Do Babies Breathe Through Their Nose or Mouth?

by Laura Klein

We receive so many emails from Aussie parents asking for advice on the health of their sick baby. 

Often the question is "Does my baby breathe through their nose or their mouth?"

Young babies can only breathe through their nose.  Around 5 months of age, they develop the ability to breathe oxygen through their mouth, but their preference will always be nasal breathing.

Adults can also breathe through both mouth and nose. But our preference is also nasal breathing.

Suction Snot So Baby Can Breathe Easy

A Blocked Nose is Dangerous and Uncomfortable

A blocked nose from congestion can severely compromise the health and comfort of your baby.  It is their natural preference and physiological reflex to breathe through their nose. 

If the nasal passage is blocked, it can be dangerous and uncomfortable.

How To Clear A Blocked Nose

It makes sense to flush out and clear the nasal passages as quickly as possible, and as often is needed. 

However, babies and toddlers can't sniff or blow their own nose. 

Thankfully, there are solutions available.

A 2-step process is recommended: 

Step 1. Flushing each nostril with 2-3 squirts of saline spray. Saline spray is natural, purified salt water. Saline has no medical or chemical dangers, so is safe to use daily from birth.

Step 2. Clearing and removing all excess mucus in a few seconds via a motorised suction device (like the Snotty Boss Aspirator). Keep bub upright to allow gravity to aid in snot removal.

Best Nasal Aspirator Australia Remove Snot


Let's explore the idea of nose breathing a little more.... 

Dr Nina Shapiro advises that newborns and babies are "obligate nasal breathers" which means their natural preference and reflex is to breathe through their nose. 

If the nasal passage is blocked, it can be dangerous and uncomfortable. 

Whilst mouth breathing is not impossible, newborns have certain physical features that make it more difficult including a larger tongue, smaller mouth and elevated larynx. 

During feeding, the mouth is blocked by breast or bottle, so it's absolutely vital a baby can breathe through their nose. 

A motorised nasal aspirator, like Snotty Boss, can safely and quickly clear the nasal passages, in the comfort of home. Parents feel reassured when Snotty Boss is in the medicine cabinet, in case of midnight congestion.

Snot Gone Help Sick Baby

As babies breathe through their nose, and often sleep with their mouth open, both areas can dry out quickly - particularly if airconditioners or heaters are being used in the room, as they severely reduce humidity. 

Dry mouth and nose can cause early waking. 

As well as keeping little noses clear with a nasal aspirator, hydrating the air with a cool mist vaporiser/diffuser also promotes good health and good sleep. 

Baby Humidifiers

The team at Rhythm First Aid Australia and Itty Bitty First Aid acknowledge that humidified air helps sick babies breathe easier

Plain tap water can be safely turned into water vapour in the ultrasonic vaporiser/humidifier from birth, and a few drops of organic essential oil, like lavender, lemon and chamomile can be added from around 3 months. 

Read more on diffusing essential oils with babies here

Best Humidifier Vaporiser for Baby Hush Aroma Snooze Glow Dreaming

Purify and hydrate the air 365 nights a year for better health and sleep with HUSH

Baby's Breathing Changing Over Time

Around the age of 6 months, rapid physical growth moves the soft palate and epiglottis further apart, which allows your baby more freedom to breathe through the mouth. Although they can alternate between nasal and mouth breathing, children over the age of 6 months generally continue to show a preference for nasal breathing.

Even as adults, we know how difficult and uncomfortable it is to breathe and sleep with a blocked nose and congestion, so it makes sense to help our little ones have clear and hydrated noses, each and every day. 

Snotty Boss is better than fess and nose frida

best vaporiser cool mist for children relieve sniffles

Read the hundreds of testimonials and see why 1000s of Australian families use and trust our products. They will become a key part of your daily well-being routine for your baby, toddler and child. 

Much love

Laura and the team, Brisbane xx

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Disclaimer:  Our products are offered for sale with general use guidelines provided by the manufacturer. Should any sensitivity to our products occur, please discontinue use. 

We are not doctors or healthcare professionals or aromatherapists. Our products are not intended to diagnose, treat, and/or take the place of medical treatment prescribed by a doctor or medical professional.