Hiccups, sneezing and other breathing noises

Newborn babies can make funny little breathing noises that are not always even and smooth. Sometimes their breathing can seem very shallow and barely noticeable, while at other time it can be quite deep and rapid. When your baby falls asleep, she can breathe deeply and and quickly for a few seconds, before her breathing slows right down.

This breathing patten can cause some new parents to be concerned, possibly placing their hands on their baby’s chest or abdomen, or their fingers in front of their baby’s nose, to make sure they are still breathing. You may do this quite frequently for reassurance (hopefully falling short of waking your baby up to ‘make sure’). However, if your baby was born premature, or you are concerned about SIDS, it can be hard to relax. Be assured that this is completely normal behaviour for a new parent! Your baby’s breathing will become more noticeable as she grows and develops.

Rarely, a baby will have constant noisy, rattly breathing, which often alarms parents, though doesn’t seem to concern baby at all. This is usually caused by a ‘floppy’ voice box  – a condition that usually corrects itself over the first two years as your baby’s vocal cords tighten with growth – and is nothing serious. Do talk to your GP or paediatrician, though, if you are concerned.


It is normal for your newborn babies to sneeze frequently. It is her way of clearing airborne fluff, dust and mucous from her nose as well as milk, which can go up into her nose when she vomits. It is very common and nothing to worry about. If you notice other symptoms such as a fever or cough you may need to have your baby checked by your doctor.

At times, your baby’s breathing can sound very snuffly, loud, and almost bubbly at times, as if she has a blocked nose. Babies are natural ‘nose-breathers’, and as they have small nasal passages, it is common for their nose to become slightly blocked with accumulated mucus and milk. Your baby will usually clear her own nose by sneezing regularly. As long as she is not distressed by it, and can feed without frequently having to pull off the breat or bottle to breathe through her mouth, there is nothing to be worried about.


Babies hiccup quite frequently in utero, and they usually continue to hiccup once they are born. This is very normal, and is generally caused by the sudden, irregular contractions of their immature diaphragm, the muscle that supports their lungs. As your baby grows older, her hiccups will lessen as her diaphragm and the muscles between her ribs and in her abdomen, become stronger and more synchronised.

Most babies are ‘happy hiccupers’ and will be untroubled by them. Hiccupss are not caused by how you are feeding or burping your baby – or not burping them, as the case may be!. However, you may find that your baby get the hiccups more often when she is feeding. You don’t need to do anything special when your baby has the hiccups, as they will usually stop on their own. However, if you want to try and stop them, there are a few things that might help:

  • Sitting your baby up, until the hiccups settle.
  • Offering her the breast/bottle/dummy again, as swallowing may help to stop the hiccups.
  • Slightly elevating the head of the cot or bassinette. This will help prevent milk coming up with the hiccups. Likewise, you can place your baby in the pram with the head section elevated into a semi-reclining position.


Many babies will hiccup in their sleep. This doesn’t worry them and shouldn’t be a reason to pick them up or disturb them.

This article was written for Kidspot Australia and has been adapted for Kidspot New Zealand.

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  1. kymmage 31/03/2019 at 11:16 pm

    There is nothing more worrying than having a grunting, snoring baby next to you in their cot and then the noise stops suddenly. Then your breath catches in your throat til they start making noises again. Ekkk. I lost so much sleep in the early days over that!

  2. dawnblyth 31/03/2019 at 10:46 pm

    I loved listening to all the little noises that a baby can make. I have also been guilty of putting my finger against baby’s nose to make sure they are breathing, and consequently waking baby, as I couldn’t hear anything.

  3. Alezandra 29/03/2019 at 10:13 pm

    I was always worried about all these noises when my son was little – even the hiccups. I wish I knew about this as I recall trying to wake my son up when he hiccuped in his sleep.

  4. Bevik1971 28/03/2019 at 9:58 am

    Oh I remember hardly sleeping listening to all the sounds our daughter made! Funny thinking about it now, but back then we hardly slept worrying if she was still breathing and waking with every little noise! Babies are actually really rowdy when they sleep 🙂

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