How To Treat Sticky Eye In A Newborn

Here's everything you need to know about sticky eye and what you can do about it.

If you notice your baby has gunk in their eye, try not to panic. It can be rather daunting especially as a first-time parent if you see mucus coming out your baby's eye. However, the fact is, sticky eye is a very common condition in newborn babies.

If you're unsure, in the majority of cases, sticky eye can look like yellowish type discharge and it can occur in one or both of the eyes. Sticky eye is usually caused by a blocked duct found on the inner corner of the eye beside the nose and while it might look painful, rest assured a blocked tear duct does not usually cause a baby much discomfort. 

The most common causes of sticky eye are partially developed tear ducts meaning the valve at the end of the tears duct does not open correctly. 

Tell-tales signs of sticky eyes include:

  • A yellowish type mucus or discharge at the corner of the eyes
  • A flaky crust after naptime around the eye 
  • Mild redness or inflammation under the eye (the eyes should not be red)
  • Baby's eye may become watery

How do I clean my baby's eye?

If your baby has sticky eye, it is very important that you clean regularly to avoid infection.

Follow these simple steps to ensure your clear the eye of any discharge or mucus correctly:

  1. Wash your hands.

    Before removing the discharge it is important to wash your hands thoroughly with warm soapy water. 

  2. Dampen a compress.

    Then using cooled boiled water or a saline solution, dampen a compress such as a soft sterile washcloth or cotton balls. 

  3. Tilt your baby's head.

    Tilt baby's head towards the eye being cleaned to avoid water trickling on his/her face. 

  4. Massage the substance away from the eye.

    Apply gentle pressure to clean the eye massaging the gluey substance away from the eye. It is extremely important you don't wipe anything into the eye. 

  5. Change your cloth for each wipe.

    Use a new wipe or cloth for each wipe.

  6. Repeat.

    Repeat. If the symptoms persist for a long time, you should give your doctor a call. The doctor may process every 4 to 6 hours if needed.

How To Treat Sticky Eye In A Newborn
If left untreated, the blockage can lead to an infection known as conjunctivitis which can sometimes be referred to as pink eye.

Can breastmilk help a blocked tear duct?

While there is no research to prove it's effectiveness, many breastfeeding mothers swear by their breastmilk and use it to clear the discharge from the eye and to help prevent any infections. 

What if the sticky eye persists?

In most cases, sticky eye is not serious and can be treated at home. However, if the problem persists your doctor may prescribe a cream or drops to help prevent further build-up.

Or in cases where the tear ducts have not opened naturally, your doctor may recommend a simple procedure to correct it. 

What should I look out for?

If left untreated, the blockage can lead to an infection known as conjunctivitis which can sometimes be referred to as pink eye. This is when the white of the eye and inside of the eyelids become inflamed. It usually affects both eyes and they can look puffy, red and tender. 

If you suspect your baby has conjunctivitis, we recommend you consult your doctor immediately. 

Kellie Kearney

Kellie Kearney is a Dublin mammy of five kids aged newborn right up to nine. She loves coffee, cloth nappies, travel and sharing her every day true to life family moments on Instagram.

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