Baby’s blocked nose getting everyone down? Here’s what to do when baby’s nose is stuffy, including tips for using a bulb syringe.
It’s normal for babies’ noses to get stuffy, even when they’re totally healthy.
And they may need help from you when it comes to clearing those pipes.
Little ones have a long list of things to learn.
And the milestone of being able to blow their own nose may still be a long way off.
Whether you’re dealing with snot, boogers, or any other nasal goop they might surprise you with, here’s what to do when baby’s nose is stuffy.
In this article: 📝
- Why do newborns get stuffy noses?
- How can I help my baby with a stuffy nose?
- How to use a bulb syringe to clear a baby’s nose
- Can a baby suffocate from a stuffy nose?
Why do newborns get stuffy noses?
To know what to do with a newborn stuffy nose, it helps to understand what’s going on behind the slime.
Little babies can get blocked noses when they’re sick, but they can also be in the best of health and still be congested.
Newborns — especially preemies — have tiny airways and nasal passages.
They’re also what’s called obligate nose breathers.
This means that they can only breathe through their noses.
They won’t learn to breathe through their mouths until they’re a few months old.
The bottom line? It doesn’t take a lot of snot to leave your baby feeling stuffy.
What’s more, they’ll likely get frustrated when their nose isn’t clear — and they’ll let you know about it.
Many new parents find their baby’s nose is stuffy at night.
When your little one is lying still and flat, any mucus they produce can collect in their nose or chest more quickly than if they were wriggling around.
The air inside our homes can also get quite dry, especially if the heat’s turned up to keep baby cozy.
This dries their mucus out and makes it more difficult for them to sniff or sneeze their noses clear.
Other common causes of congestion in babies are:
- Viruses like the common cold, the flu, Covid-19, and RSV
- Chest infections, including bronchiolitis and pneumonia
- Allergies to dust, pollen, pets, or traces of certain foods like dairy products
- Teething, which can mean that your baby produces more mucus.
How can I help my baby with a stuffy nose?
Whatever the underlying cause, you can use the same tricks to help your baby with their stuffy nose.
Whether it’s a harmless reaction to indoor air or a symptom of their first cold, the first step is to suck the mucus out of their teeny tiny nostrils.
The best way to do this is with a bulb syringe, or a tool called a nasal aspirator.
We’ll be honest: babies are not usually fans of this process.
But although it may feel really strange to both you and them, it’s painless and very quick.
They’ll be feeling better in no time.
How to use a bulb syringe to clear a baby’s nose
A bulb syringe is a small, cheap tool for clearing your baby’s nose.
It looks like a rubber ball with a nozzle to put in your baby’s nostril.
A nasal aspirator looks like a hollow pen with a suction tube that goes in your mouth.
It’s also possible to buy an electric nasal aspirator, which makes it easier to use the tool with one hand while cradling your baby with the other.
Whatever tool you’re using, start by putting a few drops of saline or distilled water into your baby’s nose.
You can buy this in small, single-use bottles.
If you can’t get to the store, boiled and cooled tap water is also safe to use.
Put two drops into each of your baby’s nostrils and give it a moment to work its magic.
Your little one might cough or sneeze as you put the drops in, but they’ll still do the trick.
Next, squeeze the air out of the bulb syringe.
It’s really important to do this before you put it in your little one’s nostril.
Holding the bulb syringe squeezed, place it just inside your baby’s nostril and release.
As the bulb reinflates, it should pull the mucus out.
If you have a nasal aspirator, simply place the tip inside your baby’s nose and suck through the tube to pull the mucus out.
(Don’t worry — the mucus gets caught in a filter or piece of tissue. It’s not headed straight for your mouth.)
If your little one still sounds congested or if they’re having problems throughout the day, you can also help their stuffy nose by getting them into some more humid air.
- First, try taking a walk in the fresh air. The air outside is generally more humid, which should help soften any mucus stuck in their nose.
- Second, give your baby a bath (with the water at their regular bathing temperature) or sit in a steamy bathroom with them. These can get the slime moving.
- Third, if you’re wondering what to do when baby’s nose is stuffy at night, you might consider investing in a cool mist humidifier to put in the room where your baby sleeps. These gadgets raise the humidity by puffing out water vapor, which means your little one should have an easier time clearing their nose when they wake up. To use a humidifier safely, choose one that is the appropriate size for the room it will be in, and make sure that it’s at least three feet away from your baby’s bed.
Can a baby suffocate from a stuffy nose?
Take a deep breath, mama.
A stuffy nose might make your little one very grumpy, but unless their lungs are also very congested, they’re still getting enough air.
On the (thankfully very rare) occasion that a baby suffocates, it’s generally because their nose was pressed against something so that their nasal passages were pushed completely closed, not because of a stuffy nose.
But if you’re concerned that your baby’s nose is too congested, trust your instincts and take them to the doctor.
Also, if you notice any of the following symptoms alongside your baby’s blocked nose, it’s time to get urgent medical help:
- A blue tinge around their mouth and lips, which can be a sign that they’re not getting enough oxygen.
- Fast, shallow breathing, or their skin “sucking in” under their ribs when they breathe in.
- A high fever (or any fever at all in a baby under three months old).
- Refusing to feed or wetting their diapers less frequently.
- Becoming very lethargic or difficult to wake up.
We hope everyone is breathing more easily soon!
And if you need some support along the way, touch base with your Peanut community.
We’re here for you.