How to Correctly Put Saline Drops in an Infant's Nose

The common cold and other respiratory infections can cause congestion or "stuffy nose." Saline drops and sprays and sinus rinses can help relieve congestion.

These remedies help clear mucus from the nasal passages and sinuses. This can make breathing easier.

Tips for Administering Saline Drops to Your Baby

Verywell / Jessica Olah

Saline drops do not contain medication. This is why they are often recommended for people of all ages.

Pediatricians may recommend saline drops for infants when they are congested. It can, however, be challenging to put drops in a baby's nose.

This article offers step by step instructions and other tips for treating your baby's congestion with saline nose drops.

Steps to Apply Nasal Saline Drops

First, make sure you have the right tools. You will need sterile saline nose drops and a clean bulb syringe. These can be purchased at any pharmacy or grocery store.

  1. Hold your baby in your lap. The baby should be in an upright or slightly reclined position. Rest the back of the baby's head on your arm.
  2. Put 2 or 3 saline drops in one nostril.
  3. Wait a few seconds. This will allow the saline to go into the nose.
  4. Point the bulb syringe away from your baby. Squeeze the bulb end to expel the air.
  5. Keep the bulb squeezed and place the small tip in the nostril you put the drops in.
  6. Gently release the bulb. This will create suction that removes mucus and extra saline from your baby's nose.
  7. Squeeze the bulb syringe into the sink or a cup to expel its contents.
  8. Wait a few minutes. This will give your baby time to calm down if the process was upsetting.
  9. Repeat steps 2 through 7 in the other nostril.

It's best to limit suctioning to no more than two times times a day. More than that has the potential to lead to swelling of the nasal passages,

Tips for Using Baby Saline Drops

These tips can help make the process go smoothly:

  • If your baby is frustrated or squirming, have another adult help you. A second person can help keep the baby's head and hands still.
  • Use the saline drops before the baby feeds or goes to sleep.
  • Use a warm washcloth or cotton swab to clean the nostrils.
  • Bulb syringes can be difficult to clean and may harbor bacteria. Be sure to clean your bulb syringe after each use. Use soap and water. Only expel the air in the bulb when it is not in your baby's nose.

It is also important to learn how to tell if your child could be having difficulty breathing. Babies breathe through their noses, so they can have trouble getting enough oxygen when they are sick. The signs are not always obvious and can include:


Saline drops can help babies breathe when they are congested. It is important to know the correct way to use saline drops on your baby. The process involves putting the drops in the nose and using a clean bulb syringe to remove the mucus and extra saline.

It may be helpful to get the assistance of another adult. Be sure to clean the syringe after every use. Watch for signs that your baby is having trouble breathing.

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2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Chirico G, Quartarone G, Mallefet P. Nasal congestion in infants and children: a literature review on efficacy and safety of non-pharmacological treatments. Minerva Pediatr. 2014;66(6):549-557.

  2. Hanson LA. Recommended antiseptics for killing bacterial growth in neonatal blue bulb syringes: addressing a clinical issue. Sigma Repository. 2017.

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