10 Home Remedies for Nasal Congestion in Babies and Toddlers

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Is your baby sound congested? Having hard time breastfeeding and sleeping? Learn about causes, signs plus get home remedies for nasal congestion in babies and toddlers.

Soon after birth, they learn to latch on properly and become efficient in extracting milk from mothers breast within 3-4 weeks for most cases. I wish they would learn to blow their nose that quickly. This simple skill would let babies and toddlers fight congestion like a pro.

Unlike adults, babies breathe through their nose, even if it blocked. This makes it hard for them to suck as well.  You may have noticed when babies are congested, they can’t breastfeed efficiently.  As a result you may find your infant lose weight or in some cases getting dehydrated.

What causes Infant Congestion?

Congestion in infant is caused by either swelling of nasal passages or build up of extra fluid called mucus in the nose or airways resulting in stuffy nose. This is body’s natural way to defense against internal or external stimuli such as germs or dirt from entering.

Infants nose are so sensitive that even tiny drop of breast milk aspirated into nose while spit up can cause congestion.

The most common cause of congestion in infant are infections, either viral origin  or allergies.

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External Stimuli responsible for congestion


Allergies in infants are most frequently reported chronic medical condition. While infants rarely suffer from environmental allergies, most common reason for developing allergies are;

  • Formula

Infants can be allergic or sensitive to milk based formulas. When a baby is allergic to milk, babies’ immune system which normally fights infection, reacts to the cow’s milk proteins.

The body fight against these proteins and that lead to an allergic reaction. This allergic reaction can cause hives, coughing, trouble breathing, diarrhea, vomiting, diaper rash. Fortunately, many kids outgrow milk allergies.

If your baby is allergic to milk based formula, pediatrician recommends extensively hydrolyzed formula or an amino acid based formula. This formula is less likely to cause an allergic reaction as the proteins are broken down into particles.

  • Breast milk

If your infant is allergic to milk and is exclusively breastfed, then you need to contact pediatrician to get suggestion about changing diet.

Bad Air Quality

Infants airways are so immature and sensitive that irritants in air can cause the congestion or worsen it. Use of perfume, smoke of any kind, dust, air freshener can cause breathing harder for infants.

Here are some suggestions to keep air clean in your house making sure your baby breathe clean air

  • Change air and furnace filter regularly
  • Avoid scented products such as perfumes, laundry detergent, soap and shampoo
  • Keep baby away from cooking smoke, cigarette smoke
  • Bring air purifier plants
  • Use natural air purifier like activated charcoal air purifier bags

Bad Hygiene Practice

Infant’s immune system is immature so they needs extra protection from germs that lead to infection and illness. Good hygiene practice within household can conquer half of the battle with infection.

Here are some suggestions to keep baby away for infection and illness

  • Wash your hand with soap before handling baby
  • Limit number of visitors or offer hand sanitizer before handling baby
  • Keep sibling away from the baby if they are sick
  • Launder your baby’s cloths, towels and bedding regularly and separately
  • Heavily soiled item should be laundered separately with hot water setting

Internal stimuli responsible for congestion

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

RSV is one of the most common causes of respiratory illnesses in infants. If you see lots of mucus and congestion, then it is a sign that your baby has RSV infection.

Although, it usually goes away within a week or two, it may lead to more severe infection such as bronchiolitis, pneumonia. These infections require medical attention.

The common cold and flu

The common cold is viral infection in infant’s nose and throat. It is caused by one of 100 viruses. According to Mayo clinic, most babies have up to seven colds within first year of their lives. Infants are more susceptible to common colds because of immature immune system and they haven’t been exposed to most of the viruses yet.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Congestion?

Signs and symptoms vary among congested infants. Some behave normal other than stuffy nose, while other shows symptoms. It is advisable to keep eye on any symptoms they exhibit, as they can’t communicate.

When the mucus is primarily in the nose, nasal congestion symptoms include:

  • Coughing
  • Sniffling
  • Fever
  • Irritability
  • Noisy breathing
  • Thick or discolored nasal mucus
  • Decreased appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Difficulty feeding

When the mucus is primarily in the lungs, nasal congestion symptoms include:

  • Coughing
  • Grunting
  • Wheezing

Natural Remedies to help Congested Infant

Fortunately, there are many things that you can do at home to make your little one more comfortable.

1. Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is the very effective remedy for relieving nasal congestion in babies. Researcher believes that when a baby is sick, he/she passes on a cue through saliva to signal mother’s body to produce milk with illness specific antibodies to fight against illness. Therefore, frequent breastfeeding during illness helps clear infection quickly.

When baby is sick, breastfeed them frequently. It will help them fight infection quickly.

2. Breast milk

Breast milk is referred to as a liquid gold. Along with frequent feeding when infant is ill, one or two drop of breast milk in nose help loosen mucus in the nose. Then use nasal aspirator to drain loosen mucus out or hold baby in upright position to drain it out.

Related reading: What to do with Leftover Breast milk Instead of Dumping : 19 Creative Uses

4. Snot sucker

It may not sound appealing to you to suck snot out of your baby’s nose, but NoseFrida has certainly become a must have in our house. it works wonder in safely sucking out mucus from your newborn’s nose so he can breathe easier. You can get one here.

3. Nasal Saline

Nasal saline will also work to loosen mucus if you do not have access to breast milk. Add a drop or two of nasal saline in each nostril.

If you prefer to buy nasal saline, make sure it is only salt and water and no added medication.

You can also make it at home. Mix a quarter teaspoon of non-iodised salt to 8 ounces of bottled water or previously boiled water.

Tip– Before feeding congested baby, put 1-2 drops of breast milk or nasal saline in baby’s nostrils. These will loosen the mucus and baby can breathe easily while nursing.

4. Cool mist humidifier

Cool mist humidifier helps moisten dry nasal passage. Fill up the humidifier with plain water and run in baby’s room when she is sleeping. Place humidifier near crib. It is also important to clean/change water regularly to prevent mold growth in the machine.

5. Hot shower or Steam room

Run a hot shower to create a steam room and let baby breathe in the steam. The warm steam will help loosen mucus. You can also breastfeed baby in steam room.

6. Crib Wedge pillow

Use crib wedge pillow to keep baby’s head higher than their feet. This helps baby breathe better at night. Use wedge pillow in crib under the mattress only to avoid the risk of suffocation.

7. Fluids

Breastfeed or formula feed baby frequently. Although, it doesn’t directly relieve the symptoms but keeps baby hydrated. If baby is 3 months and up, you can also give water.

8. Vapor rub

Use natural vapor rub like Maty’s chest rub  to help relieve congestion. Eucalyptus oil and peppermint are main ingredient in Maty’s chest rub. It is safe for babies 3 month and up. When you rub it on their chest or feet, they inhale the vapors that helps congestion.

9. Roasted Carom Seed Pouch

This remedy works exceptionally well for infants. I have used it whenever my both babies had cough and cold. Vapor from roasted carom seeds are excellent to relieve congestion, helps in breathing and gives a soothing effect.

The spice is rich in antioxidants and has numerous anti-inflammatory properties that not only brings a relief to chest congestion, but also helps in dealing with colds and sinuses.

Roast about 2 tablespoons of carom seeds in a pan for a few minutes till the seeds releases menthol like aroma.

Take a muslin cloth and transfer the seeds to it. Next, carefully tie it to make a tight pouch and let it cool. Then keep it in crib next to the wedge pillow while baby’s asleep.

You can make a roasted carom seed pouch neckless for baby and they inhale vapor from it to relieve congestion.

10. Turmeric Milk

Turmeric  is know for its antioxidant content and ability to work as a anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial. Turmeric is safe to give it to babies when they start solid food around 6 months. Adding pinch of turmeric powder in baby food helps fight the infection and speed up the recovery.

Turmeric mixed in warm milk is a popular and effective way to fight against cold and cough. If you are bottle feeding your baby, add pinch of turmeric in warm milk in bottle and feed it to baby. They won’t even notice change in taste or color.

Is Over-the -Counter Congestion medicine safe to use for Infant?

It’s a big no-no to use over-the-counter cough and cold medicine in children under 4 years old according to FDA. It can have a dangerous side effect.

When to seek Medical attention for Infant Congestion?

Except congested nose, if baby is eating well and active than keep eye on baby for couple of days. If symptoms persist after a few days of using natural remedy than seek medical attention. Get immediate help if you see following signs:

  • Flared nostrils
  • Breathing hard and quick
  • Breathing using stomach muscles
  • High-pitched wheezing
  • Fussiness and lethargy
  • High Fever
  • Pale or blue skin

Final Thoughts

For my personal experience, 3 most effective home remedies for infant nasal congestion are – frequent breastfeeding, Nasal saline and humidifier. This 3 simple remedies works really well in most cases of blocked nose. It is always a good idea to check with your doctor before employing any home remedies in infants.

How do you help your Infant?

Have you tried any natural remedies to help relieve congestion in your Infant? Do you have any tips? Please let us know in comments below.

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