I think I can speak for every parent when I talk about how petrified we feel when everyone is sleeping soundly and we suddenly hear a high-pitched squeal coming from the baby’s crib. When this happened for the first time, I seriously thought my baby was having trouble breathing. I panicked, and, even though she was sleeping quite well that night, I carried her out of her crib, waking her up slightly, just to make sure everything was fine. Needless to say I spent all night checking if she was breathing normally and furiously googled what was possibly going on.
Normally, squealing shows emotion. Whether it’s from delight or discomfort, a baby will squeal. You actually want your baby to make as many sounds as possible as it means he’s developing his communication skills. Overall, squealing during sleep is considered normal and there are many reasons behind it. A big factor in how a baby sleeps is his age. All of us parents know that a baby will rarely sleep soundly and all night. When I look back at when my daughter was a baby, I’m amazed at how I’m still standing. If you want to know the last time a parent had a good night’s sleep, just look at their eldest child’s age. Because, if there’s a day where everything is well (no flu or illness, no teething, no anxiety) and your baby somehow sleeps all night, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will, and that’s because of all the noises a baby makes while sleeping. Normal baby sleep behavior includes deep sleep and moments of noisy “squealy” sleep, which will wake you up in a panic. But this is totally normal. In some cases, squealy breathing in your baby’s sleep can mean laryngomalacia and frequently fades away on its own. Read on for information on noises your baby makes in his sleep and how to deal with them.
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Why noisy sleeping is normal
Just when you thought night feeds were over and your baby’s crying has calmed down at night, here come the noises. A wide array of noises is guaranteed to keep us, parents, up all night, supervising our little ones’ sleep, checking on their breathing (who here has counted their baby’s heartbeats per minute manually, say ay!), and keeping one eye open forever.
Sure, noises, while they sleep, can be a cause for alarm, but rest assured that most of the time it’s completely normal. Normal baby sleep behavior includes deep sleep and moments of noisy “squealy” sleep, which will wake you up in a panic. But this is totally normal.
Frequently, noises in a baby’s sleep come from:
- Congestion or dried mucus – nasal spray every evening will help tremendously.
- Throat clearing – which is just a normal process
- Newborn’s brain learning how to regulate his breathing
When in their sleep cycle do babies make the most noise?
It all starts in the second week of your baby’s life and can last until they are 6 months old. This is when REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep time increases and half of their night is at this stage.
During the REM sleep cycle, babies dream, and therefore start moving and making noises like grunts, cries, laughs, squeals, and blurb. During this light and active sleep cycle, which is frequent in babies, you’ll have difficulty getting a good night’s sleep.
But rest assured, that as they grow up, REM sleep cycles diminish and you’ll all enjoy quieter sleep eventually. Just hang in there!
But why do babies squeal when they sleep?
Squealing usually means your baby is happy and has discovered his voice. But sometimes, a baby’s squeal can also mean he’s uncomfortable or unhappy about something.
Here are 3 major reasons for sleep-time squeals:
- When they’re sleeping, a squeal can be normal but can also mean something else is going on. A high-pitched squeal while your baby is inhaling while he sleeps can be a sign of laryngomalacia, which is a common and not serious condition meaning the tissue above the vocal cords falls into the breathing airway of a child, making his breathing noisy (often referred to as “stridor”). This goes away alone by two years old.
- When your baby sleeps hungry or wet, he will have an agitated sleep, with squeals coming out and worrying parents. So before he naps or goes down for the night, make sure your baby is comfortable, well-fed, and has all his personal needs met.
- Gas is very common in babies and can cause many sleepless nights! Squealing during sleep can mean your baby is uncomfortable with gas. While this is normal lingo for all parents, make sure your baby has burped and is warm around the stomach when he goes down for a nap or for the night.
What is Laryngomalacia and how is it treated?
As mentioned above, laryngomalacia is first detected when your baby makes squealing sounds while breathing in his sleep. If taken to the doctor, the baby will go through a physical exam and a laryngoscopy, which is basically a small tube passed through the baby’s nose to be able to view the larynx.
Although laryngomalacia is not a cause for serious concern and goes away on its own by the time your child is two years old, treatment is available for it if the symptoms are too severe.
This treatment is mostly through medication for reflex associated with the condition. In rare conditions where the baby is having difficulty sleeping and feeding, a supraglottoplasty is performed through the mouth under anesthesia, to relieve your child’s breathing, eating, and sleeping habits.
What to do when your baby cries or squeals when sleeping
Most of the time, a squeal or high-pitched cry during sleep will not wake your baby up. Chances are they will settle down on their own and continue their sleep cycle peacefully. But it doesn’t hurt going to check what is going on if you feel something is wrong.
If you see your baby is fast asleep and fine, avoid picking him up as it could wake him and disrupt his sleep cycle.
Here’s what you can do:
- Rub your baby on his back to make him feel soothed
- Slightly and very softly rock them with your hand on their stomach
- To check the cause of crying and whether it should be a cause for concern, observe your baby’s sleeping pattern. Does he wake up after that or continues sleeping? If he does wake up, it can mean a pain of some sort (like teething or colic) and can help you address it so you and your baby can have better nights.
- Your baby or toddler waking up after a high-pitched squeal can also mean they are starting to have nightmares. It will help them a lot if you’re there to soothe them and make them feel safe in the comfort of their crib.
Is my baby not getting enough sleep?
Common behavior, when babies do not get enough sleep, is jerky arm and leg movements, back-arching, or closing their fists. Babies will yawn, rub their face, pull their ears, and become more clumsy.
How can I know the cause of my baby crying?
With time, you will learn to identify different crying sounds with your baby’s needs. Most of the time, your baby will cry because:
- He is hungry
- He has wind and needs to burp or pass gas
- Is not comfortable. He can be too hot, too cold, or just itchy in his clothes.
- He is sleepy.
- He is wet or has been hanging out in poop for a while.
As a parent who worries for your baby day in and day out, it can be hard to hear noises a baby makes at night and ignore them. Most of the time, noises in sleep are normal.
Even a high-pitched squeal is part of it all. There are ways to check why your baby is squealing during his sleep and assess whether it’s a cause for concern or not.
Always remember to research, ask other parents, and never hesitate to call your doctor if you feel something is wrong.