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6 Reasons Why Newborns Have Stuffy Noses
1. Fetuses float in amniotic fluid. Some of this fluid gets into their nasal passages during birth,
and it may take a few days for it to be cleared.
2. Newborns don't breathe regularly. Instead, they commonly take shallow breaths followed by
pauses and deeper inspiration. The deeper breaths create turbulence in their nasal
passages, which makes their breathing sound stuffy.
3. Babies often reflux (spit up) in the first few months of life. Although most of the milk they
regurgitate comes out of their mouths, some of it may pass into their nasal passages from
the back. This can cause mild swelling of the nasal passages that increases their
4. A baby's nasal passages (like ours) are equipped with tiny hairs and mucus-producing
glands to trap dust and other floating matter, thereby keeping it out of the baby's lungs.
This process may increase the stuffy sounds of a newborn's breathing.
5. Babies are too young to snort or sniff. As a result, they are less able than older children to
clear their nasal passages. They can sneeze, of course, but this does little to relieve the
stuffiness parents notice.
6. Newborns are "obligate nose breathers." This means they can't breathe through their mouths in the first few months of life. Because babies have small nasal passages, they sound stuffy when they breathe. This is one of the reasons why you should never use drugs like Neosynephrine on newborns. Although the medicine will shrink the baby's nasal passages, when it wears off, the nasal passages may become more swollen than they were before the medicine was used. This can cause severe respiratory distress because the baby can't compensate for the "rebound" nasal congestion by breathing through her mouth.
Below are links to informational guides for your reference:
William Beaumont Children's Hospital is a valuable resource for answering many common questions that parents may have. Please click on the links below for further information regarding Infant Development, Nutrition, Language Skills, Common Childhood Illnesses and more: