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How to Treat Newborn Congestion

author image April Fox
April Fox has published articles about homeschooling, children with special needs, music, parenting, mental health and education. She has been a guest on Irish radio, discussing the benefits of punk rock on child development, and currently writes for several websites including Carolina Pediatric Therapy.
How to Treat Newborn Congestion
Even the tiniest babies can suffer from congestion.

According to, babies can have as many as 10 upper respiratory infections--better known as the common cold--before age 2. It's also common for newborn babies to have some nasal congestion in the first two months of life. All of that sniffling and stuffiness can make your baby uncomfortable and interfere with his sleep, making for a sad and grumpy little one.

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Call the Doctor

Newborns can become dehydrated quickly, and colds can easily develop into croup or pneumonia. If your newborn is having trouble breathing, has a runny nose, sounds "stuffy" or has a rattling or raspy sound coming from her chest, call your pediatrician. Chances are it's just normal newborn congestion or simply a cold, but with newborns, it's best to err on the side of safety.

Clear Congestion

A stuffy nose can make it hard for your newborn to suck, so keeping his nasal passages clear is important. If your pediatrician approves, use a mild nasal saline spray, available at most drug and baby supply stores. Follow the directions on the bottle and gently spray it into one nostril at a time. A drop of breast milk in each nostril may help clear the congestion as well. Use a bulb syringe, also available at drug stores and sometimes given out at the hospital where you gave birth, to suck out the mucous. Squeeze the bulb of the syringe, insert just the tip into baby's nostril and slowly let the bulb re-inflate, drawing the mucous out. Clean the syringe well with hot water after each use, and make sure it's fully dry before using it again.

Use a humidifier in your newborn's room to help keep the air moist and ease congestion. Keep it away from the crib or bassinet so the mist doesn't spray directly on the baby, and make sure the cord is kept well out of baby's reach. Change the water every day to ensure that mold doesn't grow in the tub. Sitting with your newborn in the bathroom with the hot water running and the door closed may help loosen congestion as well. Let the steam fill the room and sit with your baby for a few minutes, but be sure he doesn't get too warm. If his cheeks start to get red or he looks more uncomfortable, move to a cooler room.

Letting your baby sleep partially reclined in a car seat or swing can help his breathing if his chest is congested. Be sure he's buckled in and that the seat is on the floor and can't be knocked over.

Keep Baby Hydrated

Babies need lots of fluid, especially when they're sick. Don't force-feed your baby, but continue to feed her as usual. If she loses her appetite or is so congested that it's impossible for her to eat, make another call to her pediatrician, just to be safe.

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