A runny or stuffy nose is often the first sign of a cold in a baby. Nasal discharge may be clear and runny, or thick and sticky in a yellow-greenish colour. Either way is normal and does not indicate the severity of the cold.
However, this is usually the symptom that causes the most disruption to a baby’s normal routine and behaviour, leading to other challenges such as refusal to feed and sleep regression.
If your baby’s feeding and sleeping habits are being affected by nasal congestion, you can try clearing it with nasal aspirators specifically designed for babies and young children.
Manual Nasal Aspirators
Manual aspirators generate air suction to unclog the nose without the use of batteries or power. There are two types of manual aspirators on the market, each with their pros and cons.
|Type||Bulb air compression||Tube + mouthpiece|
Most affordable option
Adjustable manual suction
|Cons||Difficult to clean|
Very weak suction
|Rating||2.8/5 → Reviews||4.9/5 → Reviews|
|Cost||$11.95||$17.99 + $5.01 (20 pcs filter)|
The Best Manual Aspirator – NoseFrida
Developed by ENT (Ear Nose Throat) specialists and manufactured in Sweden, NoseFrida is a trademark design that has been around since the late 90s. It is the original manual nasal aspirator designed for children and a bestseller in Australia with an amazing 4.9 stars rating on ProductReview.
I’ve tried Fess Little Noses the bulb aspirator when I was a first-time mum and found its performance incredibly underwhelming. Later, I came across NoseFrida at a baby expo years ago and have been using it for all three kids since then.
It is highly effective in removing thick, sticky mucus and even boogers, but you need to know how to use it correctly. See my tips on how to clear baby’s nasal congestion.
Will bacteria spread from baby to me?
No, according to clinical studies done in 1998-1999 in Sweden, microbiologists found the sterile hygiene filters effective in preventing the spread of mucus and germs between the baby and the user.
If I suck too hard, will I hurt the baby?
No, the long tube and mouthpiece effectively reduce the strength of oral suction to a safe level. By the time the air suction reaches the baby’s nose through the tube, it is no longer as strong as a direct suction.
Even if you inhale with full force, rest assured that it will not harm the baby because the nose piece is too large to enter the nostrils so it remains only on the outside.
Can I reuse the filter?
Officially, the recommendation is to change the filter after every use. This is to maintain hygiene levels and ensure that no germs pass through.
Personally though, I have been guilty of reusing the filter. If I’m using the aspirator multiple times a day, I’ll change the filter maybe once a day, but not after every single use.
With a breastfed baby attached to me most of the time, he’s going to infect me at some point anyway, so I’m not too fussed about getting his germs.
Furthermore, I’m a believer in the hygiene hypothesis and building up my immune system. Particularly for breastfeeding mums, when exposed to germs, our breastmilk produces natural antibodies which are passed on to the baby.
How do I clean the tube and mouthpiece?
Again, the official recommendation is to disassemble and wash all the parts after every use by following these cleaning instructions.
However, if you’re using it multiple times a day, it is not practical to be cleaning the parts every single time. I have found that the thin tube is also prone to moulding if moisture is left in it and the same goes for the mouthpiece. So generally, I leave those parts alone.
I’ll only rinse out the blue nose piece (the thick tube) with warm water after each use to clear out the snot. Then let it air dry completely before reattaching back to the thin tube.
Once the baby has recovered and I’m storing the aspirator away for a while, only then will I disassemble and wash all the various parts. Make sure you let everything dry completely before reattached the parts.
Do not wash or rinse the thin tube with water. It is best to clean it by dripping a few drops of rubbing alcohol into it to prevent moisture build-up and moulding.
Electric Nasal Aspirators
Electrical nasal aspirators are battery-powered with a removable silicone tip that can be removed and washed. In this regard, it is less hassle than manual ones and much easier to use and maintain.
However, the general rating and feedback on electrical ones tend to be quite poor because for the amount that you pay (anywhere between $33 to $70) you’d expect it to work magic every single time.
Unfortunately, most electrical aspirators only have one standard suction strength, so if you’re struggling to get thick mucus out, there’s no way to increase the suction to make it more effective.
That said, in Australia, there is one particular electrical nasal aspirator that stands above the rest and has established itself as the leading local brand.
The Best Electric Aspirator – Snotty 3
Developed and designed by local Australian business Snotty Noses, the Snotty 3 is an upgrade to their previous models and has been around since 2016.
Features of the Snotty 3:
- Registered product of Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods – TGA (ARTG No 211027)
- Fully waterproof, even the motor compartment, so you can clean and wash with ease
- Comes with three nozzle sizes for the best fit
- 100% Australian owned and operated
- No risk 30-days satisfaction guarantee
As an electric nasal aspirator, the Snotty 3 is in mid-range pricing, as compared to other popular brands like the Braun Nasal Aspirator and Oricom Nasal Aspirator. It is a good next-step alternative if you have little success with manual aspirators and want something available locally.
However, if you don’t mind spending an extra $10 for international delivery from the US and waiting a bit longer, the Braun Nasal Aspirator is higher rated and comes with the added benefit of having two suction strengths. It also comes with two nozzle sizes.
Tips: How to clear baby’s nasal congestion
Runny snot is fairly easy to extract, even with a manual bulb aspirator. The challenge comes with thick, sticky or dried up mucus that can sometimes be stuck quite fair back in baby’s nose.
Regardless of which type of nasal aspirator you choose to use, here are some tips that will help make it work more effectively.
Use saline solution
A saline solution is a quick and effective way to soften any type of snot in just a few seconds. The cheapest baby saline solution is the Flo Baby Nasal, designed specifically for babies and toddlers.
Do not attempt to make your own saline solution with salt and water. Believe me, I tried it and used it for my own nasal congestion. It burned my nose and throat and I felt like I was drowning for a good ten minutes!
Please stick to using commercial saline solution, which is very safe and gentle, particularly as babies have very sensitive nose and tiny nasal passages.
Lie baby on a flat surface
When using the saline spray or aspirator, it’ll be most effective if you have the baby on her back to prevent anything from dripping out. The saline solution can take a few seconds to work so it needs to stay in the baby’s nose for best results.
Experiment with different angles
The nasal passage is not a dead straight tunnel, so if you find the aspirator not extracting anything, try tilting it slightly so that it’s sucking from a different angle and direction.
I’ve found that with my NoseFrida, even after it’s extracted snot, if I angle it differently, I can often suck up even more mucus which would otherwise go hidden!
Have tissues at hand
Often with sticky mucus, once the aspirator gets a grip on the first chunk, the rest might come out in stringy bits. Rather than attempt to suck up the loose, stringy snot with the aspirator – which can actually be quite tricky when the mucus is out of the nose – it’s quicker to wipe it up with a tissue.
Keep it lighthearted
Last but not least, most babies hate having a foreign object in their nose, so whichever nasal aspirator you choose they’ll most likely hate it.
To make the experience easier for both yourself and the baby, keep it as entertaining as possible. Sing her favourite song, use toys as a distraction, or make silly sounds and faces so she associates nose-cleaning with positive emotions.
Wrap up the session with lots of cuddles, praise, and cheer!
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This was written at night while my kids are in bed. Help me stay awake so I can keep producing free & useful content for Aussie mums!