newborn baby grunting and squirming while sleeping

Newborn baby grunting and squirming while sleeping? Causes and solutions

Is your newborn baby grunting and squirming while sleeping? As a newborn mother, perhaps the sound of a deep short noise from your sleeping baby woke you up and when you went over to your baby’s crib you saw your baby twisting from one side to the other while asleep. It becomes more stressful since the baby appears to be in obvious pain but unfortunately is unable to express the source of discomfort.

Newborn baby grunting and squirming while sleeping is a common occurrence, especially in the first month of birth and will continue for several weeks depending on the baby. This article will help you with the necessary information on the causes of newborn grunting and squirming while asleep and the immediate solutions to apply.

Likely Causes of Newborn baby Grunting and Squirming while sleeping

The main reason for newborn babies grunting and twisting their bodies during sleep is simply due to body digestive reactions. This should not be a cause for concern. What it means is that their body could be reacting to a change of diet. Hitherto the baby was feeding on nutrients and other digested substances from your placenta all from what you ate. Now after birth your baby now takes in your breast milk or possibly baby formula into their system. This change in diet often comes with some form of pressure or gas in their guts that could make them twist uneasily and put some pressure on their voice box leading to a sharp noise.

Furthermore, grunting and squirming could also be like your baby’s body is adjusting to the process of passing stool, since the stomach walls are not well developed to exert the desired pressure in pushing down the leftover substances after digestion, the pressure of pushing falls on the lungs while breathing making it come out with a sharp noise. Your baby may continue to grunt due to stool passing until their bodies get used to abdominal movements and they start to pass gas without grunting or squirming. Grunting during sleep can indicate a bowel movement. 

Still related to digestion and foods, newborn baby grunting and squirming while sleeping could also happen when undigested foods come back up from your baby’s stomach to the throat leading to discomfort and grunting, a phenomenon known in medical terms as gastroesophageal reflux (GER).

Irregular respiratory patterns: Newborn babies after birth will gradually begin developing their internal organs. One of those is the respiratory system, which has to do with the lungs, the windpipes, the nose, the throat, the mouth, and the airways. These organs are responsible for breathing patterns in babies, as your baby grows and tries to develop control over their respiratory patterns it may result in occasional grunting.

Trapped Mucus: Trapped mucus can also cause newborn baby grunting and squirming could be due to trapped mucus that has formed along your baby’s nasal passages which has affected the normal inhaling and exhaling of breath. This will lead to grunts as your baby struggles to breathe.

Solutions to Newborn baby grunting and squirming while sleeping

The first place will be to consult your doctor to ascertain the cause, if it is your pediatrician confirms that it is a reaction due to a change of diet then you have no further cause for concern.

Having extensively discussed the various probable causes of newborn baby grunting and squirming while sleeping, lets us consider solutions to the other mentioned causes you may consider as a nursing mother to put your mind at ease.

Adjusting to the Process of Stool Passing

If the grunting and squirming are because of adjusting to the process of passing stool then it can be regarded as normal without any form of treatment. However, if your baby seems to be having pains and even crying while passing stool you will have to soften the anus by rubbing Vaseline has proven to be effective in assisting babies in passing stool. Caution must be exercised not to make the baby too dependent on this as it could make your baby miss the correct process for passing stool themselves. 

In extreme cases, your pediatricians may opt for anal stimulation, using an anal thermometer or piece of cotton cloth to stimulate the excretory tract or bowels. This will help to ensure proper bowel movements and stop the squirms and grunts. 

Irregular respiratory patterns

If your baby is showing traits of Irregular respiratory patterns, this should not be something to get you alarmed as your baby’s internal organs are gradually getting formed and it will soon develop for the grunts to stop on its own.  However, if your baby continues to show signs of difficulty in breathing, you should get electronic monitoring devices such as a baby cam or movement monitor to enable you to check up on them while they are asleep.

The baby cam, attached to a video, will help you monitor your baby when they are sleeping or crying when they wake or in any crises. The Movement monitor will help you monitor their breathing patterns as it has an alarm system that can trigger off in the event of an irregular breathing movement or in the event of the baby no longer moving.

Trapped mucus

The traditional method is for you to suck up the trapped mucus from your baby’s mouth, I know this might seem a bit unhealthy and you may probably not be too comfortable with this method. In that case, you may choose to use a nasal aspirator to suction the mucus from your baby’s nostrils.   However, you will need to be careful as frequent use may lead to nasal irritation and bleeding. Experts recommend a maximum use of 4 times daily.

Gastroesophageal Reflux (GER).

The suggested solution for this will be to feed the baby slowly, to feed the baby with small amounts of food but frequently, to ensure that the feeding bottle has nipples with small holes to reduce the flow of food and ensure that your baby burps after eating.


Every baby is different, newborn baby grunting and squirming while sleeping may last for a few weeks or even longer in some cases from baby to baby. Everything depends on how long your baby takes in mastering the coordination of bowel movements.

However, we will advise that you seek the expert opinion of a pediatrician when you notice any unusual changes and if the grunts persist as it could just be a symptom of other underlying health challenges.  

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