Is your baby sound congested? Have a hard time breastfeeding and getting them to sleep? 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 the mother’s 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 is 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 losing weight or in some cases getting dehydrated.
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What causes Infant Congestion?
Congestion in infants is caused by either swelling of nasal passages or build-up of extra fluid called mucus in the nose or airways resulting in a stuffy nose. This is the body’s natural way to defend against internal or external stimuli such as germs or dirt from entering.
Infants’ nose is so sensitive that even a tiny drop of breast milk aspirated into the nose while spit up can cause congestion.
The most common cause of congestion in infants are infections, either of viral origin or allergies.
External Stimuli responsible for congestion
Allergies in infants are the most frequently reported chronic medical conditions. While infants rarely suffer from environmental allergies, the most common reasons for developing allergies are;
Infants can be allergic or sensitive to milk-based formulas. When a baby is allergic to milk, the baby’s immune system which normally fights infection, reacts to the cow’s milk proteins.
The body fight against these proteins and that leads 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 a pediatrician to get suggestions about changing your diet.
Bad Air Quality
Infants’ airways are so immature and sensitive that irritants in the air can cause congestion or worsen it. Use of perfume, the smoke of any kind, dust, air freshener can cause breathing harder for infants.
Here are some suggestions to keep the 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
Infants’ immune system is immature so they need extra protection from germs that lead to infection and illness. Good hygiene practice within the household can conquer half of the battle with infection.
Here are some suggestions to keep baby away from 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 an RSV infection.
Although it usually goes away within a week or two, it may lead to more severe infections such as bronchiolitis, pneumonia. These infections require medical attention.
The common cold and flu
The common cold is a viral infection in an 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 the first year of their lives. Infants are more susceptible to common colds because of their immature immune systems 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 normally other than a 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:
- 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:
Natural Remedies to help Congested Infant
Fortunately, there are many things that you can do at home to make your little one more comfortable.
Breastfeeding is a very effective remedy for relieving nasal congestion in babies. The researcher believes that when a baby is sick, he/she passes on a cue through saliva to signal the mother’s body to produce milk with illness-specific antibodies to fight against illness. Therefore, frequent breastfeeding during illness helps clear infection quickly.
When a baby is sick, breastfeed them frequently. It will help them fight infection quickly.
2. Breast milk
Breast milk is referred to as liquid gold. Along with frequent feeding when the infant is ill, one or two drops of breast milk in the nose help loosen mucus in the nose. Then use a nasal aspirator to drain loosen mucus out or hold the baby in an upright position to drain it out.
- What to do with Leftover Breast milk Instead of Dumping: 19 Creative Uses
- Can you Reheat Breastmilk more than once? Find out here
- 7 Tips on getting Breastmilk fat off of the side of the bottle
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-iodized salt to 8 ounces of bottled water or previously boiled water.
Tip– Before feeding a congested baby, put 1-2 drops of breast milk or nasal saline in the baby’s nostrils. These will loosen the mucus and the baby can breathe easily while nursing.
4. Cool mist humidifier
Cool mist humidifier helps moisten dry nasal passages. Fill up the humidifier with plain water and run into the baby’s room when she is sleeping. Place humidifier near the crib. It is also important to clean/change the 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 the baby breathe in the steam. The warm steam will help loosen mucus. You can also breastfeed the baby in the steam room.
6. Crib Wedge pillow
Use a crib wedge pillow to keep the baby’s head higher than their feet. This helps the baby breathe better at night. Use a wedge pillow in the crib under the mattress only to avoid the risk of suffocation.
Breastfeed or formula feed baby frequently. Although, it doesn’t directly relieve the symptoms but keeps the baby hydrated. If the 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 the main ingredients in Maty’s chest rub. It is safe for babies 3 months and up. When you rub it on their chest or feet, they inhale the vapors that help 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 is excellent to relieve congestion, help in breathing, and give a soothing effect.
The spice is rich in antioxidants and has numerous anti-inflammatory properties that not only bring relief to chest congestion but also help in dealing with colds and sinuses.
Roast about 2 tablespoons of carom seeds in a pan for a few minutes till the seeds release a 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 the crib next to the wedge pillow while the baby’s asleep.
You can make a roasted carom seed pouch neckless for babies and they inhale the vapor from it to relieve congestion.
10. Turmeric Milk
Turmeric is known for its antioxidant content and ability to work as an anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial. Turmeric is safe to give to babies when they start solid food around 6 months. Adding a 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 a pinch of turmeric in warm milk in a bottle and feed it to the baby. They won’t even notice changes 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 dangerous side effects.
When to seek Medical attention for Infant Congestion?
Except for congested nose, if the baby is eating well and active then keep eye on the baby for a couple of days. If symptoms persist after a few days of using natural remedies then seek medical attention. Get immediate help if you see the following signs:
- Flared nostrils
- Breathing hard and quick
- Breathing using stomach muscles
- High-pitched wheezing
- Fussiness and lethargy
- High Fever
- Pale or blue skin
From my personal experience, the 3 most effective home remedies for infant nasal congestion are – frequent breastfeeding, Nasal saline, and humidifier. These 3 simple remedies work 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 the comments below.