How to Suction a Baby's Nose

Clearing the Gunk From Your Baby's Nose With a Bulb Syringe

Suctioning your baby's nose is one way to clear congestion and remove gunk from the nasal passages for easier breathing.

Things can get pretty messy once the snot starts running. Suctioning your baby's nose helps keep things clear, so she can breathe easier during a cold or congestion. Perfecting your nasal suction technique makes the process fast and easy on both of you.

Why You Need to Suction Your Baby's Nose

Bulb syringes suck out the mucus and gunk that builds up in your baby's nose, most often due to a cold, influenza or other illnesses. All that mucus causes congestion, which can make it difficult for your baby to breathe, especially while eating and sleeping. Since your baby can't blow his nose like you do, he needs a little help to clear the snot. The bulb syringe is a quick, easy way to clear your baby's nasal passages, so he feels comfortable and breathes easier.

How to Use a Bulb Syringe

Wash your hands well before suctioning. Make sure the bulb syringe is clean before you put it in your child's nose. Lay your baby down on the floor facing upward.

If your baby's mucus seems thick, spray a few drops of saline spray in each nostril with her chin tilted slightly upward to keep the liquid from draining out of her nose immediately. The saline loosens and thins the mucus, so it suctions out of the nose easily.

When you're ready to suction, follow these steps:

  1. Squeeze the large, round end of the bulb syringe to force the air out. 
  2. Slip the small tip into one of your baby's nostrils. 
  3. Slowly release your grip on the bulb end to draw out the mucus. 
  4. Pull the tip of the bulb syringe out of your baby's nose.
  5. Place the tip in a tissue, and squeeze the bulb end quickly to get rid of the mucus.
  6. Repeat the process until both nostrils are clear.
  7. Wipe gently under your child's nose when you're done.
  8. Wash the bulb syringe using hot, soapy water. Suck the soapy water into the syringe several times to clean out mucus. Suck up clean water to get rid of the soap.

Suctioning Tips

The suctioning process is simple, but your little one may not be excited about the sensation. These tips help make the process easier and safer for your baby:

  • Enlist reinforcements to help hold your baby's head still. If you're flying solo, try swaddling your baby first to cut down on wiggling. 
  • Suction your baby's nose before mealtime. Having a stuffy nose while sucking can make breathing a challenge. By suctioning first, you open up the nasal passages to make it easier to do both. If you suction after he eats, your baby may vomit.
  • Only suction your baby's nose three or four times per day, so you don't irritate his nose.
  • Never squeeze the bulb while the tip is in your baby's nose. This forces air into the nostril.
  • Keep the process gentle. Too much suction can cause inflammation in the nose.

When to Call Your Pediatrician

Minor colds often pass without treatment, but some situations are worth a call to your pediatrician. Check with your doctor if your baby has the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Changes in breathing, including increased speed
  • Changes in behavior or appetite
  • Nasal mucus lasting more than 10 to 14 days
  • Coughing lasting longer than a week
  • Mucus or redness in the eyes.
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