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Article: Why Are Newborns Grunting and Squirming While Sleeping?

Why Are Newborns Grunting and Squirming While Sleeping?

Why Are Newborns Grunting and Squirming While Sleeping?

Newborns often grunt and squirm when they sleep, confusing new parents.

Grunting and squirming are generally normal for newborns and are usually due to the fact that their nervous systems and digestive processes are not yet developed. Babies are still adjusting to their new environment outside the womb and their bodies are learning how to function properly.

For example, a newborn’s digestive system is developing and may grunt as they adjust to digesting milk. In addition, their sleep cycles are shorter and more active, which may result in more movement and noise.

Is it normal for newborns to grunt or squirm while sleeping?

Yes, it is normal for newborns to grunt or squirm while sleeping. This is usually due to newborns’ developing digestive system and immature nervous system.

Babies are learning to digest milk, which can cause them to grunt as their bodies adjust. Babies also have shorter and more active sleep cycles than older children and adults, resulting in more movements and sounds.

The grunt or squirm usually decreases as babies grow and their bodies mature. If parents are concerned, it's best to consult your pediatrician to double-check.

Why do newborns grunt or squirm while sleeping?

Here are some reasons why newborns grunt or squirm while sleeping:

Immature digestive system:

A newborn's digestive system is underdeveloped and still adjusting to handling milk. During digestion, babies may grunt from gas and bowel movements. Their body is learning how to handle digestion, which can lead to discomfort and noise.

Active sleep cycle:

Compared to adults, newborns have shorter, more active sleep cycles. During the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage, they may wriggle, twitch, or make noises. This is a normal part of their sleep pattern because their brain is highly active during this stage.

Learning to breathe:

Babies are still adjusting to breathing outside the womb. Sometimes they will grunt as they adjust their breathing patterns. This happens more frequently during sleep when they are more relaxed and their breathing becomes more irregular.

Flatulence and bloating:

A buildup of gas in the stomach or intestines can cause discomfort. Newborns may squirm or grunt to relieve this discomfort by passing gas. This is a common problem for newborns as they adjust to feeding.


Some infants develop gastroesophageal reflux, which is when stomach contents flow back into the esophagus. This can be uncomfortable and may cause babies to grunt or squirm. Reflux is common in infants and usually improves as they grow.

Hunger or discomfort:

Sometimes, if your baby is hungry or uncomfortable, they may grunt or squirm. This could be because of a wet diaper, being too cold or hot, or needing a change in position. Paying attention to these cues can help meet your babies’ needs.

These behaviors are usually normal and will decrease as the baby grows and their body systems mature. If parents are unsure or concerned, consulting a pediatrician can provide reassurance and guidance.

What to do if newborns grunt or squirm while sleeping?

Ensure proper feeding technique:

Ensuring that your baby is fed correctly will help reduce grunting and squirming caused by flatulence and digestive problems. Allowing your baby to burp after feeding helps to release trapped air, thus reducing discomfort. Parents can try holding the baby upright and gently patting or rubbing the baby's back to encourage burping.

Monitor the sleep environment:

Creating a comfortable sleep environment helps minimize disturbances. Your baby's sleep environment should be quiet, dark, and at a comfortable temperature. Swaddling can give your baby a sense of security and reduce startle reflexes, but it's important to make sure your baby isn't wrapped too tightly and that they can still move their hips and legs.

Check for discomfort:

Check regularly to see if your baby is in discomfort because of a wet diaper, being too cold or hot, or sleeping in an uncomfortable position. Solving these issues can help your baby sleep more soundly. Keeping your baby's diaper dry and making sure they're wearing clothes that are appropriate for the room temperature will help your baby sleep more soundly.

Practice gentle tummy time:

Practicing gentle tummy time while your baby is awake will help strengthen their muscles and aid in digestion. Reducing the buildup of gas that can lead to grunting. Start with short periods of time and gradually increase the time of tummy time as your baby becomes more comfortable.

Slightly elevate the head:

If your baby is experiencing reflux, slightly elevating the head of the crib or bassinet can help reduce symptoms. A safe practice is to place a firm, flat pillow under the mattress. Never place loose bedding or soft objects in the crib.


Gently massaging your baby's tummy or making their legs do bicycle rides can help relieve bloating and improve digestion. These movements can help a baby’s digestive system expel trapped air, reducing discomfort, grunting, or squirming.

Consult your pediatrician:

If the grunting and squirming seems excessive or is accompanied by other symptoms such as:

  • poor feeding
  • weight loss
  • persistent crying

Be sure to consult your pediatrician. They can rule out any underlying conditions and offer specific advice based on your baby's needs.

By solving these underlying issues, parents can help their newborn sleep more comfortably with less grunting and squirming. It's important to observe your baby's behavioral patterns and address their needs to ensure they grow up healthy.

When to visit a doctor?

Breathing difficulties:

If your baby shows signs of difficulty breathing, such as persistent shortness of breath, flared nostrils, or gurgling with each breath, be sure to see a doctor immediately. These symptoms may indicate a problem with the respiratory system and require medical attention.

Slow weight gain:

If your baby is not gaining as much weight as expected or seems to be losing weight, this could be a sign of feeding or digestive problems. Persistent grunting and squirming during sleep, combined with slow weight gain, needs a visit to the pediatrician.

Persistent crying:

While occasional crying is normal, if your baby cries consistently and is difficult to soothe, it may signal discomfort or pain. This situation along with persistent grunting and squirming, should be evaluated by a doctor to rule out an underlying problem.

Frequent reflux:

If your baby spits up or vomits frequently, especially if it seems painful or is accompanied by grunting and squirming, it may be caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Your pediatrician can offer advice on managing reflux and check for complications.

Changes in feeding habits:

If your baby's feeding habits change significantly, such as refusing to eat, eating less, or showing signs of discomfort while eating, it may be related to digestive problems. Persistent grunting and squirming, coupled with a change in feeding patterns, should be discussed with your doctor.

Lethargy or weakness:

If your baby appears unusually lethargic or weak with humming and squirming, this may signal an underlying health problem. Immediate medical evaluation is necessary to ensure your baby's well-being.

Abnormal color changes:

If your baby shows signs of abnormal color changes, such as blueness (cyanosis) around the lips or skin, or pallor, especially if accompanied by grunting and writhing, it is important to seek immediate medical attention. These symptoms may indicate a serious health problem that requires prompt medical attention.

By knowing the signs and consulting with a doctor if necessary, parents can ensure their baby's health and address any potential problems early.


Newborns cooing and writhing in their sleep is usually a normal part of their development. These behaviors are usually due to their immature digestive and nervous systems, active sleep cycles, and learning to regulate their breathing.

While these movements and sounds are usually harmless, parents should be aware of any signs that may signal discomfort or health problems. Ensuring proper feeding techniques, creating a comfortable sleep environment, and consulting a pediatrician when necessary can help address concerns and promote better sleep for your baby. Understanding these normal behaviors can reassure parents and help them support the healthy development of their newborn.

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Yujia Shi

An expert in sleep sack design, is a valued contributor to Kaiya Baby's blog. With a strong background in baby sleep bags and maternal care, she is highly regarded for her professionalism. Yujia Shi prioritizes baby comfort and safety in her designs, using high-quality materials. Her insightful articles on sleep bags have been featured in reputable publications and have gained a significant readership. Trust Yujia Shi to help you create a comfortable and safe sleep environment for your baby, backed by her proven track record in the industry.

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