By: Stephanie Shabangu, Penfield Children’s Center
Reviewed by: Kelsey Sorvick, RN, Penfield Children’s Center

Ahhhh newborns. So sweet, so bundled up, and so…complicated. Bringing home a newborn is exciting and scary. In the hospital, doctors and nurses are at a mother’s beck and call, usually available to answer any questions. For first time parents, especially, attention is paid to every sound, every movement and everything else these little beings do in their first days of life.

One common issue many parents notice about their newborn is a blocked tear duct or “goopy eye.” All babies get the goopy eye from time to time, but some seem to wake up with the fluid coming out of the eye and go to bed with the same situation. If you notice this happening with your newborn, don’t fret! Make sure to check with your child’s pediatrician to rule out other complications first, but most likely, you will be told that your baby has a blocked tear duct.

What is a blocked tear duct?

A blocked tear duct occurs when your baby’s very tiny tear duct becomes clogged or has not yet fully opened after birth. You’ll most likely notice a white or yellowish discharge coming from your child’s eye. Many parents worry that their baby might have his/her first bout of pink eye, but rest assured, a blocked tear duct is not an infection and does not need to be treated with antibiotics; you can help open your little one’s tear duct at home.

Home treatment:

Since your child’s tear duct will eventually open on its own, it’s not necessary to treat this condition. However, many parents prefer to help speed up the process of de-gooping their little one; here are a few suggestions:

  • Lightly massage your baby’s tear duct with a cotton swab twice daily. Move in small circles around the inside bottom corner of the eye near the nose.
  • Apply a damp, warm washcloth to the eye.
  • Put a few drops of breastmilk on a cotton ball or swab and clean the eye. According to Dr. William Sears, breastmilk has “infection-fighting white blood cells and natural antibacterial substances” that can help cleanse the eye and clear up the discharge.
  • Make sure to call you child’s pediatrician if the eye or eyelid begins to look red or swollen, and/or if your child’s eyelids are stuck together as this could be signs of an infection.

How can I prevent my baby from getting a blocked tear duct?

You can’t. About 20% of babies are born with this condition. Most of the time, the blocked duct will open on its own within 1 year.

As your baby matures and develops, it’s a good idea to have a trusted pediatrician or nurse that you can call to answer all your questions, big or small. Many issues that arise might seem concerning to the new parent, but are easily remedied at home or with a quick trip to the clinic.

Has your child ever had a blocked tear duct? If so, did you help treat it at home?


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