Baby Crying With Mouth Closed? 6 Possible Reasons Why

Because babies cannot yet communicate in ways that are typical to you and me, they use a variety of cries to tell us their needs, wants, and feelings. Babies have specific cries that they use to signal hunger, tiredness, pain, fear, frustration, and other feelings. One thing that these different cries have in common though, is that they are usually produced with a wide-open mouth.

There are a few reasons why babies may cry with their mouths closed, such as an ear infection, teething pain, and fatigue. They may also try crying with their mouth closed as a way of experimenting with the sounds and vibrations they can produce.

This article will explain 6 possible factors behind why a baby may be crying with their mouth closed, as well as a few solutions that may help improve the problem.

Possible Reasons Why Baby is Crying With Mouth Closed

  1. Teething

baby crying

While teething is a normal and healthy part of every baby’s development, it is often a not very comfortable time for both parents and their babies. A teething baby may have difficulty feeding and sleeping, 

When a tooth cuts through the gum surface, it often leads to swelling and soreness. Because babies do not yet understand what teething is, they may feel confused and frustrated as to why their gums hurt.

The combination of pain, confusion, and frustration may make them unwilling to expose their gums, leading to the behavior of crying with their mouth closed.  

Teething pain can usually be relieved at home by gently rubbing your baby’s gums with a clean finger or frozen soft cloth. Chilled (not frozen) teething rings and teething biscuits can also provide great opportunities for chewing and soothing sore gums.

If your baby is particularly uncomfortable or in pain, a dose of a children’s pain reliever containing ibuprofen or acetaminophen can also help make them more comfortable, provided that age and dosing guidelines are followed.

  1. Ear Infection

The Eustachian tube is a paired organ that connects the middle ear to the nasopharynx or upper part of the throat, where it meets with the mouth and nose.

It serves to regulate air pressure in the middle ear and allow excess fluid and mucus to drain away from the ear and towards the nasopharynx where it can then be eliminated.

The eustachian tubes remain closed for the most part but are opened by yawning, chewing, swallowing, or doing anything else that involves opening your mouth.

While this movement typically goes unnoticed, an ear infection can cause even the slightest movement or pressure change in the ear to be painful and rather uncomfortable.

Because of this, a baby with an ear infection may elect to cry with their mouth closed, as it keeps their eustachian tube from opening and thus prevents pressure changes and movement in the ear canal. 

While most ear infections are not serious or life-threatening problems, they still warrant a visit to your healthcare provider to determine what kind of treatment, if any, is needed. Your healthcare provider can also advise you on techniques to relieve pressure and pain from the ear infection as it heals.  

  1. Fatigue and Illness

dad holding crying baby

Illness and exhaustion may cause a baby to behave in a way that is different from what is typical for them. Because crying and screaming are physically taxing activities, a tired or sick baby may cry softly with their mouth closed to conserve energy.

This type of closed-mouth crying may sound more like whimpering, moaning, or humming rather than the typical wailing or screaming that most people imagine when they think of a crying baby.

Consult your healthcare provider if your baby is crying with their mouth closed along with other signs of illness such as fever, lethargy, a change in feeding behavior, difference in sleeping patterns, etc.

  1. Asymmetric Crying Face

Asymmetrical crying face (ACF) is a mild congenital anomaly where the muscle that pulls the corner of the lip down, known as the depressor anguli oris, is underdeveloped or absent on one side. It may also occur if the branch of the facial nerve controlling the lip muscles is compressed during pregnancy or delivery.

A baby with ACF will have facial features that appear symmetrical at rest, but asymmetrical or lopsided while crying. One corner of the mouth may be pulled down while the other may look as if it is pulled upward.

This may also cause them to look as if they are crying with their mouth closed or partially closed.

A doctor may perform tests such as facial ultrasonography to confirm a diagnosis of ACF. They may also ask you questions about the timing, onset, and history of the problem to rule out other possible causes of facial asymmetry, such as bell’s palsy.

Asymmetrical crying face is not a major cause for concern and usually does not require treatment outside of some gentle exercise. The effects are generally cosmetic and become less noticeable as babies get older and the frequency of crying decreases.

  1. Breath Holding Spells

A breath-holding spell occurs when a baby involuntarily holds their breath in response to being frightened, shocked, upset, angry, or in pain. While these spells can be frightening to observe, they generally do not hurt the baby or cause long-term harm.

During a breath holding spell, a baby may cry very hard or scream for a few seconds. This is followed by a momentary cessation of breathing which may cause them to lose color in their face and/or develop a bluish tinge around their lips.

Breath holding spells may last less than 60 seconds, during which time they will resume breathing and crying. Occasionally, babies will hold their breath until they faint. When this happens, their body will automatically restart breathing for them.

Breath holding spells do not last more than 2 minutes at a time and can occur in babies who are otherwise completely healthy. Most children who experience breath holding spells do not need treatment and will outgrow it by 6 years old.

Your doctor may perform some tests to rule out other issues which may appear similar to breath holding spells, such as epilepsy. Cases of breath holding spells related to iron deficiency anemia should also be confirmed or ruled out with a simple blood count test. 

  1. Their Own Will

Preferential or experimental behavior is common and normal across the human lifespan. Occasionally, babies may discover that doing things a certain way gives them an interesting result, and they will want to experiment with their newfound behavior.

Crying and making noise with a closed mouth causes vibrations from the vocal folds to become more noticeable around the lips, cheeks, and nose. This sensation may be appealing, particularly to babies who are oral sensory seekers.

If your baby is crying with their mouth closed but otherwise appears healthy and comfortable, then it could be that they are performing the behavior simply because it is something they can do easily and without any negative consequences. 

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