Congratulations, you’ve brought your angelic little one home! But you might be wondering how such a tiny baby can spew so much gooey liquid.
That endless fluid coming from baby’s nose, throat, and mouth is mucus (also called phlegm or snot) — and rest assured, it’s completely fine!
In fact, mucus plays a role in keeping your baby healthy. The sticky fluid helps keep their nose, mouth, and throat moist and soft. Mucus also protects baby by stopping germs from going down inside their little body.
However, you will need to wipe up or remove excess mucus because it can clog up your baby’s nose and throat. Mucus can also sometimes show signs of illness or infection.
Here’s what to look out for.
Too much mucus in a baby’s nose or throat can sometimes lead to gagging or mild choking. In most cases, your baby will spit up or vomit the extra mucus out.
Emergency first aid for baby choking on mucus
If you notice your baby is coughing or sputtering or if they cry or turn pale or red, act fast:
- Lay your baby belly down on your forearm, with their head lowered slightly.
- Firmly but gently tap baby’s upper back with the palm of your hand. This should dislodge the mucus ball and your baby will happily drool away.
- Call 911 immediately if your baby is not breathing as usual within a few seconds of doing this.
Babies are nose breathers for the first few months of life. This is useful when they’re feeding most of the time! The mucus helps keep their nostrils and throat from drying out and stops germs from going in.
However, sometime the mucus can accumulate or get thicker than is typical for them.
Your baby might make more gurgling sounds than usual or sound congested when they’re breathing. Sometimes mucus can also make it sound like your baby is snoring or breathing loudly as they sleep.
What causes excess mucus?
Babies get colds and congestion more easily than older children for a few reasons.
Their tiny size and even tinier nasal passages get blocked up quickly. Plus, their developing immune systems are still learning how to protect them from germs.
A germ or anything else that irritates your baby’s delicate airways will trigger their body to make extra mucus. This is intended to help trap and protect them from whatever is tickling the insides of their nose and throat.
Common mucus triggers for babies (and probably for you, too) are:
- cigarette smoke
- dust and pollutants
- viruses and other germs
- weather changes
The following can also lead to more mucus than normal:
- viral infections like a cold or flu
In very rare cases, too much mucus congestion in a baby’s throat and chest is caused by a more serious illness, like cystic fibrosis.
What does it mean if my baby’s mucus changes color?
The kind of mucus your baby has and its color can signal that your baby is healthy and well. It can also mean that your little one is under the weather.
Here’s what to look out for:
- Clear mucus. You can assume your baby is completely fine.
- Thicker white or gray mucus. This could be OK or it may be due to a sinus congestion.
- Yellow mucus. Your baby might have a mild cold or be slightly dehydrated.
- Green to brown mucus. This can be concerning because a bacterial or viral infection may turn mucus a greenish shade.
- Red or brown mucus. Your baby may have blood or dirt in their mucus and needs to get checked out right away.
Too much mucus may be troublesome for babies, making it hard for them to breathe or sleep.
You might notice that your little one is breathing quickly or noisily. They may also sneeze, cough, or vomit because their tiny body is trying to get rid of the extra goo.
While mucus normally protects your baby from germs, too much of it can lead to growing germs and cause infections. That’s why it’s important to keep an eye on it, as well as regularly wipe away and suction out mucus.
Here are a few home remedies that can make your little one comfortable again:
- Wipe away extra mucus with a soft cloth or a tissue.
- Use a sterilized rubber bulb to gently suction out extra mucus (more on this below).
- Use a saline spray to help loosen dried snot and clear it out of the nostrils.
- Use a cool-mist humidifier in baby’s room to keep the air moist. Don’t forget to clean the machine regularly so mold won’t grow inside it.
- Give your baby a warm bath. Breathing in steam helps remove mucus. Make sure to supervise baby during the bath.
- Feed baby regularly to keep them hydrated.
- Remove any potential allergens by vacuuming up dust and pet hairs.
- Put your baby over your knee and gently rub their back to help gravity get rid of some mucus.
What not to do to get rid of baby’s mucus
- Don’t use vapor rubs on babies. A 2009 study on ferrets found that vapor rubs may be harmful to babies and children younger than 2 years old. (Ferret respiratory tissues are similar to those of humans.)
- Don’t give a baby cold or flu medication.
- Don’t pour water or liquid into a baby’s nose to flush out mucus.
- Boil and cool a bowl of water to clean the bulb as you suction.
- Wash your hands well.
- Position your baby so that their head is slightly lower than their chest.
- Hold the bulb away from your baby’s face and squeeze the air out of it.
- While still squeezing the bulb, gently place the tip of it just inside your baby’s nostril or inside your baby’s cheek.
- Do not place the tip too far inside the nose or at the back of baby’s mouth.
- Slowly release your grip on the bulb. As air is sucked into it, it also vacuums in mucus.
- Empty the bulb by squeezing it into a bowl or sink.
- Clean the bulb by squeezing and releasing it several times in the sterile water.
- Repeat with the other nostril or other side of baby’s mouth.
- Clean the bulb by boiling in water between uses.
- Ensure the bulb is completely dry between uses to prevent mold growth.
- Clean the bulb by boiling in water between uses. You can also clean the bulb syringe with warm soapy water and letting it air dry.
- If mucus is extra thick, thin it out. Put two or three drops of saline solution into your baby’s nose or mouth before suctioning.
- Avoid over-suctioning mucus. Your baby still needs some to stay healthy!
- If your baby really doesn’t like having their mucus suctioned and is crying, take a break. They may have tender or irritated nasal passages or a sore throat.
- Do not share suction bulbs with other children.
It’s important to see your baby’s pediatrician for regular checkups. If your baby has minor congestion or a stuffy nose from too much mucus, it will usually get better on its own.
Let their doctor know if your baby often gets congested or if the congestion is severe.
See a pediatrician if your baby has:
- green, brown, or red mucus (red may imply blood in the mucus)
- decreased appetite
- wet diapers
- temperature 100.4°F (38°C) or higher
- other symptoms of an infection, like fever
Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room if your baby:
- has difficulty breathing or breathes very noisily
- has fast breathing with more than 40 breaths per minute
- flares their nostrils when breathing
- has blue-tinged skin especially around lips or nostrils
- shows signs of dehydration, such as decreased wet diapers, dry mouth, and crying without tears
- experiences severe vomiting or diarrhea
It’s perfectly healthy for your baby to have mucus in their nose, mouth, and throat — even lots of it, sometimes. You have no need to worry, as long as baby is feeding, sleeping, and breathing as usual.
Keep an eye on the color and type of mucus your baby has. Clear mucus is a good sign. Let a doctor know about any changes.
Clear away extra mucus in baby’s mouth and nostrils by wiping it away with a soft cloth or by gently suctioning it out using a rubber bulb syringe.