Nobody likes cold and flu season, but this time of year can be especially trying for parents with babies. Congestion is never comfortable, but infants have a particularly rough time trying to breathe when they're stuffy; after all, it's not like they have the motor skills to blow all that gunk out into a tissue. And, as you're probably all too aware, a baby who's all blocked up is a baby who doesn't sleep (or eat, or breathe). It's up to you to clear the way, and if this is your first time, you're probably wondering how to use a bulb syringe on a baby to get all that snot out of his nose.
If you gave birth in a hospital, you were most likely sent home with one (or more) of those classic blue bulb syringes, or at least received one at your baby shower. To a new mom, these devices can be intimidating to say the least — the bulbs look like they're half the size of your newborn's whole head! Barbaric though they might seem, however, bulb syringes do work once you get the hang of them (more on that in a minute), but they're not the only way to unclog your little one's poor nostrils.
How you use a bulb syringe sort of depends on the type of congestion your baby is experiencing. Most pediatricians recommend starting the process with a few drops of saline to make it easier to extract the mucous (though if your baby has the kind of cold that comes with a nose that runs like a faucet, you might be able to skip that step).
"I recommend using a drop or two of nasal saline or breast milk in each nostril to loosen the mucus," Dr. Tanya Altmann tells Romper.
If you are doing the saline/breast milk thing, lay your baby down on his back and squirt 2 to 3 drops of saline solution into each nostril. Next, squeeze the bulb to get all the air out, then (while still squeezing!) ever so gently insert the tip of the aspirator into your baby's nostril (not too far up!) and release the pressure. Then, get ready for what will probably be the most hilariously surprised face you've seen your baby make so far!
When you're done with one nostril, remove the aspirator, and pointing the tip into a tissue, squeeze the bulb again to release the gunk. Repeat the process with the other nostril.
Dr. Altmann recommends using an aspirator no more than a few times a day to avoid irritating your baby's nasal passages. (With any luck, his cold won't last more than a week or so anyway.) In between suctions, there are other methods of de-stuffing you can try, such as taking him in the bathroom and running a steaming hot shower (steam can help to loosen mucus) and running a cold air humidifier (dry indoor heat can make stuffy noses even worse). Another option is to raise your baby's head slightly by placing a folded towel under the head of the crib mattress (never place a pillow directly under his head, as this can increase the risk of SIDS).
Getting back to the bulb syringe, after a day or two you'll probably find yourself wondering how many germs that thing is harboring. That's why it's important to give it a proper cleaning after every use, as outlined in Livestrong: First, drop your aspirator into a bowl or sink filled with hot water and antibacterial soap, then squeeze the air out and allow it to suck up the water. Squeeze the bulb again and allow it to dry.
As for what your baby will think of this process, you might be surprised. Some little ones actually find the whole thing hilarious (especially the noise the bulb makes when it pulls out the snot), while others are clearly relieved. And, of course, some babies seriously hate it. But they'll definitely enjoy breathing!
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