How To Use Nasal Aspirators: A Guide To Using All 3 Types Safely

So, you’ve been shopping around and have bought what you think is the absolute best nasal aspirator out there – but now you’re looking at it and looking at your baby’s itty-bitty nostrils, and thinking something along the lines of “What the heck do I do now?”!

Don’t worry, we’ve all been there – and the good news is that it’s way easier than it seems.

So, strap yourself in and get ready to do some learning on the go, because we’ve put together the ultimate guide to using a nasal aspirator or bulb and clearing your baby’s nasal passages!

Parent getting a nasal aspirator close to their baby's nose to suction mucus out

No matter what type of nasal aspirator you’ve purchased to use for your little one, we’re going to dedicate a section to explain how each particular type is meant to be used.

With our tips and some handy video demonstrations freely available online, you’ll be a nasal aspirator pro in no time – although it might not make it onto your list of hobbies.

Using Nasal Aspirators or Bulb Syringes: Quick Tips Before You Begin

Before you go on to do anything else, check out the following considerations, which we’ve put together using suggestions from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

When To Use Baby Aspirators

Experts suggest that it’s best to suction out your baby’s nose and clear their nasal passages before a feeding. If you do it after, there’s the risk they might vomit.

It’s also handy to do it before bedtime, so they can breathe easier through the night.

Using Saline Nose Drops or Sprays

Saline sprays or nose drops can help thin out and loosen the mucus before you start suctioning. You can use a nose dropper or spray to get them inside your baby’s nostrils.

Always Wash Your Hands Before And After

This one’s pretty obvious and makes sense, especially with a sick baby, but still – its importance can never be stressed enough!

Hold Baby In A Safe And Comfortable Position

Be warned: there’s a good chance your little one will squirm, and it’s up to you to make sure they’re kept as still as possible.

It might be easier if you get someone’s help to hold your child while you do the sucking, or to have them lay safely on a change table while you do what you have to do.

If you’d like to see a quick comparison of the three main nasal aspirator tools available, check out this educational video with Amy Seery, MD.

Or, if you’re ready to get started, then check out our step-by-step guides below:

How To Use A Nasal Bulb Syringe

Step 1: Push the air out of the nasal bulb using your thumb.

Step 2: Very carefully place the bulb’s tip into the nostril, but don’t push it in too far.

Step 3: Release the nasal bulb slowly so that it can fill back with air – this creates the suction for removing mucus from the baby’s nose.

Step 4: Take the bulb out of the nose and squeeze out any mucus.

To see the bulb syringe in action, check out this video by Woman’s Hospital Baton Rouge with Perinatal Education Coordinator, Angela Hammett.

How To Use An Oral Suction Aspirator

Step 1: Pop a clean filter into the aspirator (if it uses them). Alternatively, you might pop a tissue in to catch the mucus, depending on the device and its directions.

Step 2: Put the tube against the child’s nose.

Step 3: Using the mouthpiece, suck the air through the tube.

Watch Angie Hepp use an oral suction aspirator on her baby in this video.

Keep in mind that we’re not necessarily endorsing the brand she’s using (or any brands that might make an appearance in any of these videos) – we’re just including them here to serve as a visual guide on how this is done.

How To Use An Electric Aspirator

Step 1: Place the tip of the aspirator in your child’s nostril.

Step 2: Press the button and let it perform the suction.

Step 3: You might need to slightly maneuver the aspirator to get the position perfect.

See an electric nasal aspirator doing its thing in this video by Mars Faithfully. Once again, we’re not necessarily endorsing the particular brand, we’re just showing the method at work.

What To Avoid When Using Any Type of Baby Nasal Aspirator or Bulb

Now that you have a much clearer idea about how you should use a nasal aspirator when cleaning your baby’s nostrils, here are a few things to watch out for when using any of the aspirator types mentioned above:

Being Too Aggressive

Your baby’s nostrils are fragile, and you need to be extra careful when putting anything inside them, or against them.

As we mentioned earlier, it’s important not to push anything too far into your baby’s nostril. The aspirator should only sit inside the tip, or against it.

Don’t Forget The Instructions

As always, be sure to read the manual or instructions on the nasal aspirator first, before you attempt to use it.

The guidelines mentioned above are general in nature, and might not 100% apply to every device out there.

Overusing The Aspirator

Baby Center recommend using a nasal aspirator no more than two or three times a day. This is so you don’t accidentally irritate the inside of your baby’s nose.

It’s also suggested that you don’t use the saline drops for more than a few days, because they can dry out your baby’s nose.

What To Do After You Use The Aspirator

Whether you’re using the nasal bulb, an electric device or the oral suction aspirator, there are two things you’ll need to do properly in case you need to use the same device again:

Step #1: Clean The Aspirator

Before you attempt to use the same nasal aspirator or bulb to clear your little one’s nostrils again, it needs to be cleaned. (Hopefully you chose to buy an easy to clean nasal aspirator!).

The following list discusses how you can do this with each of the nasal aspirator types available these days.

Bulb Syringe

You can wash it in warm soapy water.

You’ll need to make sure the warm water gets inside the bulb, so be sure to squeeze the bulb and release it, and shake it around a bit before draining it.

When you’re done, turn it upside down to dry in a clean place, such as a glass or mug.

Oral Suction Aspirator

If it uses disposable filters, you should throw out the used filter.

Depending on the device, it should then come apart so it can be washed with hot soapy water. Some products might even suggest putting certain parts through the dishwasher.

The tube will then need to air dry.

Electric Aspirator

Different baby aspirators will be built differently, but they usually require you to remove the collection cup and nasal tip so they can be washed.

Most brands will suggest doing this with hot soapy water. You may then need to dry them with a clean cloth, or let them air dry.

Step #2: Store The Aspirator Somewhere Hygienic

After the nasal aspirator is fully dry, it’s best to store it somewhere clean and safe where you won’t lose any of the pieces (if it comes with multiple nasal tips or filters).

Some devices come with their own case that you can store it in, which is super useful.

If yours doesn’t come with one of these, you might want to keep it in a clean container, stored with your other medical goods. That way, you remember exactly where it is when you need it!

Always Watch Your Baby For Any Worrying Signs Or Symptoms

If you’re worried about your baby’s breathing or if they develop any other unusual and concerning symptoms, you should seek medical help ASAP.

According to Healthline, signs of severe breathing troubles in babies include difficulty feeding, ribs pulling in when they breath, moaning, and a blue tint to the skin.

You can read more about these symptoms on their website.

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Your Doctor For Help

If you’re really struggling to suction out your baby’s nose, it might be worth visiting your local family doctor or nurse.

They should be able to help you out, and might even have some of their own very useful tips for using a nasal aspirator.

And always remember – sucking out baby’s snot to clear out their stuffy noses might not be the coolest skill you’ve ever learned, but trust us on this: when your little one can finally breathe through their nose again, you’ll feel like a superhero!

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