If you’re a parent and there’s a chill in the air it can mean only one thing…it’s snot-sucking season! That means you get to put a tiny device up your squirmy baby’s nose in order to extract the phlegm that’s making them miserable. Sounds like a party, right? (It’s not.) Alas, there are ways to make suctioning a baby’s nose easier, more effective, and less traumatizing for all! Here’s the inside scoop on the best way to suction the snot out of your sick baby’s nose.

What is a nasal aspirator?

A nasal aspirator is, quite simply, a baby snot sucker. While there are a few different types of commercially available of nasal aspirators, they’re all designed to remove mucus from your little one’s nose. While you, a grown person, can easily breathe out of your nose and mouth—and blow your nose as needed—babies cannot. They primarily breathe through their noses, so mucus can really hinder their breathing and feeding. Using a snot sucker can clear the mucus that’s hindering their breathing and feeding. It also helps prevent mucus from dripping into your baby’s throat, which causing coughing.

Can suctioning a baby’s nose hurt them?

Yes. That’s why it’s important to follow the directions on your nasal aspirator to a T—and to abide by these stay-safe suctioning tips:

  • Swaddle your baby. To help keep your baby calm during the snot extraction, Dr. Harvey Karp, pediatrician and author of the bestselling book The Happiest Baby on the Block, suggests swaddling your baby with their arms securely down.

  • Time it right. Suction your baby’s nose just before a feed and/or bedtime. This will help you baby eat and sleep better. PS: Using a nasal aspirator soon after a feed may cause your little one to throw up.

  • Use a nose wash. Before snot sucking with any device, put one or two saline nasal drops in your baby’s nose. This will loosen the mucus, making it way easier to suck out. Dr. Karp notes that you can use breastmilk as a saline alternative. “Collect some from your nipple with an eyedropper, then tip back your baby’s head and put a drop or two into their nostrils,” he says. “Breastmilk contains antibodies that can fight off colds.”

  • Tilt your baby’s head. After using a nose wash, hold your baby with their head slightly back for about a minute. This allows the saline or breastmilk time to thin the mucus before suctioning.

  • Don’t over-suction. Limit snot sucking to two to three times a day, max. Using a nasal aspirator more often may dry out the inside of your baby’s nose, causing discomfort, irritation, and nosebleeds.

How to Suction a Baby’s Nose With a Bulb Syringe

A rounded rubber suction bulb with a tapered stem is called a bulb syringe or a bulb nasal aspirator. You likely got one as a parting gift from the hospital after giving birth. While these suckers work well, they’re tricky to clean, you can’t see what you’ve extracted, and it can be easy to accidentally insert the tip too far up your baby’s nose. After you follow the advice above (saline, swaddling, etc.), here’s how you use a bulb aspirator:

  1. Wash your hands.

  2. Hold the tip of the bulb between your middle finger and forefinger.

  3. Squeeze the bulb with your thumb and hold it.

  4. Gently insert only the very tip of the snot sucker into your baby’s nostril.

  5. Slowly release your squeeze on the bulb to suction the mucus out.

  6. Squeeze the snotty contents of the bulb into a tissue. (Repeat to ensure its empty.) Consider squeezing and releasing the bulb in a bowl of tap water between suctioning as well.

  7. Wipe off any mucus around your baby’s nose with soft tissues to help prevent irritation.

  8. Repeat the process with your baby’s other nostril.

  9. After you’re done, cuddle and comfort your sweet pea.

  10. Wash the bulb aspirator with hot, soapy water. Squeeze soapy water into the bulb, then squeeze the water out. Repeat as needed. Rinse well and let air dry.

  11. Wash your hands!

How to Suction a Baby’s Nose With an Oral Suction Nasal Aspirator

An oral suction nasal aspirator is exactly what it sounds like: One end of a tube goes in your mouth, the other goes in your baby’s nose, and you suck to extract the phlegm. Before you choke on that tummy-turning notion, know that these types of snot suckers, like the Snotsucker from NoseFrida, contain a filter, so you won’t get a mouthful of gross. A mouth-to-nose aspirator is fairly easy to clean, you can see what’s been removed from your tot’s nose, and a stopper ensures you don’t inadvertently insert the snot sucker too far into your baby’s nose. After you use saline drops (or breastmilk), swaddle your baby, and follow the rest of the safety-first rules, here’s how you use an oral suction aspirator:

  1. Wash your hands.

  2. Place a fresh, new filter into the snot straw.

  3. Gently insert the aspirator tip into your baby’s nose.

  4. Put the mouthpiece between your lips and slowly suck the mucus out.

  5. To help prevent irritation, use a soft tissue to wipe away mucus near your baby’s nose.

  6. Repeat with the other nostril.

  7. Offer your baby snuggles and shushes.

  8. Follow the cleaning directions for your snot sucker.

  9. Wash your hands again.

How to Suction a Baby’s Nose With an Electric Nasal Aspirator

Electric nasal aspirators (aka battery-powered nasal aspirators) use a gentle vacuum-like suction to remove snot from your baby’s nose. While pricier than the other two options, electric nasal aspirators are effective, easy enough to clean, and most allow you to see what’s been removed. After you’ve swaddled, salined, and followed the rest of the advice above, use your electric nasal aspirator this way:

  1. Wash your hands.

  2. If your electric snot sucker features a few suction levels, test it against the back of your hand before using it on your baby. This’ll help you decide which level is best.

  3. Gently place the device either against your baby’s nostril or inside your baby’s nose. (There are likely different tips and directions depending on your child’s age.)

  4. Turn on the electric nasal aspirator.

  5. Wipe lingering mucus off your baby’s nose with a soft tissue to help avoid irritation.

  6. Repeat the process with the other nostril.

  7. Once you’re finished, comfort your baby with sweet cuddles.

  8. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning the snot sucker.

  9. Wash your hands.

Which is the best baby nasal aspirator?

Surprise! A 2023 report in the journal JAMA Network Open found no difference between the efficacy of electric snot suckers and no-frills bulb nasal aspirators. In short: Both got the job done! Despite this, parents who were assigned bulb aspirators were less satisfied with their snot sucker than those who were given an electric aspirator. While mouth-to-nose aspirators weren’t specifically examined in this report, researchers did note that roughly 62% of the bulb aspirator group had used mouth-to-nose devices outside of the study, which likely led to them feeling dissatisfied with the bulb aspirator. In the end, rest assured that whichever snot sucker you choose, the results will likely be the same.


More Cold and Flu Season Help:



  • Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Newborn Intensive Care Unit: Using a Bulb Syringe
  • Cleveland Clinic: Prevent Phlegm in Your Baby’s Throat With a Nasal Aspirator
  • Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughter: Suctioning Your Childs Nose and Mouth
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics: How to Care for Your Child’s Cold
  • Nationwide Children’s: Suctioning the Nose with a Bulb Syringe
  • Nasal Suctioning Therapy Among Infants With Bronchiolitis Discharged Home From the Emergency Department, A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Network Open. October 2023

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.