Tiffany is a sleep-deprived mom to a teen, a toddler, and a newborn. You can catch her blogging over a cup of coffee at Lattes And Life. You can also find her Twitter feed @give_me_a_latte.
Newborn Care: Blocked Tear Ducts
Shortly after my daughter was born, I noticed her left eye had a lot of sticky discharge. It looked like a buildup of “sleep” in the corner of her eye. I’d wipe it away only to have it reappear a few minutes later.
The pediatrician in the hospital told me it appeared to be a blocked tear duct, and is very common in newborns (some sources report that 6 out of 100 babies are born with this condition).
Tear ducts begin in the corner of the eye and drain into the nose. In many newborns, there is a thin tissue at the end of the tear duct that doesn’t allow drainage. Since the tears can’t drain, they build up in the eye and it will appear as if the baby is crying. What I thought was “sleep” is a buildup of mucous, which is commonly seen with blocked tear ducts. It will collect in the corner of the eye and can even cause the eyelids to stick together.
A blocked tear duct will usually clear up on its own within baby’s first year. To help it along, we were instructed to wipe away the excess mucous and tears with a warm washcloth as needed. Then, massage the duct in a downward motion, starting at the corner of the eye and pressing down along the side of the nose. The combination of heat and gentle pressure can help move the fluid down the duct, and can aid in opening the blockage. I generally do this at each feeding, if I notice the eye needs attention.
If a blocked tear duct hasn’t resolved itself on its own within a year, most doctors will refer the child to a pediatric ophthalmologist. A simple procedure is performed with a tiny probe to open the duct. This treatment is successful in about 90% of cases. Very few children require additional surgery.
If your baby is born with a blocked tear duct, follow your pediatrician’s advice and treatment plan. Having a blocked tear duct can increase the chance of eye infections, so be sure to practice good hand washing and always use a clean washcloth each time you wipe baby’s eye. Soon enough those beautiful baby blues (or browns, or greens!) that you’re lovingly tending to will be focusing on you!
Stay tuned for Life with a Newborn next Thursday to learn about setting up a routine for yourself once you’re sleep-deprived from your newborn! Get more tips to make life easier at Works for Me Wednesday.