Suctioning the Nose with a Bulb Syringe

A bulb syringe is used to remove mucus from your baby’s mouth or nose. A stuffy nose can make it hard for your baby to breathe. This can make your baby fussy, especially when he/she tries to eat or sleep. Suctioning makes it easier for your baby to breathe and eat.

If needed, it is best to suction your baby’s nose before a feeding or bedtime. Avoid suctioning after feeding. This may cause your baby to vomit.

Before using the bulb syringe, you should thin the mucus with normal saline (salt water) nose drops. Needed supplies:

  • 8-ounce cup of warm water
  • Small blanket roll
  • Kitchen measuring spoon
  • Nose droppers
  • Salt
  • Tissues
  • Clean jar with cover
  • Bulb syringe
  1. Add ¼ level teaspoon of salt to the 8-ounce cup of warm water.
  2. Stir to dissolve the salt.
  3. Keep the solution in a clean, covered jar.
  4. Discard the solution after one week.

Note: You may also use purchased saline nose drops.

  1. Wash your hands well before and after suctioning.
  2. Lay your baby on his back with head positioned facing ceiling. Have someone hold your baby in this position or swaddle your baby in a blanket with arms at his side to keep him still.
  3. Using a nose dropper, drop three to four drops saline solution into one nostril, unless otherwise directed by your baby's doctor. Hold baby in this position for one minute.
  4. Before placing the bulb into the nostril, push all the air out of it with your thumb on the top of the bulb.
  5. Carefully and gently, place the tip of the bulb into a nostril until nostril is sealed.
  6. Slowly release thumb, letting the air come back into the bulb. The suction will pull the mucus out of the nose and into the bulb
  7. Remove the bulb from baby’s nose and squeeze mucus out of bulb into a tissue.
  8. Repeat steps 3 through 7 on other nostril. You may need to suction each nostril several times to clear all the mucus.
  9. Gently wipe off the mucus around the nose with tissues to prevent skin irritation.
  10. Clean bulb syringe after each use with warm soapy water and rinse thoroughly.

Avoid suctioning after feeding.  This may cause your baby to vomit. 

When suctioning the mouth, be sure to put the suction bulb toward the inside cheek of your child's mouth.  If the bulb is placed in the middle of the mouth, your baby may gag and vomit.


Last Updated 11/2013