Infants are imperative nose breathers. This means they can breathe only through their nose up to a few months after their birth. Studies have been conducted on the breathing patterns of the infants and if they can breathe through their mouth. The below sections throws light on the same.
Can Babies Breathe Through Their Mouth?
Yes, babies can breathe through their mouth. However, at birth, infants are equipped with physical features that tend to limit mouth breathing and support rapid nursing. This is due to the closer proximity between their epiglottis (a switch between larynx and esophagus) and the soft palate (a muscle located at the back of the mouth’s roof). But, after they are of age 6 months, the gap between the epiglottis and the soft palate widens, letting them switch between the nose and the mouth for breathing.
While most of the babies continue nasal breathing after they are 6 months old, some tend to breathe through their mouths. This indicates a problem with the upper airways, mostly a congestion in the nasal passage. Below are the reasons that could put your little one’s breathing in distress, if immediate medical attention isn’t provided.
Why Do Babies Breathe Through Their Mouth?
1. Common Cold
One of the most common reasons why your baby breathes through her mouth is a common cold. The nasal congestion caused due to excess mucus obstructs the free flow of air, forcing the baby to breathe through the mouth. Thinning the nasal secretions using saline nasal drops or removing the excess mucus using a syringe bulb are the effective remedies.
2. Choanal Atresia
Choanal atresia is one of the most common congenital nasal abnormalities found in the infants. In this condition, an extra tissue blocks the opening of one or both the nostrils. This necessitates the baby to cry, which is the only channel for oxygen supply. In severe cases, oxygen deprivation leads to a bluish appearance of the baby. Surgery is the sole solution for this condition and sooner the treatment, the better.
3. Milk Reflux
During the first year, babies often reflux the milk they ingest. Although most of the regurgitation is through the mouth, some amount of the milk might be expelled through the nose as well. This leads to a mild swelling of the nasal cavities, resulting is stuffiness. This condition also forces the baby to breathe through her mouth.
4. Change In The External Temperature
Studies show that temperatures too hot or too cold could make the baby’s nose stuffy. Due to the imbalance in oxygen levels, the baby will try to compensate by breathing through the mouth while crying. Sometimes, mothers tend to overclothe the baby irrespective of the weather, which might also cause similar issues.
5. Amniotic Fluid
The fetus is nurtured by the amniotic fluid in the womb. During birth, in some infants, the fluid enters the nasal passage. It might take a few days to months for the infant to expel this fluid. This is yet another reason for nasal stuffiness and mouth breathing.
Babies also occasionally breathe through their mouths when they unlatch themselves during breastfeeding. This is not alarming unless your baby does it every time you feed her. Ignoring the above-mentioned symptoms could be harmful to the baby in a long run, as persistent mouth breathing leads to facial deformities, narrow face and neck, sleep disorder, gummy smiles, and poor growth. Therefore, consulting the doctor immediately is suggested.