Simple Solutions for Clearing a Newborn's Stuffy Nose

As a new parent, you may wonder why your newborn has a stuffy nose. Unfortunately, it's pretty common for babies to have nasal congestion from time to time.

Because baby noses are so small, they also have very small nasal passages. It's one of the reasons you might notice newborns sneezing so often. It's their body's natural way of clearing the nose.

The good news is that there are lots of simple solutions to help get your baby's nose clear. Knowing what congestion culprits to avoid is your first step.

Child's stuffy nose causes
Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin

Common Nasal Irritants

A fairly simple thing you can do is to make sure you're not subjecting your baby to nasal irritants, which are things in the environment that can block their nose.

Common nasal irritants to avoid include:

  • Fuzz and dust: While stuffed animals and cuddly toys are cute decorations in the nursery, they are also dust magnets. Be sure to keep them out of your baby's sleep environment.
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Perfumes or scented body lotions
  • Hair sprays
  • Paint or gasoline fumes
  • Pet hair
  • Aerosol sprays

How to Treat a Stuffy Nose in Newborns

Some experts advise against treating your newborn's stuffy nose, especially if your baby is feeding well and filling up those diapers. The argument: Why irritate little nasal passages with saltwater or blunt plastic objects unless it's absolutely necessary?

Still, others recommend some simple solutions to clear nasal congestion. Be sure to contact your doctor if the nasal congestion is interfering with your infant's breathing, especially during feedings.

  • Start with saline nasal drops. Over-the-counter saline nasal drops can be helpful at loosening the mucous-filled baby nose. What these drops do is loosen up snot and help your baby to sneeze blockages forward. You can then use a bulb syringe or nasal aspirator to suck out the sticky culprit and clear your baby's nose. Note: Don't be overly aggressive with these devices as it's quite easy to do more harm than good.
  • Invest in a humidifier. A humidifier or cool-mist vaporizer will add moisture to the air and help your baby breathe more easily.
  • Elevate your infant's head. Try to raise your newborn's head while he's sleeping. This can be done by adding a crib wedge under or mattress or simply by holding him a bit more upright during naps. Just remember to avoid placing any pillows in the crib, as this can put your little one at risk for SIDS, or sudden infant death syndrome.

Note that menthol rubs, like Vicks, should not be used on newborns.

When to See the Doctor

Be sure to see your doctor if your baby is younger than 2 months old and has a fever or the congestion is making nursing or breathing difficult.

A Word From Verywell

As you keep these tips in mind, here is one final word to comfort you. Often, your baby's stuffy nose actually bothers you more than it does your baby. Stuffy noses are very common, and often your baby can cope quite well on his own.

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Article Sources

  1. Stuffy nose, sneezing, and hiccups in newborns. Saint Luke’s.

  2. Nasal congestion: how to clean your baby’s dry, stuffy nose. The Hospital for Sick Children. 2019.

  3. Sears W, Sears M, Sears R, Sears J. The Baby Book, Revised Edition. Everything You Need To Know About Your Baby From Birth To Age Two. Little, Brown and Company. 2013.

  4. Newborn reflexes and behavior. Seattle Children’s Hospital Research Foundation. 2019.

  5. Ways to reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related causes of infant death. National Institutes of Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.