Newborns are delicate and when anything seems out of the norm with them it can be worrying. It’s hard not to be concerned when something seems off. Since they can’t communicate with us we look and listen for signs that they might be ill or in discomfort.
Hearing your newborn sounding congested or struggling to breath can be scary. It’s hard to think of leaving their side, even just for them to sleep, for fear something could go wrong. So what could it be? Is your child really congested and if they are, what can you do to help?
Why Does My Baby Sound Congested?
Newborns tend to sound stuffy for a few months after being born. There are several reasons for this.
Though the act of breathing is instinctive, it does take time to learn to regulate breathing and even switch from mouth to nose breathing.
Their natural breathing pattern causes turbulence which can make them sound like they’re congested even when they aren’t. Since they have narrow nasal passages they might, again, sound congested or like they’re wheezing even when breathing regularly.
They are also unable to clear their nasal passage the way adults or older children can. Regurgitated food (spit up) can get into the nasal passage and since they can’t effectively clear it away they might sound congested because of this.
There is also the possibility that your child might have caught a cold or another virus and if you suspect this you should immediately contact or visit your physician.
When Should I Worry?
One virus which causes respiratory distress in newborns is Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). RSV is more common in premature babies than in full-term babies and occurs when the common cold virus attacks the baby’s lungs, at which point medical intervention is needed.
If your child seems to be struggling to breathe, turning blue, seems lethargic, not feeding like he/she usually does or has a persistent cough, these are also reasons to immediately seek medical attention.
A newborn’s immune system is so underdeveloped that they are much more susceptible to allergens, viruses and bacteria than adults are.
Typically, a stuffy nose or congestion does not last longer than two weeks. If it does, then there might be another underlying cause that has not been treated by your physician’s initial suggestions. During this time your child will no doubt be in discomfort and might not sleep well until some relief is provided.
How Can I Relieve the Discomfort?
If there are no major causes, such as a virus, for your child’s congestion, your physician might recommend simple home remedies. These should decrease discomfort and your child should be feeling like their old self in no time.
One popular treatment is saline drops. Saline helps by thinning the mucus in the nasal passage so if it causing a bloggage it will help the mucus flow out and clear the passage. Saline can be made at home and can also be purchased over-the-counter at local pharmacies. Some highly rated saline drops are:
After using the saline you can allow the mucus to flow and simply wipe your baby’s nose gently or follow up by using a syringe bulb to clear it all away. This can be a tricky task which first starts by finding the right kind of nasal syringe bulb. It needs to be easy to insert, clean and use while one-handed. A few that come parent approved are:
Other ways to offer relief are vaporizers or by sitting in a steamy bathroom with the child. Having your child slightly propped while sleeping can also help them sleep longer and more comfortably.
It is never recommended to offer medication without your physician’s approval.
Medications such as decongestants work by narrowing the blood vessels to decrease swelling and congestion in the nasal passage. For babies, these drugs do little more than mask the symptoms and can have fatal outcomes.
Nasal decongestants, in particular, can cause further swelling in the nasal passage, making it even more difficult for an already congested baby to breathe.
Whether your child is truly congested or simply seems to be, it can be worrying. Take your concerns to your physician who can best advise you on how to treat it. Remember that babies don't breathe quite like adults do and are not as receptive to regular treatments either. It is advised to never administer drugs without medical guidance.
There are many home remedies that can help if your child is congested due to a cold, and other steps can be taken if it is a more serious matter. This course of action can only be determined by your physician which is why we always recommend that they be one of your first points of contact.
We hope you can breathe a sigh of relief and that your little one will breathe easy with these tips. Let us know what provides the most comfort for your little one when they’re stuffy.