Handle with Care

Stuffed Nose

Infants can't blow their nose, and they find it hard to breathe through their mouth in the first few months. To complicate matters further, newborns get congested easily. Enter the bulb syringe, that awkward-looking plastic device you got at the hospital. It's for suctioning mucus from your baby's nose. "But before you reach for the bulb syringe, ask yourself, 'Is it bugging me, or is it bugging her,'" says Laura Jana, MD, coauthor of Heading Home with Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality. Infants are naturally noisy breathers, but you can tell that it's bothering your baby when she's having trouble sleeping or eating.

Quick Tips: Hold the bulb in the palm of your hand with the syringe between your middle finger and forefinger. Use your thumb to expel all the air; then, with your thumb still pressing down, insert the syringe about a quarter inch to a half inch into the nose.

Slowly release your thumb to withdraw mucus. Then squirt the mucus onto a tissue and allow your baby to catch her breath before trying the other side. Limit suctioning to two or three times per day. Anything more can cause the nasal membranes to swell, increasing congestion. Ask your pediatrician about prescribing saline drops to loosen the mucus before suctioning. You might find they're all you need.

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