A parent uses a bulb suction on a baby.

Nasal suctioning is an intervention that can be a bit intimidating for new and experienced parents. While it might sound scary at first, knowing how to do it properly can make a huge difference when your child has a cold and a nose full of snot. In this article, I’ll go over what all parents need to know about nasal suctioning, from when to do it, and how to do it safely and effectively. I’ll also share some tips for making the process less stressful for both you and your baby.

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What is Nasal Suctioning?

Nasal suctioning is the process of removing mucus from a baby’s nose using a suction device. It can be done different tools such as a bulb syringe, a nasal aspirator, or a combination of the two.

Let’s Talk Snot

Snot, also know as mucus, is a sticky substance that is produced by the nose and throat to help trap bacteria and viruses. When a baby has a cold or other respiratory infection, the mucus can become thick and congested, making it difficult for them to get air through thier nose.

When to Suction Your Baby’s Nose

You may need to suction your baby’s nose if they have a stuffy nose that is making it harder for them to breathe, eat, or sleep. Other signs that your baby may need suctioning include:

  • Snoring or wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Restlessness or irritability
  • Nasal discharge
  • Dry mucous membranes
  • A crusty nose

Types of Suction Devices (You’ve got options!)

A parent gets ready to suction their child.

Bulb syringes

Bulb syringes are small, rubber syringes that are squeezed to create suction. They are inexpensive and easy to use, making them a popular choice for parents. However, they are not always as effective as nasal aspirators, especially for removing thick mucus.

Here are the pros and cons of using a bulb syringe:

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to use
  • Portable
  • Safe for babies of all ages

Cons:

  • Not as effective as nasal aspirators
  • Requires good technique to be effective
  • Can be difficult to clean
A parent uses a manual nasal aspirator to suction a baby.

Nasal aspirators

Nasal aspirators are devices that are used to clear mucus from a baby’s nose. They can be more effective than bulb syringes, especially when it comes to removing thick mucus. Nasal aspirators can be electric or manual.

Electric nasal aspirators

Electric nasal aspirators are battery-powered or plug-in devices that use suction to remove mucus from the nose. They are typically more expensive than manual nasal aspirators, but they are also more effective.

Manual nasal aspirators

Manual nasal aspirators are devices that use suction created by the user to remove mucus from the nose. They are typically less expensive than electric nasal aspirators, but may gross some people out.

How to Suction a Baby With a Bulb Syringe

First, you are going to want to gather your supplies. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Bulb syringe
  • Soft tissues or a clean burp cloth: You can use soft tissues to wipe away any mucus that is drawn out.
  • Saline or prescribed nose drops (if needed): If the mucus is thick, you can thin it with saline solution before suctioning. 
  • Rolled-up soft blanket: You can use a rolled-up soft blanket to prop your baby’s head up slightly during suctioning. A blanket is also helpful for swaddling an infant so that you can hold them still while you suction.
  • An Assistant– If you have the option, its always nice to have an extra set of hands to help you suction! An assistant can help gently hold your baby’s in place so you are able to suction more efficiently.

Here The Simple Steps To Bulb Suctioning:

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. This is important to prevent the spread of germs!
  2. Position your baby on their back or on their side with their head slightly elevated. You can have your assistant help with positioning.
  3. Squeeze the air out of the bulb syringe. This will create suction.
  4. Gently insert the tip of the bulb syringe into your baby’s nostril. Be careful not to insert it too far into the nose.
  5. Squeeze the bulb to create suction. This will draw out the mucus.
  6. Release the bulb and remove the tip from your baby’s nostril.
  7. Repeat steps 4-6 for the other nostril.
  8. Clean the bulb syringe according to the manufacturer’s instructions. You can usually wash it with warm, soapy water.

Risks of Nasal Suctioning To Be Aware Of

Nasal suctioning is generally safe when done correctly. However, there are some potential risks, including:

  • Irritation of the nasal passages
  • Bleeding
  • Infection

To minimize the risk of complications, it is important to:

  • Be gentle!
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before and after suctioning

How To Suction With A Nasal Aspirator

Suctioning with a nasal aspirator is similar in principal to using a bulb syringe. However, due to a variety of different aspirator designs its best that you review and follow the instructions that are provided with the device you have purchased.

A happy baby grabs her toes.

How To Decide Which Type of Suctioning is Best For Your Baby

Ultimately, the best type of nasal suction device for your baby will depend on their individual needs and your preferences. If your baby has a mild cold, a bulb syringe may be sufficient. However, if your baby has a severe cold or allergies, a nasal aspirator may be a better choice.

Here are some additional tips for choosing a nasal suction device:

  • Consider your budget: Nasal aspirators can range in price from $10 to $100.
  • Read reviews: Online reviews can be a helpful resource for choosing a nasal suction device.
  • Ask your doctor for recommendations: Your doctor can recommend a nasal suction device that is right for your baby.

Why Don’t Parents Suction Their Babies?

  • Fear of hurting their baby: Nasal suctioning involves inserting a device into your baby’s nose, which can be a bit scary for new parents. You may worry about hurting their baby or causing them discomfort.
  • Lack of knowledge or experience: Many parents don’t know how to properly use a nasal suction device, or they may have had a negative experience with suctioning in the past. This can lead to hesitation and uncertainty.
  • Difficulty suctioning mucus: Mucus can be thick and sticky, and it can be difficult to suction out. This can be frustrating for parents, especially when you have a screaming baby!

Still Feel Nervous About Suctioning? Here’s What You Can Do:

  • Educate yourself: There are many resources available online and in libraries that can teach you about nasal suctioning. The more you know, the more confident you’ll feel.
  • Ask for help: If you’re feeling overwhelmed, ask your doctor or a trusted friend or family member to show you how to suction your baby’s nose.
  • Be gentle: Always be gentle when suctioning your baby’s nose. If they start to fuss or resist, stop and try again later.
  • Don’t overdo it: Don’t suction your baby’s nose more than four times a day. Over-suctioning can irritate their nasal passages.
  • Use saline solution: If the mucus is thick, you can thin it with saline solution before suctioning. This will make it easier to remove.
  • Suction your baby’s nose before feeding or bedtime: This will help your child eat and sleep better.

The Best Picks For Nasal Suctioning

There are a ton of nasal suctioning products available and it can be difficult to choose one, here are a few of my suggestions:

Innovo Hospital Grade Silicone Twister Bulb Baby Ear Syringe and Nasal Aspirator

This is a basic bulb syringe similar to ones hospitals send home with parents. The design of this bulb syringe makes it easy to clean and see exactly how much snot you are getting out!

Frida Baby Nasal Aspirator NoseFrida the Snotsucker

The Frida Baby Aspirator is a safe bet that has been used in many homes. It uses manual suction, which may be an “ick” factor for some people. It is included on many parent lists as a “must have” item.

Frida Baby Electric NoseFrida

Another product from the same company, this nasal aspirator is rechargeable. It has three levels of automatic suction to choose from and comes with two different sized tips. While it’s the most pricy on the list, it will save you a lot of hassle.

Braun Electric Nasal Aspirator for Newborns, Babies and Toddlers

The Braun Electric Nasal Aspirator is a little less pricey and another great choice from a company with a good track record. It has two levels of suction and is known for its ergonomics and safe design.

Excellent Saline Options

Looking for some decent saline? Here are a few good ones:

Little Remedies Saline Spray and Drops, Safe for Newborns

Frida Baby NoseFrida Saline Spray

And Finally…. These make wiping toddlers runny noses less of a battle

Boogie Wipes

Final Thoughts

If you’ve got questions or concerns about suctioning, be sure to talk to your pediatrician! They can show you how it’s done and provide in person feedback. After a little practice, you’ll be a snot sucking pro!

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