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Cleaning your baby's ears, eyes and nose

6-minute read

Key facts

  • Cleaning your baby’s skin is important for their health, and helps avoid problems in the future.
  • Babies’ skin is sensitive, and can become easily irritated.
  • Clean your baby’s eyes, ears and nose with warm water and a soft washcloth or cotton wool.
  • Gently wipe your baby’s eyes from the inside corner to the outside corner, using a new cotton ball for each eye.
  • It's very important not to stick anything into your baby's eyes, ears or nose as this can cause damage.

Do I need to clean my baby's ears, eyes and nose?

Your baby’s skin is still developing in the first few months of their life. Their skin is quite fragile and sensitive and can become easily irritated.

It is important to clean your baby’s ears, eyes and nose for their good health. Just like adults, babies can develop ear wax and mucus in their nose and discharge in their eyes — this is normal and there’s no need for concern. Paying special attention to these parts of your baby’s body will prevent problems in future.

When should I clean my baby's ears, eyes and nose?

Your baby’s ears, eyes and nose should be wiped every day. All you need is some cotton wool or a soft cloth, and warm water. It is best not to use soap because it can dry out or irritate your baby’s sensitive skin.

A good time to clean your baby's ears, eyes and nose is just before you give them a bath. Newborn babies don't need a bath every day, so it is good to find a time suitable for you, to get into the daily practice of cleaning your baby’s ears, eyes and nose.

Some babies get upset when you wash their faces, so choose a time when they’re relaxed. It’s best not to wash their face when they’re hungry, or right after a feed. Talking or singing to your baby while you’re washing them might help to calm them down, and can help you enjoy your time with your baby.

How do I clean my baby's ears, eyes and nose?

Dip some cotton wool or a soft cloth in lukewarm water. Gently clean the corners of their eyes, wiping from the inside corner to the outside corner. Use a new cotton wool ball or clean corner of a soft cloth for each eye. Continue to gently wipe around each nostril to get rid of any mucus and wipe around your baby's ears, including around the outside. Use a soft towel to gently dry your baby's skin, making sure you also dry behind the ears.

It's very important not to stick anything into your baby's ears or nose as this can cause damage. It can cause the inside lining of the nose to bleed, and damage the eardrum. Pushing something into your baby's ear or nose can increase the risk of infection and even cause permanent hearing loss.

Should I remove my baby's earwax?

Usually there is no need to remove your baby's earwax as it has an important role in protecting their ears. Earwax blocks germs that could cause infection from reaching the eardrum and it prevents dirt and dust from entering your baby's ear.

Earwax usually makes its way to the open end of the ear naturally. You can gently wipe it away with a damp cloth when you are cleaning your baby’s ears. Do not insert a cotton bud, finger or pointed object into your baby's ears. You should also avoid using remedies to remove ear wax. These can damage the ear canal and even affect your baby’s hearing.

Complications affecting eyes and ears in babies and young children

If your baby's eye is very watery and there is sticky discharge, it might be due to a blocked tear duct. This condition usually gets better by itself, but check with your child health nurse or doctor, in case there is an infection that needs treatment.

If your baby is tugging or pulling at their ears a lot, have discharge coming from the ears, or their ears are painful to touch, take them to a doctor for examination — they may have an ear infection. Babies with ear pain or ear infections may be irritable, and may also have other symptoms like runny nose or a sore throat.

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Resources and support

The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne has health information on skincare and cleaning your baby as well as information on ear infections in young children.

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: June 2022


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Need more information?

Cleaning baby eyes, baby ears & baby noses | Raising Children Network

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Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

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