Although we like to think that only grown men snore, babies can produce the sound effect too. Snoring is usually the result of air passing through your little one's narrow nasal cavity or the back of the throat. The noise may happen because a baby has a cold or because his nasal passage is clogged with milk or baby food -- which can get pushed upward when he spits up. Use a suction bulb or saline drops to clear the nose.
Because sleep disorders like sleep apnea (a condition that causes momentary stops in breathing) can also trigger snoring, you should tell your pediatrician what's going on. Very loud snoring or snorting, gasping for breath, choking, and very restless sleep are signs of apnea and need immediate attention.
You may notice that your baby sometimes stops breathing for a few seconds while sleeping. It's normal for newborns to have "periodic breathing." They usually have a period of rapid breathing followed by a period of slow breathing, then a brief pause of up to ten seconds. The cycle then repeats. Breathing pauses happen because the part of your baby's brain that controls breathing is still developing, says Lewis Kass, M.D., a pediatric pulmonologist at Westchester Pediatric Pulmonology and Sleep Medicine, in Mount Kisco, New York. Unlike sleep apnea, periodic breathing doesn't cause snoring or struggles for breath. As long as your baby seems comfortable, isn't gasping for air, and her fingernails and lips don't change color, don't worry. Usually, by 4 to 6 months, the sleep-time breathing pattern becomes more regular.
As I learned, babies sometimes wake up sweaty. We all perspire during the transitions between different sleep stages, but infants sweat more because their sleep cycles are shorter, says Dr. Wible. Since your infant's head is his largest body part, it's where the most heat is lost; this may cause his forehead and hair to be damper than the rest of the body. Of course, babies can also get sweaty when they're too hot and their body is trying to cool down. To make sure your child doesn't overheat while he sleeps, keep his room between 60? and 70?F, and dress him the way you would be comfortable without covers. Call the pediatrician if he has a fever or another sign of sickness, such as lethargy. By 3 or 4 months, when their sleep cycles are longer, many babies won't sweat as much. Others, though, like my son, are just sweaty sleepers and continue to be into their toddler years and beyond. A good tip: To prevent overheating, avoid blankets and hats while baby's sleeping.
Originally published in the April 2011 issue of Parents magazine.