What to Do If Your Newborn Sounds Congested

What to Do If Your Newborn Sounds Congested

Newborn congestion is normal, but babies hate being stuffy. Wondering what to do if your newborn sounds congested? Here are some tips and tricks.
Many newborns sound a bit congested during their first weeks in the world — even if they’re completely healthy.

But congestion can make it tricky for them to feed and harder for them to stay asleep.

Since those two activities make up most of your little one’s day, you’re probably wondering what to do if a newborn sounds congested — and what you can do to get them breathing easy again.

In this article: 📝

  • Why do newborns grunt and sound congested?
  • How do I get rid of my newborn’s congestion?
  • What to do if a newborn sounds congested when sleeping
  • How long should a newborn sound congested?
  • When should I worry about newborn congestion?

Why do newborns grunt and sound congested?

When your newborn is in your arms, it may feel like they’ve been there forever.

But if they’re brand new, they were surrounded by (and breathing in) amniotic fluid until just a few days ago.

Some of the congested, snuffly sounds that newborns make come from trying to clear the last bit of this fluid from their airways.

Babies’ sweet little noses have tiny nasal passages to match.

Even a small amount of fluid, mucus, or milk that goes down the wrong way can feel like a lot to them.

And it’s not as if you can ask them to blow their nose.

What’s more, it takes babies a good few months to figure out how to breathe through their mouths, meaning that (unless they’re mid-cry) their nose is their only option.

So basically, newborn congestion is usually a combination of adjusting to the outside world, being tiny, and having a lot to learn.

How do I get rid of my newborn’s congestion?

So how exactly do you clear your baby’s airways so they can get back to sleeping and feeding in peace?

The first tool in your newborn congestion-clearing utility belt is a bulb syringe or nasal aspirator.

These are devices you can use to suck the mucus out of your little one’s nose.

Here’s a quick guide on how to use these simple gadgets:

  • Put a few drops of saline or distilled water in your baby’s nose. Two drops per nostril should do the trick.
  • Squeeze the air out of the bulb syringe if that’s what you’re using.
  • Put the narrow point of the bulb syringe or nasal aspirator just inside your baby’s nostril.
  • Release the bulb or suck through the aspirator’s mouthpiece. This should draw the snot right out of their nose. Mmm. Mamahood can be so much fun.
  • Give your little one a big hug. Babies don’t tend to enjoy this process, and they’ve been very brave.

Other things you can try to get rid of your newborn’s congestion include:

Giving them a shoulder to cry on

If you hold your baby upright against your shoulder, especially after a feed, the mucus and milk will run down their throat as they should.

Taking a stroll

The air outside is usually more humid than inside, which can soften the mucus in their nose.

The gentle movement in a stroller or baby carrier can start to shift their snot.

And if that’s not enough to do the deed, there are also trees, buses, and dogs to look at outside, so they’ll at least be distracted from their stuffy nose.

Just adding water

When you bath your little one, they get to sit in a warm, humid room for a while.

This loosens their congestion and sets them up for a peaceful sleep.

What to do if a newborn sounds congested when sleeping

It’s normal for newborns to sound more congested at night.

They’re lying on their backs, which means that any extra slime can settle in their chest.

Plus, because they’re lying still, the mucus isn’t moving around.

The air in bedrooms can also be quite dry, especially if you have the heat on to keep your little one cozy.

This drier air can make the mucus in their nose stickier, meaning it’s harder for them to shift on their own.

If your little one sounds extra congested when sleeping, use the bulb syringe technique to clear their nose before they go down.

Another option is to put a cool mist humidifier in a safe place by their bed.

This adds moisture to the air and makes it much easier for them to sleep.

How long should a newborn sound congested?

Your newborn is going to grow up really fast.

As their bodies get bigger, their nasal passages will also expand, making congestion less of a problem.

It won’t be long until they’re more able to turn their heads and find a position where they can breathe easily while they’re sleeping.

Newborns also grow out of their snuffly, slightly irregular breathing within the first month or two.

If your newborn often sounds congested, or their congestion doesn’t go away as they get older, it’s worth bringing up at one of their regular checkups.

When should I worry about newborn congestion?

Even though congestion is a normal part of being a newborn, it can also indicate that your baby is feeling under the weather.

Wondering how to tell the difference between newborn congestion and a cold? Here are some of the telltale signs:

  • A runny nose. Most babies occasionally sneeze out some boogers, but a continuous runny nose is more often an illness or allergies, especially if the mucus is green or yellow.
  • Coughing. Babies sneeze pretty often. But continuous coughing is more likely a sign of a sore throat or lung congestion that may be caused by a virus like a cold, Covid-19, or RSV.
  • A fever. Anything over 38°C/100.4°F is a fever for a newborn. If the thermometer reads even slightly over that while they’re less than three months old, it’s time to get medical help.
  • Difficulty breathing. Look out for noisy, rapid, or shallow breathing. If there are blue tinges around their mouth or their skin is sucking in under their ribs when they breathe, get to your doctor as soon as possible.
  • Sleeping too much. We all want our newborns to sleep, but if you can’t wake them up by playing with their feet, washing their face, or changing their diaper, it can be a sign that they’re unwell.

Whether they’re feeling under the weather or are still working out how to work their little nasal passages, we hope your little one is breathing easy soon.

You’ve got this, mama. ❤️

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