Why is Baby Making Noise While Sleeping

By: Dr. Nazeli Gevorgyan - May 27, 2024 - 10 Minute Read

Why is Baby Making Noise While Sleeping | The Milky Box

Ever wonder why your baby makes noises during sleep? Whether it’s a soft coo or an unexpected grunt, your baby’s sleep noises can be quite confusing.

This article discusses the possible causes of these sounds, the most frequent noises babies make, when to get worried, and crucial safe sleep practices to help your baby sleep better.

The Basics of Newborn Sleep

During the newborn phase, significant changes in sleep patterns occur alongside rapid brain development. Circadian rhythms aren’t yet developed, and newborns typically confuse day and night.

Unlike adults, newborns do not distinguish between the REM (rapid eye movement) and NREM phases of sleep. Instead, they go through active or nonactive phases of sleep. Active sleep is similar to REM or light sleep, whereas nonactive sleep is comparable to deep or quiet NREM sleep.

Approximately half of a newborn’s sleep is during the active phase. By three to five months, this percentage drops to about 40%, and by a year, it reaches adult levels of 25 to 30%. Active sleep is especially important for brain development in an environment with few external stimuli during infancy, as it promotes neural growth and connection strengthening.

As infants get older, they go through stages of sleep similar to adult stages, fully resembling an adult’s sleep architecture at the age of five.

The Basics of Newborn Sleep | The Milky Box

Newborn Sleep Is Restless

Before progressively moving to deeper nonactive sleep, newborns first experience active sleep. In this phase, their brain processes information; they probably dream and lack the inhibition of muscle movement that adults have, which makes them appear restless. Babies typically twitch, jerk, kick, display facial expressions like frowns or smiles, or make noises while in active sleep

Baby's Sleep Noises Reasons | The Milky Box

Newborns Have Lots of Sleep Transitions

Every 45 to 50 minutes, newborns alternate between active and quiet sleep. These two phases transition to four phases, typically by the time they are three to four months old.

However, even with the addition of these stages, the whole sleep cycle usually lasts less than 60 minutes. This implies that newborns will experience a light sleep approximately every hour, potentially leading to movements, short awakenings, and vocalizations. 

Newborns Sleep Transitions | The Milky Box

Normal Newborn “Irregular” Breathing Patterns

In the active sleep phase, when babies twitch or jerk their arms or legs, and their eyes move behind closed lids, breathing may become irregular, with short pauses lasting five to ten seconds. 

After these, babies restart breathing for 10 to 15 seconds at a rate of 50 to 60 breaths per minute, then settle back into their regular breathing patterns. 

These breathing pauses are distinguished from apnea by the important fact that the baby’s skin color doesn’t change, and most of the time, there is no reason to be concerned. Periodic breathing patterns usually go away by the middle of the first year. 

Newborns Are Noisy Sleepers

Newborns’ digestive and respiratory systems are still developing, and their bodies work extra hard to function, making them loud sleepers

On the other hand, they spend more time in active sleep, not restricting their muscle movements as much as adults do. They can even groan, cry, or whimper in active sleep.

Although research on babies making noises during sleep is lacking, we can still discuss the different kinds of sounds they frequently produce.

Common Sleep Noises | The Milky Box

Breathing Sounds: Typical Sounds Newborns Make

Let’s look at the breathing sounds newborns make while they’re sleeping. 

Throat Noises

These noises, frequently getting louder while the baby sleeps, are made when air travels through milk reflux or saliva. These gurgling noises are probably associated with an immature swallow reflex and a tendency to regurgitate small amounts of milk. 

They resolve when newborns gradually get the ability to swallow more often.  

Transient Breathing Pauses

Also referred to as periodic breathing, these little breathing pauses occur for less than ten seconds at a time. Usually, faster breathing follows to compensate for this. 

These pauses are normal as long as the infant is comfortable, and the breathing rate is less than sixty breaths per minute. If the baby is breathing quickly or seems blue, get emergency help.

Transient Rapid Breathing

Newborns may breathe deeply and quickly during sleep to fully expand their lungs. This is normal as long as they resume breathing in about a minute. 

Seesaw Breathing 

The chest seems to contract when the stomach expands during breathing. This can occur due to the soft crib cage of some newborns and tends to resolve on its own. 

Yawning or Sighing 

Occasional yawning or sighing to open up the lungs may occur. 

Nose Breathing

Newborns predominantly rely on breathing through their noses because it allows them to both breathe and eat at the same time. However, due to their small nasal passages, they are prone to obstructions with mucus or dried milk which can cause breathing difficulties or whistling sounds associated with congestion.

In such a case, flush the nose with saline solution or bottled water, one drop at a time, on each side, multiple times to loosen dried mucus. If necessary, use a suction bulb to clear the nose, but avoid using Q-tips as they may harm the nasal lining.

Breathing Sounds | The Milky Box

Normal Newborn Digestive Sounds

Now, let’s transition to everyday digestive noises.

Gurgling and Growling

Soft bubbling or low rumbling sounds, typically caused by the movement of food, liquids, and gases through the intestines, indicating healthy digestion.

Expelling Air from the Stomach and Passing Gas Per Rectum

Normal actions to release swallowed air.


Hiccups are typically brought on by overeating or acid reflux.


Loud grunting and straining when passing stools are caused by the baby’s immature pelvic floor muscles. It’s normal. 

Feeding Noises

It is common for babies to make feeding noises, like lip-smacking or suckling, while they’re sleeping, which may indicate hunger, reflexive movements, or comforting action. 


Besides digestive sounds, babies may wiggle or squirm during sleep to aid in digestion

or relieve discomfort.

Digestive Sounds | The Milky Box

When Sleep Sounds Resolve

Babies gradually experience consistent, consolidated sleep with fewer disruptions and sleep sounds as their bodies develop, neurological systems mature, circadian rhythms begin to regulate, and they spend more time in deep, nonactive sleep. Most babies start to sleep more quietly around three to six months of age, though this is not always the case.  

Why is Baby Making Noise While Sleeping | The Milky Box

When to Get Help

Even though most of the noises babies make during sleep are entirely normal, there are some instances in which they might need more attention. If your baby exhibits any subsequent symptoms, urgent medical attention is necessary, whether they emit unusual sounds or not.

● Bluish discoloration of the skin

● Observable muscle contractions in the chest or neck

● Lethargy or listlessness

● Fever with breathing difficulties

● Nostril widening during breathing

● Extended periods of breath cessation, surpassing 10 seconds

● Elevated breathing rate exceeding 60 breaths per minute

● Repetitive grunting following each breath

Follow Safe Sleep Guidelines

As we’ve covered various noises babies make during sleep and instances when attention is needed, it’s critical to ensure they’re sleeping safely. Adhering to the suggested safe sleep guidelines can provide your little one with a secure and safe sleep environment.

❖ Lay your baby down on their back for naps and at night sleep. Use a flat, firm sleeping surface like a crib mattress covered with a fitted sheet.

❖ Steer clear of soft surfaces like couches and armchairs when putting your infant to sleep.

❖ To lessen the chance of suffocation or strangulation, keep your baby’s sleeping area clear of soft bedding toys, pillows, and crib bumpers.

❖ Room sharing — where your baby sleeps in a crib or bassinet next to your bed — is advised in the first six to twelve months of life. Your baby can sleep in your room but not in your bed.

❖ Keep the room comfortable, and dress your baby in light clothing to prevent them from overheating.

❖ Offer your baby a pacifier when it’s time for a nap or bed, but don’t force them to accept it.

❖ Avoid covering your baby’s head with blankets, hats, or anything else that can obstruct their airway.

Can Baby Formula Help My Baby Sleep? 

You may be concerned about your baby's sleep patterns and want to know which ingredients in baby formula can help your little one sleep better. It's important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as every baby is different and has unique needs. 

However, choosing a formula containing certain ingredients can help improve your baby's overall well-being, which can lead to better sleep.

Best Formula for Sleep 

Protein, a vital nutrient, supports your baby's growth and development. Hence, selecting a formula that provides an appropriate amount of protein is crucial. Carbohydrates, in the form of lactose, are a consistent energy source for your baby, helping them feel satiated for longer durations. Fats, another essential component, provide energy and aid in brain development.

Other ingredients in the formula can also contribute to your baby's sleep quality. Vitamins and minerals, such as iron, zinc, and magnesium, are essential for various bodily functions and can help regulate your baby's sleep cycle. Probiotics and prebiotics, on the other hand, are beneficial for gut health, potentially preventing digestive issues that could disrupt sleep.

European Baby Formula

Although no magic ingredient in baby formula can guarantee better sleep for your little one, choosing a European Baby Formula that balances protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals can help promote healthy growth and development, leading to better sleep in the long run.

European Baby Formula | The Milky Box

Final Thoughts: Navigating Parenthood Confidently

In summary, even though your baby’s sleep noises may sometimes seem strange, most of these sounds are standard and often reflect your baby’s ongoing development. Watch for any concerning symptoms we discussed and provide a safe sleep environment. After a few months, your child will gradually stop making noises.

For additional information on baby development, sleep, and parenting tips, don’t forget to check out “The Milky Box” website. Thanks to its abundant resources, It’s a priceless tool for confidently navigating your parenting journey.


1. Bathory, E. and Tomopoulos, S. (2017) ‘Sleep Regulation, Physiology and Development, Sleep Duration and Patterns, and Sleep Hygiene in Infants, Toddlers, and Preschool-Age Children’, Current Problems in Pediatric and Adolescent Health Care, 47(2), pp. 29–42. doi: 10.1016/J.CPPEDS.2016.12.001.

2. Grigg-Damberger, M. M. (2016) ‘The Visual Scoring of Sleep in Infants 0 to 2 Months of Age’, Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine : JCSM : Official Publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 12(3), p. 429. doi: 10.5664/JCSM.5600.

3. Infant Sleep - La Leche League International. Available at: https://llli.org/news/infant-sleep/

4. Infant Sleep Cycles: How Are They Different From Adults? | Sleep Foundation. Available at: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/baby-sleep/baby-sleep-cycle

5. Newborn Sleep Patterns. Available at: https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=newborn-sleep-patterns-90-P02632

6. Stages of Newborn Sleep - HealthyChildren.org. Available at: https://www.healthychildren.org/english/ages-stages/baby/sleep/pages/phases-of-sleep.aspx

7. symptomviewer - HealthyChildren.org. Available at: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/tips-tools/symptom-checker/Pages/symptomviewer.aspx?symptom=Newborn Reflexes and Behavior


Please be aware that this information is based on general trends in babies, and it is not medical advice. Your doctor should be your first source of information and advice when considering any changes to your child’s formula and when choosing your child’s formula. Always consult your pediatrician before making any decisions about your child’s diet or if you notice any changes in your child.

Breastfeeding is the best nutrition for your baby because breast milk provides your child with all the essential nutrients they need for growth and development. Please consult your pediatrician if your child requires supplemental feeding.

Nazeli Gevorgyan is a medical doctor from Armenia, and is a researcher in the fields of Obstetrics and Gynecology, among others. Dr. Nazeli is passionate with providing women and parents with reliable and high-quality information on healthy options for infant nutrition, breastfeeding, infant formula, and food. In her free time, she enjoys swimming, traveling, and pottery. 

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Reviewed by Suzanne Renee',

Infant Nutrition Expert

Suzanne Renee' is an accomplished professional with extensive expertise in the area of infant nutrition, dedicated to promoting the health and wellbeing of children. She started this journey as a foster parent.

Suzanne has emerged as a strong proponent of the European baby formula and has become a full-time writer on the subject. 

In her free time, she enjoys camping, hiking, and going to church.