She is so cute right? Adorable asleep, and seemingly unable to be disturbed. But you notice that she has her mouth open. It might be wide open or it might be just cracked. Trouble is, this suggests that your sweet little one cannot breathe. That’s right… she cannot breathe well enough to keep her mouth closed.
Why Is This Important?
Well, breathing with your mouth open, even cracked, is not the biologically, normal, or healthy way to breathe. We are obligate breathers. This means we are mammals who are to breathe through their nose. The nose filters the air appropriately with the cilia in your nose (the tiny hairs). The bacteria and small particles are filtered so that your lungs do not breathe them in. When breathing through your nose, nitrogen is also added to the oxygen.
When you breathe through your mouth your air can only be filtered by your tonsils and adenoids at the back of your throat. These are your safety mechanism! Because they are not meant to filter air like this, overtime they become swollen and enlarged. This in turn then decreases your airway, making it harder to breathe. In addition, these children may be more prone to tonsilitis (infection of the tonsils).
In fact, children (and babies) can have a serious condition called sleep apnea where someone stops breathing while sleeping for a short time, and many happen several times in one hour. This is most common cause by something obstructing the airway. Children with sleep apnea often are also diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).
What About Babies Snoring?
It is definitely not normal or healthy for babies to snore. If your baby snores, you likely have also noticed that she keeps her mouth open even just a crack. The proper positioning of the mouth while sleeping (anytime we are not talking or eating) is lips sealed and the tongue is suctioned to the roof of the mouth. If your baby snores, then her tongue has fallen back in her throat causing that sound.
If you find your baby is snoring or your baby frequently keeps her mouth open, she may be tongue-tied as this prevents the tongue from reaching the roof of the mouth. Subsequently the tongue often will fall back into the airway causing complete or partial obstruction. We recommend that you seek an evaluation from practitioner who specializes in tongue-ties (for example, an IBCLC, Pediatric ENT, or Pediatric Dentist, etc.).
For more information check out this short video on breathing. For a longer explanation on our physiology and how we are supposed to breathe check out Roger L Price. You may also be interested in our post on why baby wearing is so important.