For new parents, almost everything newborn babies do is fascinating. A newborn baby is easy to be enamored by, from their cute little fingers to their cute little toes. And some of the things they do are absolutely adorable, from smiles and yawns and hiccups to sneezes.
It’s not your imagination. Your newborn sneezing a lot is actually occurring. You may even notice that many newborn babies sneeze multiple times in a row. They are almost incapable of stopping at just one!
It can be a bit concerning for the cautious new parent, but lots of tiny sneezes are normal baby behavior. But to set your mind further at ease or satisfy your curiosity, let’s unpack why those tiny noses seem so active.
Is it normal for newborns to sneeze?
It is absolutely normal for newborn babies to sneeze a lot. They don’t have to have a cold or a runny nose to let loose a series of face-twisting sneezes. Newborns sneeze so many times and so often for several different reasons, most of which isn’t concerning at all.
Why does my newborn sneeze so much?
Frequent sneezing in a newborn isn’t usually anything to worry about unless other symptoms accompany them. Baby sneezes occur for many reasons, and we’re going to discuss them now.
1. A Stuffy Nose
Remember that babies are nose breathers. Newborn babies only breathe through their noses, and when those little nasal passages get stuffed up with snot, boogers, dust, or other irritants, the only way to get them out for a newborn is to sneeze.
A newborn’s stuffy nose doesn’t mean that they’re sick. It just means that they need their nostrils cleared so the baby can breathe more easily. A baby’s nose is small and gets blocked pretty easily. So baby sneezing is simply baby clearing out that stuffed nose so they can take full breaths and have no trouble breathing.
2. A Reflex Controlled by the Nervous System
Another reason to explain your newborn sneezing a lot is the fact that sneezing is a reflex, and the nervous system controls it. A newborn is not born with a mature nervous system, so the baby’s nose tends to be a bit more sensitive to things like a slightly stuffy nose or irritants in the nasal passages. Once your infant is a little older, the sneezing will most likely decrease.
3. Amniotic Fluid
A newborn baby spends nearly a year in the womb, and in that time, there is fluid traveling in and out of the nasal passages and being circulated through the baby’s system.
After birth, babies sneeze a lot to clear their nasal passages of any remaining amniotic. Frequent sneezing is a way to flush out what’s left from their day in the womb to breathe the air better and avoid any trouble breathing.
Sneezing frequently helps rid the system of congestion in young babies. Infants cannot blow their little noses, so to clear their nasal passages of any gunk or snot they may have built up due to congestion, you get a baby sneeze, hopefully with some nasal discharge.
Sometimes the baby needs a little bit of help clearing their nasal passages, and when that happens, you can either wipe your baby’s nose or use a bulb syringe to suck some of the snot out of their noses for them.
5. Allergic Rhinitis
Although it sounds like something big and scary, it’s just allergies. A baby’s tiny nasal passages are very sensitive to things like pollen in the air, ragweed, dander, dust mites, and other allergens. This can result in things like hay fever in newborn babies, and that’s why suddenly, your baby’s sneezing a lot more.
There a quite a few reasons your infant may be irritated and have allergy issues. Pet dander, pet hair, hair spray fumes, perfume, air fresheners, and candles can all cause watery eyes, coughing, and may be why your baby is sneezing.
Another irritant that many people don’t consider right away is cigarette smoke. Secondhand smoke is terrible for anyone to breathe, but when it hits the nasal passages of a newborn baby, it’s even worse.
If your child is around a smoker often and seems to have constant nasal congestion and irritation, along with frequent sneezes, the smoke is most likely the culprit. It’s why your child tends to sneeze so much, and it also poses other health risks. Tobacco smoke is not only foul-smelling, but it’s also hazardous for the baby and its almost nonexistent immune system.
You should always ask anyone who smokes and is around your baby to smoke well away from your child, wash their hands and even change clothes before interacting with your newborn.
5. Excessive Sneezing When Breastfeeding
Tiny nostrils can get easily blocked when nursing, especially if you have an abnormal nipple latch and trouble nursing. What happens is that the small noses of newborns can get flattened against the breast while the child drinks the breast milk, and their nose is shut. Sneezing helps to open their nasal passages back up so that they can breathe more easily.
6. Dry Air
Sneezing can frequently occur in dry climates or in homes with a lot of dry air. Older kids can even get nose bleeds due to very dry air. You can remedy this by using a humidifier in the nursery, baby’s room, or other rooms of the house.
If you don’t have a humidifier, you can also run hot water in the shower, close the bathroom door, and allow steam to accumulate. Sitting in the bathroom with your baby, who is sneezing a lot, can help to clear their nasal passages. This is also useful if your baby has a cold or other infection, like a respiratory infection.
If Your Baby is Sick
There are many reasons for all of those little sneezes. A natural startle reflex can even cause newborn sneezing! Sneezing newborns is entirely normal and nothing to be concerned about most of the time. However, when coupled with other signs, it could mean that your newborn is ill and needs to receive professional medical advice.
A Common Cold
Sometimes sneezing accompanied by other symptoms such as a slight fever or cough, runny nose, and slight fever means that your newborn has a common cold. While you may get through a cold just fine, keep in mind that your child barely has any immune system to prevent further infection.
If you notice that the baby sleeps more than usual, isn’t sleeping, isn’t eating, has any trouble breathing, or has other symptoms that cause concern. Then it’s best to see a doctor immediately so that your child can get the care necessary and get on the path to good health.
Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome
Neonatal abstinence syndrome occurs when the newborn’s mother was on opiate drugs when she was pregnant. Basically, the infant is going through stages of withdrawal, which can cause newborns to sneeze frequently, along with the following symptoms: seizures, shaking, poor latch, poor appetite, abnormal sleep patterns, and coughing.
Tools to Help Your Sneezing Newborn
Sometimes that little body needs help clearing everything out. When sneezing just won’t stop on its own, there are a few things that the parents or caregivers can do to help clear those nasal passages out so that baby can get some relief.
Saline Drops, Nasal Aspirator, and More
These handy drops, also available in a spray, can be put up the baby’s nostrils to break up hardened snot and boogers so that you can more easily clear out the nose. You can buy this over the counter.
Used in combination with a nasal aspirator, you can help your baby clear out all the gunk that is causing the nasal passage to be blocked up and alleviate some of the sneezing.
Also, consider purchasing a humidifier and keeping your home free of as much smoke, dust, and irritants as possible so that baby can breathe more easily.
Learn about the baby’s witching hour here.