Stuffy Noses in Babies & Sleeping

Their immature respiratory systems--and their constant need to explore the world by touching and licking things--can make babies especially vulnerable to colds. Although most colds disappear within a week or two without serious complications, they often make your baby miserable for the duration. Stuffy noses and congestion can also interfere with her sleep--and a sleepless baby can make life difficult for the entire household.


Congestion can block your baby's nasal passages and make it hard for her to breathe freely while sleeping. This can lead to frequent night-waking and crying. Although you cannot give your baby cold medications to dry up her stuffy nose--due to the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations against their use in children under 4--you can use comfort measures to help her sleep better. Keeping her well-rested and well-hydrated can prevent infection and help her rebound from the cold more quickly.


Most baby cold comfort measures involve using moist, warm air and saline to clear out congestion. Keep the air moist by using a humidifier or warm mist vaporizer in her room at night. Use a bulb syringe and saline drops to remove the congestion from your baby's nose before putting her to bed. Elevate her crib mattress by placing a rolled-up blanket or towel under it--never in the crib with your baby--to keep her nasal pathways clear while she sleeps.

If she seems especially congested, Dr. William Sears, pediatrician and author of “The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth to Age 2,” recommends taking her to the bathroom for a steam session. Close the door, turn on the hot water and stay in the warm, steamy bathroom with your baby until her stuffy nose improves.


Some natural remedies, such as lukewarm spoonfuls of chamomile tea or drops of eucalyptus or lavender oil in her bath, can help temporarily relieve nasal congestion to help your baby sleep better. Although many of these remedies are safe, others might contain herbs or oils inappropriate for babies. Talk to your doctor before giving your baby any type of tea or herbal remedy so he can decide whether it is safe for your baby.


Even though you might not be able to prevent all of your baby’s colds, says that common sense and cleanliness can help ward off some of them. Avoid exposing your baby to people with obvious cold symptoms. Teach your older children to use tissues when they sneeze and to cover their mouths when they cough. Wash your baby’s toys and belongings--especially his pacifier--frequently.


Sears urges parents to contact their doctor if they notice any signs of wheezing or gasping for breath in their baby or if she acts especially lethargic and unwell. Call your doctor if she spikes a fever of 100.4 Fahrenheit and is younger than 3 months old. A fever of 101 in a 3- to 6-month-old-baby warrants a call, as does a fever of 103 in an infant over 6 months of age. Also call if your baby’s stuffy nose makes her unable to nurse or take a bottle.