Is It Normal for Newborns to Sneeze a Lot?

newborn baby girl sneezing

micheldenijs / E+ / Getty Images

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

As the parent of a newborn, you're probably on high alert for any signs that your baby is getting sick or that something might be wrong. As a result, if your baby is sneezing a lot during the day, you may worry that it's a sign that they're getting a cold. You'll likely wonder if you should take them to the doctor, too.

Fortunately, frequent newborn sneezing is absolutely normal and usually nothing to be concerned about. In fact, you might be surprised to learn that most babies are primarily nose breathers and sneeze as a way to breathe more easily and clear their little noses. Typically, you don't need to contact your doctor unless they have other symptoms.

Below you'll find everything you need to know about why babies sneeze a lot, if and when you should clear their nose, as well as when to call the doctor.

Why Babies Sneeze a Lot

If your baby's sneezes aren't accompanied by any other signs of illness, then more than likely you don't have anything to be concerned about. Instead, be reassured that their little body is behaving exactly as it should be. 

Sneezes naturally help eject germs and particles from the nasal passages and keep air flowing. It's a natural reflex that babies are born with like the rooting reflex and startle reflex; and as they begin to breathe more through their mouth, they won't necessarily sneeze as often.

Sometimes, you might notice a sneeze when you are breastfeeding because your baby has pressed one nostril shut against your skin. Your baby might sneeze to open the nostril up again.

In addition to clearing amniotic fluid from their air passages soon after birth, babies also end up with milk and saliva in their nasal passages from feeding. They don't swallow everything and often spit up or regurgitate what they've swallowed, and it can end up backing up into the nose. Even dry air can cause your baby to sneeze a lot.

As long as your baby isn't having any trouble breathing, it's better not to intervene with saline drops or a nasal aspirator. Those frequent sneezes will help keep air moving in and out. Here are some other reasons your baby might sneeze.

  • Newborn babies are nose-breathers: Newborns have a different breathing pattern. From birth, they breathe through their noses until they are a few months old. In light of that, they need to clear their nose often.
  • Newborns can't snort or sniff: Their only option is to sneeze in order to clear their nasal passages.
  • Newborns have tiny noses: Tiny noses mean tiny nasal passages. That little pathway can be easily clogged with lint, pet hair, and dust. Babies sneeze a lot to keep that passage clean.

Sometimes excessive sneezing can be a sign of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), which means the baby has been exposed to opioid drugs in utero. Typically, symptoms of NAS show up 72 hours after birth and can last 1 week to 6 months.

Clearing a Baby's Nose

Having a stuffy nose is pretty common for a newborn. The good news is, there are a lot of simple solutions for clearing your baby's nose if they get too congested.

Aside from avoiding common irritants like dust, perfumes, hair spray, and cigarette smoke, most doctors advise that you leave your baby's nose alone unless the congestion is interfering with their feeding or making them uncomfortable.

Start with the least invasive option, which is using a humidifier to moisten the air, especially when they're sleeping. You also can try saline drops to help loosen the mucus in your baby's nose combined with a bulb syringe or nasal aspirator to gently remove the larger or particularly sticky pieces of dried mucus.

Try not to use these devices too often or too aggressively, though. You don't want to irritate your baby's nose in the process. If you're concerned about whether or not you should use any of these tools, talk to your doctor first.

When to Call the Doctor

Usually, baby sneezes by themselves are not a reason to worry. However, in combination with other symptoms, it might be a sign of something more serious.

If your baby is under 3 months old and is having trouble nursing due to the congestion or has other symptoms such as a rectal temperature over 100.4, contact your doctor. If your infant is older and has a fever, is coughing, isn't feeding well, or is sleepier than usual you also should contact your doctor.

Of course, you should call 9-1-1 or contact your doctor immediately if your baby is ever having trouble breathing regardless of their age or symptoms.

A Word From Verywell

Newborn babies are noisy. They hiccup, sneeze, and make all sorts of odd little noises, especially when they're sleeping. The good news is these noises—especially frequent sneezing—are completely normal and usually nothing to be concerned about.

That said, you should never feel bad about reaching out to your doctor with a question or concern, especially if it will put your mind at ease. In addition to offering reassurance, they may provide some tips on how to lessen the frequency of your baby's sneezing.

3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Trabalon M, Schaal B. It takes a mouth to eat and a nose to breathe: abnormal oral respiration affects neonates' oral competence and systemic adaptationInt J Pediatr. 2012;2012:207605. doi:10.1155/2012/207605

  2. Fairview Health Services. Stuffy nose, sneezing, and hiccups in newborns.

  3. March of Dimes. Neonatal abstinence syndrome. Updated June 2019.

By Jennifer White
Jennifer White has authored parenting books and has worked in childcare and education fields for over 15 years.