What to Do When Baby Has a Clogged Tear Duct

Heather Chaet

Kiddo was born with gorgeous baby blues ... which are still gorgeous, I might add, and still blue. But, as her first weeks turned into her first months, we noticed she would wake up from naps and in the morning and her right eye would have icky, yellow crusties on it, sometimes so much that she couldn't get her eye open. Under her eye would be a bit swollen, red, and kinda teary. Not all of the time, just now and again, more often than not. Turns out she had a clogged tear duct.

I was shocked to find out something like 6 out of 100 babies are born with a clogged tear duct. Who knew? Again, one of those things you don't hear about until it's happening to your kid ... and then you learn just how common it is.

But what do you do when you think your baby has a clogged tear duct?

 -- Talk to your doctor. Tell her what signs you're seeing and she'll probably tell you to wait and see what happens. The cool thing about most clogged ducts is they unclog on their own. But there are things you will need to do at home for at least a couple of months.

-- Massage the duct. You will actually be able to kind of feel where the clog is, right by the nose. Our doc said to take a warm washcloth and use that, massaging right on the duct, rubbing from the eye toward the nose. The key is to do it about six times a day. Work it into your routine -- many moms do it around diaper changes, others do it around feedings. Find what works best for you and your baby. I thought Kiddo would hate it, but after a while, she didn't seem to mind the massages at all. 

-- Keep it clean. Because that eye fluid isn't draining, it's going to be super-prone to get infected, so you need to clean the eye often with a washcloth, especially the yellow crusties.

-- Watch for infection. Even if you're massaging and keeping it clean, chances are that eye will get infected. If there are many days of yellow crusties and redness, your doc will probably prescribe some antibiotic eye drops to treat any possible infection.

If, by the time your baby turns 9 months or hits the 1-year milestone, that duct is still clogged, you doc will refer you to a pediatric eye doctor who may have to perform a eye-duct probing. It's a very quick, outpatient procedure but it does involve light, general anesthesia ... which is scary to think about, especially for us parents. But, that's what happened with Kiddo. Her duct didn't unclog by itself. She had the procedure in the morning and was totally fine, playing that afternoon like nothing happened. Seriously, I'm sure it was worse for my husband and me in the waiting room.

Did your baby have a clogged tear duct?


Image via AdamSelwood/Flickr

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