Methods for Clearing a Newborn's Nostrils

Does your baby hate feeling blocked up? Do you have difficulty finding a good way to clean your little one’s nose? You aren’t alone.

Most babies get a little bit cranky when they can’t breathe properly. They have tiny nasal passages which can get blocked fairly easily. So, if your baby is snorting, having trouble eating, or being a little more irritable than usual, check their nose.

We’ll discuss some of the ways you can clean your little one’s nose, so you’ll know exactly what to do next time your infant is all stuffed up.


The Causes of Congestion

Having a newborn that isn’t feeling well can be pretty disheartening. When a baby has a stuffed up nose, they sometimes don’t even want to eat. This can be very worrying, particularly for a new mom.

There are many reasons why your baby’s nose could be clogged, however. Not all of them relate to being sick. Here are five of the more common reasons a baby has difficulty breathing through the nose:

  1. The nasal passages are small: Your newborn’s beautiful button nose is pretty tiny. So if the nasal passage gets inflamed for any reason, it can sound congested. If your baby is eating without a problem, there may not actually be anything clogging it.
  2. Babies can’t blow: Mucus builds up in the nose sometimes, no matter what your age. Older children can simply blow it out. However, babies can’t and need a little help clearing their nasal passages.
  3. Scents are irritating the nose: Perfumes, cigarette smoke, or dust can all irritate the nasal passages. Try to eliminate these and make sure that your baby is breathing good quality air (source).
  4. They have a cold: Babies are susceptible to the cold virus just like everyone else. So, if your baby has all the stuffed up symptoms, it could be a common cold.
  5. They have a serious illness: Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) can cause your baby to be congested. It’ll usually be accompanied by other signs, like lethargy and disrupted feeding patterns (source).

Tried and True Methods

There are many reasons why your baby’s nose may be clogged. Cold and flu symptoms are chief among them. Yet, things like allergies and simply excess mucus can be culprits as well.

When your nose is stuffed, the best remedy is to blow it out. This can be pretty difficult to get your baby to do, however. That’s why you need these alternative clearing methods.

1. Nasal Spray

A saline nasal spray is a great way to clean a baby’s nose. It can help to thin the mucus causing the issue, which will usually clear the congestion (source).

To use the spray, you’ll need to lay the baby down on their back. With a hand or pillow under the neck, tilt their head back. You want it to be at a slight angle.

Next, you should spray two to three drops of the saline spray into each nostril. Then wait 30 seconds or so before turning your baby onto their stomach. The nose should start flowing at this point.

You can use a soft tissue or cloth to wipe away any excess mucus or saline that comes out of the nose. Your baby is probably not going to like the process, but will probably be much happier when they can breathe again.

2. Rubber Bulb Syringe

Chances are you’ve seen one of these rubber bulb syringes before. They often come in a baby grooming kit, or you may have been given one in the hospital. The rubber bulb syringe is made specifically for clearing your baby’s nose (source).

It’s generally best to work from an upright position for this method. You can use pillows to help prop up the baby or have someone else hold them.

Squeeze all the air out of the bulb. It should be pretty flat in your hand, and then gently put the tip in your baby’s nose. Take care that you don’t insert it too deeply.

You then release the squeeze on the bulb. This will suck the mucus out of the baby’s nose and into the bulb. You need to clean the bulb out before and after each use, to prevent spreading any germs.

3. Nasal Aspirator

A nasal aspirator works similarly to the bulb syringe. However, instead of the pressure inside the bulb doing the sucking, it will come from your mouth. The aspirator has a tube with a mouthpiece for you to gently suck the mucus out of your baby’s nose.

You will use the same manner as the syringe, being careful not to place the tip too far inside the nostril. When you’re sucking on the hose, you probably don’t want to use too much force. This could cause your baby to have inflammation inside the nose.

A good tip that I learned from my pediatrician is to spray a little saline solution to loosen the mucus first, and then use the aspirator to bring it out.

Don’t worry —most aspirators have a filter inside the tube to prevent the mucus from making its way into your mouth. It may feel weird sucking boogers out of your little one’s nose, but it’s really effective. Just like the syringe, you’ll need to clean it before and after each use.

4. Keeping Your Baby Safe

When using the bulb syringes or the nasal aspirators, there are a few precautions that you should take. The process should always be very gentle. You don’t want anything too aggressive or you could give your baby a bloody nose.

Always start the process with freshly washed hands, just like you do with most things when dealing with babies. This will keep you from giving your baby any germs.

When you buy a syringe or aspirator, make sure it’s specifically designed for babies. If the tip is too large, it could damage your little one’s nostrils. Also, make sure to carefully follow any directions that come with your device.

Prevention Methods

Pediatricians recommend only using the suction methods a couple of times per day, to keep the nose from getting inflamed. If your baby has allergies or is ill, you may want to use other methods to keep the nose as clear as possible. Here are a few things you can do to help the nostrils drain more easily:

  • Humidifier: Dry air in your home can cause the nose to be dry and then produce extra mucus. This problem is especially prevalent in the winter. Run a humidifier in the baby’s room to help alleviate the symptoms (source).
  • Steam: Steam can help loosen the mucus inside your baby’s nose. Close the bathroom door and run hot shower water to make the room steamy. Sit inside with your baby for 5–10 minutes to let the steam penetrate the nostrils.
  • Gravity: While the baby is taking a nap, try propping them up a little bit. You can use a rolled blanket under their head to give it a little elevation. Only do this when you can see your baby and not during the nighttime hours.

Remedies You Shouldn’t Try

There may be many treatments for stuffy noses that are okay to use on adults. However, they may not be appropriate for use on your baby.

Neti pots are something that many people use to clear their nasal passages or deal with a sinus infection. But these should not be used on a baby. It will be too difficult to control the amount of saline solution you put in each nostril.

Vapor rubs may be okay for older children or adults, but they’re often not good for infants. The rubs usually contain ingredients like menthol or camphor, which are too harsh for a newborn’s delicate skin. Also, a baby may accidentally get some of the ointment on their hands and into their eyes.

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When to Call the Doctor

Having a blocked nasal passage is a common occurrence for babies, but there are times when you should call the doctor. Call and make an appointment with your doctor for any of the following reasons:

  • Your baby’s symptoms last longer than a week.
  • The condition seems to be getting worse instead of improving over time.
  • Any efforts to clear the nostrils show no signs of working.
  • The stuffiness continues, and you suspect it may be an allergy (source).

There are other methods your doctor may be able to try. They can look inside your little one’s nose and see if anything is obstructing it. Plus, if it’s an infection, your doctor can prescribe antibiotics.

There’s another suctioning technique that can only be performed by a healthcare professional: nasopharyngeal suctioning. You can use this process when your baby is having difficulty breathing or eating and the normal suction isn’t working.

The procedure starts with a saline rinse to loosen the mucus. Then a very thin tube is placed inside the nostril until it reaches the back of the baby’s throat. The tube is attached to a suction device which will clear the nasal passage.

Doctors aren’t likely to use nasopharyngeal suctioning in some cases, for example, if the cause of the congestion is croup (source).

There are a few scenarios that warrant prompt medical attention. If you notice any of the following symptoms, you should get your baby to a doctor immediately:

  • You notice a blue tinge to your baby’s skin, lips, or nails.
  • Your baby is working too hard to take a breath.
  • Your baby is running a fever or is coughing a lot.
  • You’re concerned that a foreign object is stuck in your baby’s nose.

No More Stuffy Noses

There’s really no way to avoid a nose cleaning. Your baby will have clogged nostrils at some point, and you will have to clean it. After all, we all know how annoying having a blocked nose is.

Eliminating possible environmental factors may help. Also, you can prevent the spread of infections like the cold virus by having people wash their hands before holding your baby, or avoiding such people altogether while they’re unwell.

The at-home methods shouldn’t be too difficult to perform, even though your baby won’t enjoy them much. However, if you find that you can’t get things clear, and your baby is obviously in distress, a call to the doctor may be in order.

If you have any comments or questions about baby nose cleaning, leave them in the section below. Also, if this information may be helpful to one of your mom friends, share this article on social media.

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