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Baby Congested at Night: Causes and Treatment That Work

Is your baby congested at night?

This is actually common to experience; it happens when the blood vessels inside the nose swell up. Most cases happen from a bacterial or viral infection.

I know, hearing your child sniffle for days on end can just be heartbreaking, but it usually clears up within a week without any special intervention.

However, if her face swells or she experiences serious throat pain or long episodes of coughing, you should call your doctor.


  1. Cause of baby congestion
  2. How to unplug your congested baby
  3. When to go to the hospital

Baby Congested at Night: Causes

Newborns and infants up to 12 months

Is your young baby congested only at night?

Newborns are obligate nasal breathers, which means that they’re not yet capable of breathing through their mouths as easily as adult humans can, so they’re always trying to breathe through the nose; at this point, it’s the only orange that can humidify the air for Baby.

I always like to remind parents that newborns also aren’t yet capable of “sniffing in” their snot on purpose, nor can they blow their nose to clear it out.

Because of that, they’re liable to snort and appear to struggle to breathe up until about six months, but if they’re not turning blue, they are likely not having any serious trouble breathing.

That being said, their inability to blow their own noses is one cause of nasal congestion in infants, made of the boogers, mucus, and milk spit up after their dinner’s done.

Of course, you’ll usually see the milk come out of their mouths after feeding, but it can also rise into the back of the nostrils and the nasopharynx or the center of the head. No wonder they’re so stuffy!

Because of this, you don’t need to treat him like he has allergies. In fact, I find all that’s really necessary is moistening a Q-tip and gently rubbing away any easily visible boogers near the nostrils.

Putting a few saline drops up his nose will also help him sneeze, expelling the contents of his nose or otherwise letting him sniff it in to swallow.

I really don’t recommend using nasal steroids in any infant under 12 months, and it’s outright unsafe to use any decongestant drops on a newborn. If you’re concerned about anything, please talk to your doctor!

The other potential cause for a baby congested at night could be reflux or the backwash of contents in the stomach.

If the spit only reaches the esophagus, it’s called gastroesophageal reflux, and if it reaches the mouth, it’s laryngopharyngeal reflux. As I just mentioned, fed milk spit up doesn’t just affect the mouth.

If you’re ever curious about the nasal physiology is tied to the digestive system, just try gagging on your toothbrush; your eyes will water and your nose will congest.

Our bodies evolved in a way that makes our noses react whenever our digestive process is activated. In other words, if your baby spits up more than the average newborn, she’s probably going to suffer from nasal congestion.

Toddlers up to age 2

Again, reflux is a major cause for nasal congestion in toddlers. Babies don’t need to drink from the bottle after they turn 1, and it’s not good for their teeth to sleep with a bottle.

I meet so many mothers who like to give their child milk when they go to bed, and it always worries me!

When your toddler starts eating table foods and other foods that have sugar or juice or anything else besides milk and water, babies go to bed with food in their tummies and can end up with indigestion.

This leads to the contents of the stomach washing back up the digestive system, and then the nose becomes stuff because of this digestive stimulation.

I’m often asking parents what they feed their toddler once they’ve graduated to table foods.

Often, I’m told they’re drinking lots of milk, eating yogurt, and eating cheese, and they end up having a very acidic diet in the end–they may seem like base foods

but dairy becomes acidic when left in warm temperature, so the longer it’s in your toddler’s belly, the more acidic it will become and the more likely reflux or constipation can occur.

I had to give my own daughter Miralax to gently clear her insides, or else she would be so constipated that she’d run off to a corner and squat for the longest time trying to “make poop happen”.

Nobody wants to watch their child struggle, so be sure to talk with your primary care doctor to discuss what you can do to help your child regulate her digestive system.

This is also the right age to start introducing some natural fiber in their diets, such as through fresh fruit and cooked vegetables, as well as whole grain by way of bread or pasta.

Oh, and in case I wasn’t clear how constipation can possibly congest your nose, just try and “bear down” the next time you want to pass a bowel movement, and just feel as your nose stuffs up. Bodies are connected in the strangest ways!


It might sound like a tall tale, but runny noses can actually be great! It’s the natural way for the body to get rid of germs.

Of course, too much mucus results in a congested baby, which can make it difficult to breathe. There are a few remedies you can try at home to take away Baby’s discomfort.

Saline/Saltwater Drops

You’ll find these at any pharmacy and many other stores. Just put a few drops of the saline into each nostril, and then get a bulb syringe; you’ll use this to gently suction the mucus out of his nose.

It’s OK to do this multiple times if there’s a lot of mucus to get out.

I’d recommend trying it before mealtime if his congestion persists into the day, because it’ll make eating a smoother experience.

For the best experience, this treatment method will work on infants under six months. Older babies can cooperate but are likely to get fussy when you try to use the bulb.

It’s also OK to skip the bulb if this is the case, because the saline thins the mucus.

To correctly use the bulb:

  • First, squeeze the syringe
  • Gently put the tip inside the baby’s nostril
  • Slowly release the bulb
  • Thoroughly wash the bulb with soap and water after every use


If the runny mucus has hardened into sticky boogers or crust around the nostrils, then a saline drip isn’t the best option here. Instead, I’d recommend a moist Q-Tip to gently wipe away the boogers outside the nostril.


A humidifier or cool mist vaporizer in Baby’s room can help her get to sleep by adding some moisture to otherwise dry air, helping her clear her nose out.

If you decide to use this method, be vigilant about cleaning the machine, because mold can grow inside.

Sitting in a humid bathroom with your baby can also provide the same effect for daytime congestion. Check the video below to treat your baby’s congestion by running a hot steamy shower.

A Few Pats on the Back

If your baby has chest congestion, a few love taps on the back can help clear it up. Lay him face down across your lap, cup your hand, and gently pat his back. The idea is to loosen the chest’s mucus so he is more likely to cough it up and get better sooner.

Another good position to try is when she sits on your lap and leans forward at a 30-degree angle. Use the same gentle, cupped patting to loosen the chest mucus.

You can also try a baby massage as you can see in the video below:

Sometimes It’s Just Time!

Not all stuffy noses need intervention. As long as your baby doesn’t seem to be uncomfortable, there’s nothing you need to do.

Make sure she’s not having any trouble eating or drinks and that she’s still active, and until then it’s perfectly OK to watch and wait for it to go away.

I never recommend giving cold and cough medicine to children under 4, and I’d ask a doctor if your child is under 6.

When to Go to the Hospital

As I’ve mentioned before, nasal congestion is actually quite a common condition in newborns and infants.

Newborns are especially unskilled at manipulating their breathing when needed, so they’re not going to blow their nose, sniff away boogers, or switch to breathing through the mouth.

Your baby will be noticeably uncomfortable if he has a stuffy nose, because he won’t be able to sleep very well.

Nasal congestion could be the result from something as the common cold or allergies, or it could be from a sinus infection or the flu.

If any of the following symptoms occur in your baby, call his doctor or head to the hospital right away:

  • Fever
  • Worsening symptoms
  • Breathing very fast (over 60 breaths per minute in newborns, or over 45 breaths per minute in children 6 weeks to 2 years)
  • Green or yellow mucus
  • Reduced or difficulty eating
  • Reduced or difficulty sleeping
  • Pulling at the ear
  • Appears to be in pain
  • Seems very tired
  • Peeing less than usual

Checking fever in infants

Never use a mercury thermometer to test your baby’s temperature–always go digital.

Infants and toddlers will need their temperatures taken rectally, but be sure you know how to do this correctly; without the necessary precautions and gentle hand, it can accidentally poke a hole in the rectum, or pass germs on.

Follow your doctor’s instructions as well as the recommendations from the product maker on the box.

If your baby is under 2 months and has any kind of fever (100.4 degrees F), go to the hospital!


In most cases, you won’t need to worry too much if your baby congested at night or even during the day, because it will clear up on its own within a week without worry. If your baby seems uncomfortable or has a fever, then I would of course recommend calling her doctor!

Additional information:

Video credits: eHow, Lucy Johns.

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