Infants and Congestion

Your Baby Today: New Baby, New Mom: Expert Q&A: Pediatrics

By Lillian Beard, M.D. for Your Baby Today

Lillian M. Beard, M.D, a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, is an associate clinical professor at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, D.C. She is a frequent guest expert and spokesperson on national television programs, discussing issues related to children's health. Dr. Beard practices pediatrics in Washington, D.C.

Your Baby Today is proud to feature this expert Q&A with Dr. Lillian Beard. New questions and answers will be added to this page regularly. If you have any questions for Dr. Beard, please write to her at While Dr. Beard cannot respond to each individual inquiry, we will post answers to the most commonly asked questions here.

Q: Our 6-week-old baby suffers from chest congestion mainly at night. With him unable to spit or blow his nose, how do we clear his phlegm?

A: At 6 weeks, many infants have an overabundance of secretions that may congest the back portion of their nose, making their breath sounds quite noisy. The result, frequently loud snoring like breath sounds, is responsible for what we call "transmitted" breath sounds, sometimes mistaken for chest congestion. For his comfort and your peace of mind, it is important to try to clear his nasal passages. To accomplish this, I suggest that you put 2 drops of normal saline (salt water...available and packaged as "NaSal"), an over the counter preparation, into each nostril. This liquefies secretions that may have dried and blocked the pathway for air. Then use an infant nasal aspirator to suction each nostril. Squeeze the bulb of the aspirator before placing it into baby's nose...then release the bulb once it is in place as far back in the nose as it will comfortably reach.

This will function as a "nose blower" for your baby. Also try to elevate the baby's head and chest when he is on his back. I advise parents to place 2 phone books under the head section of the baby's mattress. This angle of elevation will help the baby to breathe with greater ease.

Caution: do not use pillows or bolsters in the baby's bassinet or crib in an attempt to achieve an elevation; they may pose a safety hazard.

The content on these pages is provided as general information only and should not be substituted for the advice of your physician.

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TwinsMom's picture

 Tara, 4 months old is really

 Tara, 4 months old is really young for over-the-counter medicines so I would definitely call the doctor for advise on that. But I highly recommend humidifiers in the room when they are congested. Those that have the liquid Vicks vapor are especially good and really do a LOT to help them sleep better.  Good luck!

Chest congestion

When my 4 month old coughs, it sounds like her chest is congested. What can I give her to she is having a hard time sleeping.

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