When to Worry About Newborn Congestion

When to Worry About Newborn Congestion

It’s normal for babies to sound stuffy, but it’s hard to know when to worry about newborn congestion. Here are the signs to watch out for.
There are lots of things that no one tells you about bringing your baby home.

Top of the list for many parents is how congested newborns can sound in the beginning.

And while a little bit of newborn congestion is normal, it’s also natural to be concerned about your little peanut.

So if you’re wondering when to worry about newborn congestion, here’s everything you need to know.

What’s normal, what’s not, and when to get help.

In this article: 📝

  • Is it OK if my newborn is congested?
  • When to worry about baby congestion
  • What to do if your baby is congested
  • How long is too long for newborn congestion?
  • When to get urgent help for newborn congestion

Is it OK if my newborn is congested?

The short answer is usually yes.

Newborn babies have very small nasal passages.

And they take some time to get used to using them.

Add to this that tiny babies are what’s known as obligate nose breathers — meaning they breathe through their noses rather than their mouths — and they may sound quite congested for their first few weeks of life.

When to worry about baby congestion

Babies don’t come with an instruction manual, but there are some clear warning signs to watch out for that may signal that something is up.

First, let’s look at the symptoms you should keep an eye on.

These are the classic signs that your little one has picked up their first (likely of many) colds.


Newborn babies sneeze a lot (and they look adorable while doing so).

A newborn cough is less normal.

If your little one is coughing regularly or if it sounds like the cough is coming from deep in their chest, it’s a sign that their congestion is related to illness rather than just being small.


A booger or two every day is normal for a new baby, but a lot of wet snot or a runny nose (even if it’s just from one nostril) is not.

If the mucus is green or yellow or has changed color, it could be a sign of a viral or bacterial infection.

Whatever the root cause, copious mucus usually means that your little one is fighting something off.

Crackling or wheezing

Sometimes, you can feel that your little one is congested when you lay your hand on their back.

If their breathing feels rough or rattly, it’s a sign that there’s a lot of mucus in their lungs.

What to do if your baby is congested

Whenever newborns are sick, it’s worth taking them to the doctor.

There’s a high chance that your doctor will tell you that it’s just a cold, but it’s still a good idea to check that there’s not something more serious going on.

Once your little one has been checked out, there are some things you can do to help clear the congestion and make them more comfortable:

  • Use saline drops and a bulb syringe or nasal aspirator to clear their nose.
  • Hold them upright against your shoulder instead of cradling them in your arms.
  • Use a humidifier by their bed.
  • Bath them regularly, so they have the chance to sit in a humid room.
  • Put cream on their face if the skin around their nose or mouth looks sore and red.
  • Continue to follow advice about safe sleeping, like putting your baby down to sleep on their back on a flat mattress.

How long is too long for newborn congestion?

Newborn congestion usually goes away within a few days.

Colds can last for between one and two weeks.

If your baby isn’t on the mend after seven days, or if they ever seem to be getting worse, it’s probably a good idea to take them back to the doctor.

When to get urgent help for newborn congestion

The following signs are thankfully unusual.

If your little one has a cold or is just getting through newborn congestion, it’s unlikely that you’ll have to deal with them at all.

These symptoms are all related to a more serious chest infection and could mean that your little one isn’t getting enough oxygen.

If your baby is congested and you notice any of these signs, it’s time to consider getting urgent medical help.

Fever over 100.4°F/ 38°C

Fevers over 100.4°F or 38°C (higher than normal baby temperatures) are a clear sign of an infection.

For babies less than three months old, there’s a chance that their immune system won’t be able to fight off the infection without medicine.

It’s best to call a doctor straight away, rather than give them medicine like baby Tylenol to try and get the fever down at home.

Blueness around the mouth

When babies seem blue around the mouth or inside their lips, it’s a sign of a serious chest infection.

It can mean that their lungs aren’t working well enough to get sufficient oxygen into their blood, and they may need to be given extra oxygen.

Mottled skin

When babies are sick, their skin can look gray, mottled, or marbled.

It’s a sign that their body is working overtime to fight something off.

Especially if there are other symptoms in the mix, it’s important to get medical help.

Refusing to feed

Congested babies can struggle to feed because they can’t breathe well through their noses.

It’s normal for a newborn to feed every 2-3 hours and to have at least six wet diapers every day.

Less than this can be a sign that they’re unwell and may need to be treated for dehydration.

If they’re not interested in feeding at all, get to the doctor as soon as possible.

Labored breathing

Newborns breathe more quickly than adults and can go through short phases of very fast breathing while asleep.

But if they’re taking more than one breath per second or 60 breaths per minute, it’s often because their body is having to work harder to get the oxygen it needs.

You should also listen out for noisy breathing, especially during the in-breath.

Another clear sign that they’re struggling is if the skin at the top of their tummies seems to suck up and in under their ribs.

High-pitched crying

If they sound different when they cry or if it’s very difficult to get them to stop crying, it can be a sign of a serious infection.

Doctors sometimes call these cries “weak,” “keening,” or “whining”.

Drowsiness and lethargy

Newborns sleep a lot.

But if they’ve slept for longer than four hours, it’s time to check on them.

Try washing their face, tapping their feet, or changing their diaper.

If they manage to sleep through that, they may need immediate medical help.

If your little one is sick, it isn’t your fault.

And by getting them the help they need, you’re doing exactly what you’re supposed to do as a mama.

We hope your little one is back to their old self in no time.

And if you need support along the way, check in with your Peanut community.

We don’t have to do this alone. ❤️

Popular on the blog
Trending in our community