Does your baby yawn even when he is not sleepy? Should you consult the doctor if your baby yawns excessively? Find out all about yawning in babies.
By Monali Bordoloi
Mother to nine months old Vivaan, Usha Ramanathan often wonders why her son yawns so much. Generally considered as a cue for sleep, her son sometimes yawns just after waking up from sleep too. She is planning to discuss his excessive yawning in her next visit to the doctor.
Like Usha, most mothers are clueless when it comes to their baby’s yawing. A seemingly innocent reflex, people generally yawn when they are tired and sleepy. But is it different with babies? Can they yawn even if they are not tired?
Dr S P Senthil Kumar, Paediatric, Columbia Asia Hospitals, Whitefield, Bengaluru, says, “Yawning is a natural response to tiredness, sleeplessness. When your baby yawns, she breathes in deeply with her open mouth. By doing that, she fills her lungs with air. Babies start yawning inside the womb too, as early as 11 weeks old babies are seen yawning in sonography when they are inside the womb.”
He adds, “Just like adults, babies also yawn when they are tired or sleepy. Sometimes, we yawn when we are bored too. Babies are no different, they yawn out of boredom too.”
It is also said that by yawning we take in more oxygen when there is a need for more in our body, however, real reasons behind yawning are still not known.
Have you noticed that yawning is contagious? It is said that you can even start yawning if you see or even hear someone else yawning. But, it may not be true when it comes to babies. Children under four years do not yawn seeing or hearing other's yawning. Also, children with autism symptoms do not get affected by contagious yawning.
You may also notice that most of your baby’s yawns are accompanied by watery eyes and sighs. Now, new studies suggest that we may yawn to cool off our overheated brain.
It is not necessary that your few-weeks-old baby should yawn. If your baby is sleeping almost 12-14 hours in a day, most likely, he will not yawn.
But, if your baby is yawning a lot in the first few months, check if he is overstimulated. Babies are overstimulated when they are exposed to a lot of noise, touches, experiences, and activities all at once. Check if your infant is using yawning as a method to calm himself after getting overstimulated. If your child is yawning too much just a few weeks after birth, he may still be adjusting to the world outside his mother's womb.
However, Dr Senthil has some word of advice for parents, “Don’t take yawing in babies too seriously. Keep in mind that babies can yawn without being sleepy and be sleepy without yawning.”
If your baby is yawning more than once in one minute, it is termed as excessive yawning. Your child can yawn excessively in case there are extreme tiredness and sleeplessness. That’s normal. However, there can be some underlying medical problem behind the excessive yawning of your baby. Check with your doctor to rule out medical problems like sleep disorders, epilepsy, heart conditions or behavioural issues like ADHD/ADD.
According to Dr Senthil Kumar, “It is important that parents maintain a proper sleep routine for their children. Even for babies, a fixed bedtime should be followed as far as possible.”
Here are the ideal sleep timings:
For babies: Make sure your infant is getting at least 12-14 hours of sleep time.
For toddlers: Encourage your toddler to sleep for at least 9-10 hours in a day.
For school-going kids: Around 8 to 10 hours of sleep time is recommended for school-going kids.
If you notice that your child is yawning while doing some activities, try to engage your child in a different game or in his field of interest. Do not worry if your child yawns just after waking up from a deep sleep. Most probably, it does not mean anything and just the body’s reaction after getting up.
However, take note if your baby is yawning excessively. It is advisable to consult your paediatrician to rule out underlying medical conditions if any.
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