Do Babies Breathe Through Their Nose or Mouth?

New parents often find themselves captivated by their baby's every breath, questioning if they're breathing properly. Curiosity about your little one's respiratory habits is completely natural, particularly when considering whether babies breathe through their nose or mouth. In this post, we'll uncover the intriguing realm of infant breathing and provide essential advice to ensure your baby breathes with ease.

Table Of Contents:

How Babies Breathe

As a parent, have you ever wondered how your little one breathes? It's a question that's crossed my mind countless times, especially in those early days when I'd spend hours watching my baby sleep, making sure their tiny chest was rising and falling steadily. Here's the fascinating truth: Babies are obligate nasal breathers. Yep, you read that right. Unlike adults who can alternate between breathing through their nose and mouth, young babies breathe exclusively through their nose for the first few months of life.

Babies Are Obligate Nasal Breathers

So, why are babies nose breathers? It all comes down to their unique physiology. Newborns have several physical features that promote nasal breathing and make mouth breathing more challenging. For starters, they have a larger tongue relative to their mouth size, which takes up more space and makes it harder to breathe through the mouth. Their soft palate and epiglottis are also closer together, further restricting airflow through the mouth.

Why Babies Breathe Through Their Nose

But here's the kicker: Nasal breathing is absolutely vital for babies' survival. Think about it - when a baby is feeding, their mouth is blocked by the breast or bottle. If they couldn't breathe through their nose, they'd have to choose between eating and breathing. Not exactly a sustainable situation!  By breathing through their nose, babies can continue to feed and breathe simultaneously, getting the nourishment and oxygen they need to thrive.

Physical Features That Promote Nasal Breathing

Evolution is a pretty smart cookie. Over time, babies have developed several physical adaptations that make nasal breathing their default setting. In addition to the larger tongue and elevated larynx mentioned earlier, babies also have narrower nasal passages than adults. While this might seem counterintuitive, it actually helps create a more stable airflow and reduces the risk of airway collapse. Babies also have a highly sensitive nervous system that's wired to detect even the slightest hint of airway obstruction. If something blocks their nose, they'll reflexively open their mouth to breathe - a survival mechanism that kicks in when needed.


Benefits of Nasal Breathing in Babies

So, we've established that babies are nose breathers by nature. But why is nasal breathing so important for their health and development?

Nasal Breathing Filters and Humidifies Air

First off, breathing through the nose acts as a built-in filtration system. The tiny hairs inside the nostrils, called cilia, trap dust, allergens, and other irritants before they can enter the lungs. This is especially important for babies, whose immune systems are still developing and more vulnerable to respiratory infections. Nasal breathing also helps to humidify and warm the air before it reaches the lungs. The nasal passages are lined with a moist membrane that adds moisture to the inhaled air, preventing the delicate tissues in the airways from drying out. The Lively Living Aroma-Snooze Plus 8 in 1 Humidier will help your baby breathe easier. 

Nasal Breathing Supports Healthy Development

But the benefits of nasal breathing go beyond just protecting the lungs. It also plays a crucial role in supporting healthy development of the facial structures and airways. You see, when a baby breathes through their nose, it creates a gentle pressure that helps to shape the upper jaw and promote proper growth of the sinuses and airways. This lays the foundation for a wide, U-shaped palate and straight teeth later in life. On the flip side, chronic mouth breathing can lead to a narrower palate, crowded teeth, and even sleep apnea down the road. So, by encouraging nasal breathing from the start, we're setting our babies up for a lifetime of better breathing and healthier development. As Dr. Steven Lin, a functional dentist and author, puts it: 'Nasal breathing is the foundation for proper craniofacial development and airway health.'

Reasons Why Babies May Breathe Through Their Mouth

Okay, so we know that nasal breathing is the ideal for babies. But let's be real - sometimes, life throws a curveball and mouth breathing becomes necessary.

Nasal Congestion and Blockage

The most common reason babies may resort to mouth breathing is nasal congestion or blocked nose. When the nasal passages are obstructed due to excess mucus, inflammation, or other factors, babies may have no choice but to breathe through their mouth. This can happen during a cold or allergies, when the nasal passages are swollen and filled with mucus. It can also occur if the baby has a deviated septum or other anatomical abnormalities that make nose breathing difficult.

Respiratory Infections

Respiratory infections, such as RSV or pneumonia, can also lead to mouth breathing in babies. When the airways are inflamed and filled with secretions, it can be harder for babies to breathe through their nose. In these cases, mouth breathing is a necessary adaptation to ensure the baby is getting enough oxygen. However, if mouth breathing persists even after the infection has cleared, it's important to have the baby evaluated by a healthcare provider.

Anatomical Abnormalities

In rare cases, anatomical abnormalities such as choanal atresia or Pierre Robin sequence can cause chronic mouth breathing in babies. Choanal atresia is a condition where the nasal passages are blocked or narrowed from birth, making nose breathing difficult or impossible. Pierre Robin sequence is a set of facial abnormalities that can cause the tongue to fall back and obstruct the airway, leading to mouth breathing. If your baby is consistently breathing through their mouth, it's important to bring it up with your pediatrician. They can help determine the underlying cause and recommend appropriate treatment options.

How to Help Your Baby Breathe Through Their Nose

As parents, we want to do everything we can to support our babies' health and development. So, what can we do to encourage nasal breathing and keep those tiny nostrils clear?

Using a Nasal Aspirator

One of the most effective tools in a parent's arsenal is a nasal aspirator. Also known as a 'snot sucker' or " Snot Fairy".  These devices use gentle suction to remove mucus and debris from the baby's nose.  Our USB  rechareable nasal aspirator is the perfect tool to clear your babies nose. This electic snot sucker will draw out the mucus from the nose into a collection cup clearing the nasal passage.


 Nasal Aspirator 

Be sure to clean the aspirator thoroughly after each use to prevent the growth of bacteria. You can wash it with warm, soapy water and allow it to air dry completely before using it again.

Saline Drops or Spray

Another helpful tool is saline drops or spray. These sterile salt water solutions can help to loosen and thin mucus, making it easier for the baby to expel it. To use saline drops, lay the baby on their back and tilt their head to the side. Squeeze a few drops into each nostril, then wait a minute or two for the saline to work its magic. You can then use a nasal aspirator to remove the loosened mucus. Saline sprays work similarly, but are easier to use on older babies who may not tolerate drops. Simply spray a small amount into each nostril and let the baby sniff it in.

Humidifying the Air

Dry air can irritate the nasal passages and make congestion worse. That's why many parents find that using a humidifier in the baby's room can help to keep the air moist and soothe irritated airways. Our Aroma-Snooze and Aroma-Snozoe Plus  cool mist humidifiers are the best avaialble, have won many awards and are loved by partents Australia wide. 

You can also add a few drops of organic essential oils, such as lavender or eucalyptus, to the humidifier to provide additional relief. Just be sure to use a high-quality, pure essential oil and follow the manufacturer's instructions for safe use.

Aroma-Snooze Plus 

When to Seek Medical Advice

While occasional mouth breathing is usually nothing to worry about, persistent mouth breathing can be a sign of an underlying issue that needs medical attention. If your baby is consistently breathing through their mouth, has difficulty feeding, or seems to be struggling to breathe, it's important to bring it up with your pediatrician right away. Other red flags include noisy breathing, pauses in breathing, or a bluish tint to the skin or lips. These can be signs of a more serious respiratory problem that requires immediate medical attention. Your pediatrician can help determine the cause of your baby's mouth breathing and recommend appropriate treatment options, which may include medications, lifestyle changes, or in some cases, surgery to correct anatomical abnormalities. Trust your instincts and don't hesitate to seek medical advice if something doesn't seem right. With proper care and attention, most babies can learn to breathe easy and thrive.

FAQs in Relation to Do Babies Breathe Through Their Nose or Mouth?

Is it okay to let baby sleep with a stuffy nose?

Yes, but keep their head elevated and use saline drops or a humidifier to ease breathing.

Do babies breathe through their nose or mouth in the womb?

Babies don't breathe air in the womb; they get oxygen through the umbilical cord.

Do babies breathe when they swallow?

Babies can breathe and swallow at the same time until around 6 months old.

When can babies breathe on their own?

Newborns can breathe independently, but full respiratory maturity develops over several years.


So, do babies breathe through their nose or mouth? The answer is clear: babies are natural nose breathers. Their unique physical features and reflexes make nasal breathing a necessity for proper development and overall health.

As a parent, you're the frontline defender of your baby's nasal passages. Wielding a trusty nasal aspirator and cranking up the humidifier, you've got the power to help your little one breathe easy and stay comfortable.

We hope this was helpful

Julie xx 

Lively Living