The suctioning of a baby's nose and / or mouth at birth is a practice that has been around for many years. Being aimed at clearing the baby's airways to help them to breathe. In the last 5 years or so the value of this intervention, as a routine procedure, has been questioned. It is now believed that most healthy babies do not require any suctioning and are quite capable of clearing their airways on their own.
The fact that babies, on average, are born with up to 75 to 100 mls of amniotic fluid in their lungs already (being fully absorbed within 24 hours after the birth), means that another 1 or 2 mls from their nose and mouth will not make much difference. Newborn babies normally sound a little 'gurgly' when they breathe in the first hour after birth. This is normal and will usually resolve after an hour or so.
Other things a caregiver may do to remove some of the mucous is to:
- Place the baby on their stomach across the mother's belly, or sit the baby forward in the mother's arms. This helps to drain the excess mucus or amniotic fluid away.
- Use a sterile gauze pad or clean piece of cloth to wipe away any excess mucus, blood or amniotic fluid draining from the baby's nose or mouth.
Circumstances that would need the baby to require suctioning are generally limited to: