’s pretty common in newborns, and usually nothing to worry about if your baby seems comfortable, but if you are at all concerned about baby’s reflux or anything at all, talk with your doctor.
When should I worry about my baby grunting in his sleep?
More often than not, your newborn grunting and squirming in their sleep won’t be cause for concern.
But there are some telltale signs that something else could be at play ‒ if your baby shows any of these signs, see your doctor straight away:
- They are constantly grunting with each breath
- They appear distressed or in pain
- Their lips are turning blue
- They have a fever
- They are losing weight
- They are constantly tired
When will newborn grunting and squirming while sleeping stop?
Most mamas find that their newborn grunting while sleeping phase lasts a few weeks.
It can start as a newborn or it can start when they’re a month old or so.
The typical cause is simply that baby’s getting used to pooping, which just takes time.
If your baby’s grunting and squirming in their sleep lasts for more than a few weeks, they show any signs of distress (or any of the other signs we mentioned above), or you’re concerned for their health at all, speak with your doctor.
So, if you notice your newborn grunting and squirming while sleeping, it’s likely just them learning how to poop, dream, or breathe (or all of the above).
There’s a learning curve to this whole being human thing.
But if you notice any other symptoms ‒ or you’re worried at all ‒ check in with your doctor.
And if you need support along the way, your Peanut Community is there for you.