For first-time parents, dealing with a baby with a stuffy nose can become a first-rate nightmare. Even the mildest-natured little one can become a crying monster when they can’t breathe and are dripping snot.
Baby nasal aspirators come in three main styles: there’s the battery operated variety, the tube variety that is placed outside a baby’s nostril and requires a parent sucking on the other end, and then the hospital-style syringe bulb which is inserted into the tip of baby’s nostril.
We tested the top-selling nasal aspirators to see which one was the most effective, easiest to use and maintain. We also spoke with a number of seasoned moms who have been through countless baby colds, and consulted with Dr. Tanya Altmann, MD, FAAP, pediatrician and author of Mommy Calls: Dr. Tanya Answers Parents’ Top 101 Questions About Babies and Toddlers and the soon-to-be-released What to Feed Your Baby.
We spent hours of sifting through reviews of at least 20 aspirators, baby boards and websites, an afternoon spent discussing snot sucking with a group of other moms, and finally, a week-long period where a very cranky little guy was subject to getting his nose prodded by a number of items, we found FridaBaby’s NoseFrida, affectionately known as “The SnotSucker” to be a winner. We aren’t the only ones–the NoseFrida consistently is a top seller that gets positive reviews from parents and sites such as Mom Tricks and BabyCenter.
We found it to be simple to use and clean, and we like that it doesn’t actually have to be placed inside a tiny nostril to work, so there’s no fear of shoving too far or causing irritation. You simply place the NoseFrida against the nostril, and then suck on the tube, which collects the snot and keeps it from going into your own mouth via a filter.
Every baby is going to get a stuffy nose at some point. If they just aren’t grasping the concept of nose blowing (good luck with that until they’re talking enough to tell you to leave their nose alone), you’re going to need something to suck the snot out with. Plus, cleaning a baby’s nose of mucus will make it easier and more comfortable for her to nurse and eat, according to Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
The various styles of nasal aspirators all have one goal: to clear your baby’s nose. The question is, what style is easiest to use on a fussy baby, is easy to clean, and is good enough quality to last through a baby’s first year and possibly beyond. One thing to keep in mind—don’t expect to get your money’s worth by sharing nasal aspirators between children. Dr. Altmann points out that this is an easy way to spread germs and sickness, therefore parents of twins or multiple young children who may need nasal aspiration should always have separate aspirators, labeled with the children’s names.
Prices of nasal aspirators range from free (the bulb you typically get in the hospital as a parting gift) to around $18 for a battery-operated aspirator that plays music to distract baby, like this model from Graco.
Our research found that you don’t really need all those bells and whistles, but the name brand NoseFrida is worth the few extra bucks it costs thanks to the durability of the tubing and the user-friendliness.
To find the best product, we started by identifying the highest-rated brands of the three common styles: syringe bulb, human suction, and electric. We then searched parenting forums to see what products were mentioning as favorites. We spoke to a number of seasoned parents about what their favorite style and brands are. We picked the top reviewed units, chosen by parents and our pediatrician Dr. Altmann for further testing.
Ultimately, we knew the only way to truly test them out was to use actual human child snot. We had three parents and their babies join us for testing to confirm our top pick.
Historically, the bulb syringes from the hospital were really the best thing available. But in the last few years, the human suction-style aspirator has become much more popular. “Moms love the NoseFrida because they feel they can control the suction,” says Dr. Altmann. “You hear moms saying, ooh that seems so weird and gross,” she admits. But once parents try it, they’re hooked. “If I put it just at the opening of their nose and do a solid ‘suck in’, it’s super effective,” says Lisa, a mom of a preschooler and a toddler who uses the NoseFrida. “I’m not worried I’m going to poke a hole in my kid’s sinuses like with the bulb syringe.” A bulb syringe used improperly can cause irritation or even damage to a baby’s nasal membrane, according to the Global Post. Therefore, you’ll want to be careful about pushing the bulb in too far, as well as blowing air into the baby’s nose, which could make them sneeze and gag.
We like the NoseFrida over other styles of aspirators because you can control how much suction is needed, plus you get a good visual of how much you got out. Meredith, another mom user, says seeing is what makes her believe in the NoseFrida. “It’s so satisfying to give your little one that relief,” she says.
The NoseFrida isn’t actually inserted into the nose—you simply place the larger tube against the nostril, which creates a seal. The whole device is easily washable with warm soapy water.
The price may be on the higher side at around $13 for the NoseFrida, but most of the other comparable suction aspirators on the market also hover between $10 and $18.
One thing that isn’t so great about the NoseFrida is the required disposable filter, which keeps the snot from reaching a parent’s mouth. The filter is simply a piece of foam cut to fit inside the tube that touches the baby’s nose. The company recommends tossing each filter after use, which can add up—filters cost about $4 for a pack of 20 on Amazon. If you’re using the filter multiple times a day, that’s close to dropping $20 bucks a month on replacement filters. However, a number of moms on message boards such as What to Expect say they simply wash their filter, prolonging buying a pack of new ones as long as possible.
One mom even says on the forum that she’s never actually had the snot reach all the way up to the filter anyway. And if you look at replacement filter reviews on Amazon, a few reviewers even say the refills are unnecessary. One says, “After 3 months of using the NoseFrida I have yet to find the need to change filter that came with it. “ We found that using the product without changing the filter is fine, but that performance does begin to suffer as the filter gets used more and more. (It’s also a little gross.) If you use it without the filter, it’s still effective, but be prepared for some snot to make its way through the tube.
The NoseFrida SnotSucker Nasal Aspirator gets 4.6 out of 5 stars on Amazon with over 1300 reviews. One customer says of the device, “This is the best invention for any mom!” and says that nearly every pediatrician she’s met recommends it.
The Parent Guide says the NoseFrida is probably the most effective type of aspirator available because it’s controlled by a parent’s own suction.
Carol Johnson of It’s Baby Time says, “I highly recommend this product to every parent who has a baby.”
While we really liked the NoseFrida’s ease of use, durability and cleanliness, the price tag is admittedly on the higher side. As a second place, cheaper option, we also liked the NeilMed NasaBulb Nose Aspirator, which hovers in price at around $5. This syringe-style snot sucker is clear, unlike similar hospital issued models, so you can see how much is collected, as well as if the bulb is looking grungy on the inside. It’s also BPA and latex free, and the tip screws off so that the pieces can be easily cleaned. Basically the style comes down to a matter of preference; if you aren’t fond of the idea of using human suction to get gunk out of baby’s nose, the NeilMed NasaBulb Nose Aspirator is a worthwhile alternative.
We looked at these models, but didn’t find them to be quite as good as our pick.
Graco NasalClear Nasal Aspirator—s on the higher side price-wise for a nasal aspirator at $18, and we find the noise of buzzing, battery operated suction with tinny-sounding children’s tunes playing over it to be anything but relaxing for both parent and child.
BabyComfy Nose—Similar in idea to the NoseFrida. You’re supposed to use a tissue each time as a filter, but we are suspect to the possibility of user error by not placing the tissue in correctly and potentially exposing yourself to whatever illness baby has, or worse, a mouthful of snot.
Safety 1st Nasal Aspirator—A hospital style bulb that is only $3. The product gets bad reviews for suction ability. Our main concern with this style is how difficult it is to clean Plus, there’s no way to see snot accumulation inside the bulb (or even mold, as we’ve heard stories of with this style aspirator).
Boogie Bulb—This one pulls open so you can get in and scrub any gunk out. At $15, it’s on the pricey side considering it’s really just a screw open version of the free hospital aspirator.
Green Sprouts Nasal Aspirator—This unit has a cap to keep the tip covered and free of germs, but the syringe bulb, which goes for around $7, is recognized by a number of reviewers as way too small, even for the minuscule nostrils of an infant.
Sometimes more isn’t better; as Dr. Altmann says, “Don’t overdo it or you risk irritation”. (Both irritation in the form of nasal passages, and a baby who is constantly being barraged with a tube poking her nose.) Altmann recommends that for regular infant stuffiness, once a day before bed should suffice. For colds, four times a day is a good amount, and you can make it easier to get stuff out by inserting a bit of saline, hot water, or breast milk into the nostril before suctioning, she advises.
As for cleaning the NoseFrida, don’t worry about accidentally inhaling your kid’s snot; Dr. Altmann says it would be “impossible” thanks to the filter. Fridababy recommends removing the filter and washing the large tube with soap and water and the thinner tube with a bit of rubbing alcohol. Polly Gannon, lactation consultant and childbirth educator, says, “At least use warm water to rinse it out every time it’s used, then some soapy water every few hours if the aspirator is being used multiple times a day.”
The question of how often to change the filter seems to be an individual choice: on message boards, some moms claim they almost never change them and they still work fine, despite NoseFrida recommending tossing the filter every time. Basically, it’s up to you with how OCD you are about germs.
With it’s ability to powerfully suck even the biggest boogies out of tiny nostrils without actually infiltrating inside the nose, The NoseFrida makes dealing with baby’s stuffy nose a little less painful for all parties involved. There will likely continue to be knockoffs of this style out there, but our pick is the most effective product available.
- Interview: Dr. Tanya Altmann
- Interview: Polly Gannon
- What To Expect
- Mom Tricks: Best Nasal Aspirator
- Parent Guide: Best Baby Nasal Aspirtaor for Blocked Noses
- HappyBabyUsa: Nasal Aspirators, 2016
- Baby Gear Lab: Best Nasal Aspirator, 2016
- Suctioning The Nose With a Bulb Syringe, Nationwide Children’s Hospital