Did you know that yawning is not only observed in infants and newborns but also fetuses of 12–14 weeks’ gestational age? (1) What started in the womb will continue throughout childhood and adult life.
Yawning is defined as the involuntary wide opening of the mouth, along with a long and deep inhalation through the mouth and nose, followed by a slow expiration, which is associated with a feeling of comfort.
Babies usually yawn once or twice per hour. After the term age, yawning generally occurs before the onset of sleep and is one of the signs of sleepiness (1). However, if you find your baby yawning excessively even after a good night’s sleep, it might need further investigation.
Read this post to learn the causes of excessive yawning in babies, when you should be worried, and ways to manage it.
Causes Of Excessive Yawning In Babies
Excessive yawning in babies can be due to any of the following reasons. However, it is best to look out for other signs, too, before determining the problem (2).
Your baby might excessively yawn when they are drowsy or lethargic. If they seem drowsy or lethargic even after having a good night’s sleep, it is best to consult your pediatrician.
If your baby is tired and fatigued all day, they might yawn excessively. The fatigue could be due to a lack of nutrients. Make sure your baby is well-fed and gets all the nutrients needed for their growth.
3. Underlying medical issues
In rare cases, yawning in babies could be a sign of an underlying medical condition, such as multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, migraine, stress, anxiety, or stroke. This could increase the core body temperature, and yawning could be a mechanism to correct it.
Is Yawning Contagious In Babies?
You might have often noticed that we yawn involuntarily upon seeing someone yawn, but this may not be the case with babies. A study has found that contagious yawning can be induced in children after four to five years of age, and that babies below this age have immature neural mechanisms to understand the mental state of others and imitate yawning (2)
When Is Yawning Normal In Babies?
If your baby yawns once or twice per hour when they are sleepy, tired, or going through a growth spurt, you need not worry about it, as this is the normal rate of yawning in babies.
When Should You Be Worried?
Yawning is a normal reflex in babies when they are tired or sleepy. But, if you notice an increase in the frequency of yawning or if your baby shows other signs of disturbances, it is best to consult your pediatrician as excessive yawning could be a sign of an underlying medical condition. Excess yawning could be controlled when the underlying medical reason is addressed.
Ways To Manage Excess Yawning In Babies
If your pediatrician rules out any underlying medical causes, follow these steps to manage excessive yawning in your baby.
- Make sure your baby gets enough sleep.
- Breastfeed them exclusively for the first six months and include nutritious foods in their diet once they start on solids.
- Take care not to overstimulate them before their bedtime.
- Establish and follow a bedtime routine.
Your baby may excessively yawn when tired or sleepy; stick to their bedtime routine, and the yawing may subside on its own. If it doesn’t subside, it is best to seek medical advice as yawning followed by lethargy could indicate an underlying medical condition.
2. Sharat Gupta and Shallu Mittal; Yawning and its physiological significance; International Journal of Applied Basic Medical Research (2013).