All You Need to Know About Newborn Sneezing

As a parent, you are always on alert to your child’s health and well-being so when you hear your newborn sneezing naturally you are concerned.

Since we have always associated sneezing with a cold or respiratory infection of some sort, you may be worried that your newborn is coming down with a virus. While a virus could be harmful in the newborn stage, the chances are that your newborn sneezing is not indicative of an illness at all.


Is it Normal for Newborns to Sneeze?

You may be wondering if it’s normal for newborns to sneeze even when they’re not sick, and the short answer is yes, it is normal. We all sneeze for various reasons, and newborns are no exception.

It allows him to clean out his nasal passage or helps relieve an irritated feeling within his tiny nose.

There is no need to run off to the medical clinic as soon as your wee one starts to sneeze.

The key to knowing when it is not normal is to look for other symptoms or signs of illness that go along with the sneezing. If there are none, your newborn sneezing is perfectly fine.

Why Do Newborns Sneeze?

Sneezing is simply a reflex which everybody has in response to something going on in the nasal passage. It is normal and expected so much time as other symptoms are present.

In fact, it is a positive sign that your newborn’s nervous system is functioning correctly. There are some reasons why your newborn is sneezing, just like yourself.

Some of the most common causes include:

  • Irritants: Smoke, pet hair and dander, dust, fabric particles, and more can irritate your little one’s nose. An important point here is that even if you smoke outdoors, you carry in the chemicals and scent on your clothing which can irritate your tiny baby’s nostrils, causing sneezing. Other things around your home can also irritate his little nasal passages. He may sneeze to clear those away.
    infants nostrils
  • Tiny Nostrils: Since newborns are tiny in size, their nostrils are tiny, too. The air passing through his little nose may give him a little tickle, and we all know how that nose tickle feels!
  • Dry Air: This is probably one of the most common reasons why newborn sneezes, especially in colder months/climates. The dry air can dry out his nasal passage, and a sneeze is his natural defense to attempt to moisten the passage again.
  • Nose Breathing: Newborns are natural nose breathers, so there is a need to make sure it is always clear for air. This may cause a sneeze since the nose could be a little blocked with particles, dust, fabric fibers. The sneeze clears the way for nose breathing to resume.
  • Closed Nostril: During nursing, Baby is pressed snuggly up against Mom’s chest, and sometimes his nose will get pressed closed too. He may sneeze, instinctively, to open that nostril again.

Normal Newborn Breathing

Parents may notice their newborn breathing in rapid, short spurts and then slow, steady paces. There is no cause for panic, though because this is normal.

In fact, sometimes your little one may pause in their breathing, which can be frightening for parents. This is also normal. The key is to watch for other signs which are cause for alarm.

You should watch out for wheezing, fast and labored breathing, hacking/barking coughs, high-pitched sounds like squeals and coughs that seem to come from deep within. These may also cause newborn sneezing or even infant congestion.

Nasal Congestion

Parent using a bulb on an infant

Newborn babies can be more susceptible to nasal congestion since babies tend to be nose breathers, at least until they are around two months old. If you notice infant congestion is an issue with your baby, there could be several causes.

Some causes are easily controlled, while others can happen naturally or happen if Baby is sensitive to such things.

These factors include:

  • Common colds or flu viruses caught from other family members.
  • Acid reflux-milk or formula may come back up through the nasal passage as well as the mouth.
  • Allergies (more common in older infants/children).
  • Blockage of the nasal passage.
  • Irritants such as tobacco smoke, colognes, or perfumes.
  • Dry household air (especially in colder months when the furnace is continuously running).
  • Cysts or growths (only in very rare cases).

If Baby is Congested, How Can You Help?

To help your congested baby, there are several non-invasive, gentle things you can try. It is important to check with your doctor, though, before you try any medicines or tinctures since newborn digestive systems and bodies are not necessarily ready for that.

Using some these easy ideas can help if you do have a congested baby on your hands and they can also contribute to reducing sneezing if your baby is having difficulty.


No smoking sign

If you notice your baby sneezing a lot or becomes congested each time Great Aunt Martha comes around, perhaps she is wearing too much perfume, or maybe she happens to be a smoker. These two things can irritate your baby’s tiny nose and cause excessive sneezing and in some cases congestion.

In this case, you will want to either ask your family member to tone down the scents when they visit or avoid having too much direct contact with them and Baby.

Common Cold and Flu Virus

This is sometimes unavoidable, especially if you have older school-age children in your home. Ideally, your infant shouldn’t be exposed to large crowds until after two months; however, it is not always avoidable. If your newborn comes down with a cold, he may become congested.

You may notice more coughing, sneezing, and runny nose. Unfortunately, you will likely have to ride it out. You can elevate your baby’s crib or bassinet, or just have him sleep in an elevated position.

The elevation will help him breath easier through his congested little nose. You can elevate your baby’s crib or bassinet, or just have him sleep in an elevated position.

Letting Baby sleep elevated on your chest while you remain awake and attentive will not only help Baby breathe easier, but allowing for skin-to-skin contact while you do so will contribute to regulating Baby’s breathing, heart rate, temperature, and stress response. 

Skin-to-skin contact even helps conserve Baby’s calories, which aids in healthy weight gain but, more importantly, allows Baby to more efficiently fight off the virus.

Dry Household Air

Ultrasonic humidifier

If you live in a cold climate, you may find that during winter months your baby is more congested or sneezing more often.

The dry air created by the furnace can be a significant factor in having a congested baby on your hands.

You apparently can’t shut off the furnace, but you can run a 

in your infant’s room to combat that warm, dry air flow. This helps add moisture to the air and in turn, helps Baby breathe easier with less congestion and sneezing.

Acid Reflux

You should see a doctor if you believe your infant congestion is caused by acid reflux. If you notice milk or formula coming from your baby’s nostrils after feeding, congestion and sneezing due to this, fussiness around feedings or seeming belly pain, this could be acid reflux and a doctor’s advice is best.

Blockage of the Nasal Passage

With having such tiny nostrils, Baby is bound to have a blockage in their nasal passage at some point. It could be as simple as excess mucus. You can help your newborn by using a suction bulb or baby aspirator to remove this mucus.

Sometimes a small cotton swab inserted gently into your baby’s nose can help remove more stable formations. Newborn sneezing, in most cases, is nothing to become anxious about. It is your baby’s reflex in clearing out his tiny nose to make way for better breathing.

If you are concerned about the amount of sneezing your baby is doing, or if he is having difficulty breathing, then it is always best to see your doctor for further advice.


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