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Baby Nasal Cleaner – How to Clean a Newborn Baby or Infant Nose

Teaching parents the importance of maintaining baby's clean nose has been a rewarding yet occasionally challenging task. Many gallons of air are passed through the nose every day and babies must breathe through their noses. They are 'obligate nose breathers'. Suckling on mom's breast requires breathing through the nose so washing the infant's filter is vital. In fact infants need a clear nasal cavity for adequate nutrition, restful sleep and comfort. Sneezing is a newborns natural way of cleaning that nasal cavity. When excessive mucus builds up and dries, the nose requires cleaning and without the help of a nasal cleaner for babies, their body naturally sneezes to expel the blockage.

For many adults, the instinctual go to solution for nasal congestion is medicine. Even though an all-natural nasal wash is a better option for adults, it’s especially true for babies. The use of medications should be used rarely for babies, as decongestants can dry up mucus and plug up the drainage system. In addition, these drugs can cause sleeplessness. Antihistamines may cause sedation and thicken the discharge-the very last thing you want for your baby. A baby nasal cleaner will offer much more effective and affordable relief. Washing the nasal passages actually helps reduce the development of a number of infections. I know this to be true from my clinical practice, scientific studies will come in the future, I'm certain!

The process of cleaning your infant’s nose is really quite simple, but communicating the exact "how to" clean an infant or newborn baby nose is a bit difficult without live demonstrations but I'm going to try here.

Which Solution is Right for your Baby Nasal Cleaner

When using a nose cleaner for babies less than 3-6 months, always use an isotonic (milder) solution. Using a hypertonic (stronger) solution in older babies is fine as long as it is only slightly hypertonic.

When preparing a hypertonic (stronger) version add 1 1/2 salt packet rather than just 1. For babies older than 6 months, the Nasopure nasal wash for kids bottle is just the right size for both storage and application!

Be mindful not to squeeze more than a few drops of solution into your baby nose!

Definitions for these terms can be found on our Solutions Guide page. See below for instructions on How To Make A Saline Solution.

Steps How to Clean a Newborn Baby Nose

  • You will need a good baby aspirator. I prefer the BabyComfyNose baby aspirator because of the silicone-like tip and it is easy to use. I have used this for my own grand babies with excellent results.
  • Wash hands before and after using BabyComfyNose. Become familiar with the unit. Wash the main chamber, nose tip and mouth piece with hot soapy water. Rinse well. Never wash the long tube unless you are certain to allow the tube to dry fully. Insert one tissue into the oval egg shaped chamber for filtration.
  • Test the suction by placing the silicone tip onto the fat pad of your fingertip and apply suction using the mouthpiece - this is the same suction you will be using when cleaning your baby’s nose. This will give you a good idea how to clean your infant’s nose since it’s the same suction you will be using when cleaning your baby's nose.
  • If the infant’s mucus is dry or sticky, saline drops are vital to thin mucus prior to suctioning. Place a few drops of saline solution with the enclosed dropper in the baby’s nose. This is best done while the baby is upright, with head higher than body, such as when in a pumpkin seat. Wait a few minutes before suctioning to allow solution to loosen mucus. See below for instructions on How To Make A Saline Solution.
  • Find a comfortable setting in which to clean baby’s nose.
  • Cradle baby in your arm, baby’s head resting on your mid arm. Older infants can be placed on your lap face up, or simply lay your baby in a bed or crib, with you standing next to the infant. Place the nozzle inside baby’s nostril, making a complete seal between the soft tip and baby’s nostril. Place the mouthpiece in your mouth and suck on the mouthpiece. Confirm that the nozzle tip is pointed straight back (towards back of baby’s neck) and not upwards (towards baby’s eyes)! Mucus will collect in the transparent chamber. A tissue prevents the mucus from leaving the chamber and infecting the parent. Repeat on opposite nostril.
  • Remove tissue, wash unit and your hands.

Aspirating your baby’s nose should be a gentle process - and when done correctly, it actually feels good to the baby. Stop the process and try again later if your baby resists vigorously. Always confirm you have a complete seal between tip and nostril and that the nozzle is directed back towards the baby’s neck, not upward towards the eyes, as shown in the photos. Holding the mouthpiece between your lips frees your hands to better position the child.

Stuffy babies also require extra moisture, so a vaporizer or humidifier near the infant’s crib at night can supply moist air. It is important to clean vaporizers and humidifiers weekly to avoid dispersal of fungal particles into the air. Clean with a diluted vinegar or bleach solution. Elevation of the baby’s head is also beneficial for effective drainage of congestion. I suggest placing a firm object such as books under the head end of your infant’s mattress.

How to Make Dr. Hana’s Saline Solution

NEED: Clean glass jar; water - distilled, sterile or previously boiled and brought to room temperature; Nasopure buffered salt packet (enclosed); dropper.

Add one salt packet to either one half or one full cup room temperature purified water. Mix with clean utensil. Do not touch the solution with your fingers!

One cup water to one packet makes a milder solution, best for infants below 3 months. One half cup water makes a stronger, saltier or hypertonic solution that loosens and thins the secretions.

Always use a clean dropper to place solution in baby’s nose and insert drops while baby is in an upright position - head higher than body, as if sitting. Place a few drops into each nostril, let sit a few minutes and follow BabyComfyNose instructions.

Again, as a board certified pediatrician, I can’t stress the importance of cleaning your baby’s nose enough. In my experience as a Pediatrician I’ve seen many infections, sleepless nights and uncomfortable situations avoided with simple baby nasal irrigation. Infants are dependent on their noses to intake oxygen more than any other age group and at such a vulnerable time in their lives, they need your help to breathe. A device for infant nose suction is affordable, easy to use and well worth the investment in your infant’s health.

Contributor to MommyMD Guide: The Mommy MD Guide to Pregnancy and Birth; The Mommy MD Guide to Your Baby’s First Year; and the forthcoming The Mommy MD Guide to the Toddler Years


copyright December 2012