How To Treat Newborn Sticky Eye: 5 Methods to Try

Your newborn’s eyes go through a lot of changes in the first few weeks of life. Here’s an interesting fact – his/her tear ducts don’t even function in the first month after birth. As a result, your newborn’s eyes cannot drain the tears it produces, making it become sticky if it comes in contact with dust particles.

Newborn eye treatment

Although sticky eye on a newborn may look quite disturbing, it is nothing to worry about. Within a few weeks, it would clear up.

In this article, you would find all the tips to treat your newborn’s sticky eye.

Read on to find out!

What causes newborn sticky eye

Sticky eye in newborns is a condition caused by a blocked tear duct. Most times, this condition affects babies in the first few weeks after birth. In fact, studies show that about one in five newborn babies will develop sticky eye.

As we mentioned earlier, the tear duct in babies is not yet fully developed. Therefore, tears and mucus produced in the eye are blocked on their passage to the nose. However, the obstruction can also be a result of a congenital obstruction or a nasal bone abnormality.

When the tear duct is blocked, tears and mucus accumulate and clog up. This causes excessive tearing and the eye waters constantly. Over the night, or after sleeping for a few hours, a yellow discharge accumulates on the eye forming crusts around it. This causes your babys’ eyelids to stick together and makes the eye to be crusted shut.

Newborn Sticky Eye Theraphy

Fortunately, this condition is harmless.

In most cases, it resolves on its own without medical or surgical treatment. However, you’ll still need to properly take care of your baby’s eye. This care will be aimed at keeping your baby’s eye clean, clearing the clogged-up tear duct, and preventing secondary infections.

Things to try when your baby have a sticky eye

Now, let’s consider five things to try when your baby has a sticky eye.

1. Always keep your hands clean.

Before trying any of the other methods, you need to make sure your hands are clean. Remember that the sticky eye is self-limiting, you wouldn’t want to introduce germs into your baby’s eye while the condition lasts. Therefore, before touching your child’s eyes, wash your hands with soap and warm water.

Make sure to rinse the soap off your hands thoroughly afterward to avoid irritating your baby’s eye.

2. Keep the eye clean

It is important to keep your baby’s eye clean and clear of any discharge that may have accumulated on it. To achieve this, you have to get the following materials:

  • Piece of gauze
  • Cotton swab
  • Soft cloth,
  • Lukewarm water
  • Weak saline solution.
Newborn Sticky Eye Treatment

You can clean the affected eye by taking the following steps;

  • If the eyelids are glued shut, dip a clean piece of gauze or soft cloth in some lukewarm water. Then wipe the crust away with the dampened cloth.
  • Use a sterile cotton swab soaked in saline to wipe off any discharge on the corner of the eye.
  • Start wiping from the inner corner of the eye to the other side.
  • Wipe more than once, using a fresh dampened cotton swab each time.
  • Once you have cleared all the discharge, use a dry cotton swab or soft cloth to dry it.
  • Ensure that you do not touch the eye with your hand during the process.

You should ensure that your baby’s eye is clean at all times. In essence, you may have to perform these steps multiple times every day.

3. Try A Criggler Massage.

A Criggler massage helps to open up the blocked tear duct.

This unique massage helps to reduce the discharge due to tear duct obstruction. It can be done in the comfort of your home and with little or no expertise. However, make sure you consult your doctor before performing it.

To massage the tear duct, you should:

  • Place the tip of the index finger at the inner corner of the eye just nearby the bridge of the nose, on the affected eye.
  • Gently press the area and then slowly move your finger downwards along the edge of the nose.
  • Perform at least five strokes each time or as recommended by your doctor.

This massage should be carried out twice per day, in the morning and evening.

4. Use Eye Ointment or Drops

When the tear duct gets obstructed over a long time, it can get infected with microorganisms. In this case, it can be treated with antibiotic eye drops or ointment. However, they should be used only on a doctor’s prescription, and in the recommended dosage for the recommended duration.

Baby Sticky Eye

5 See an Ophthalmologist

If the symptoms persist or the tear duct doesn’t open up on its own and it keeps getting infected, please contact your doctor.

At this point, your pediatrician would likely refer you to an opthalmologist, a doctor who cares for the eyes. The ophthalmologist will carry out the necessary eye examinations to determine the most effective procedure to open up the blocked tear duct.

Newborn Sticky Eye

Some of the possible procedures include;

  • Probing the blocked duct using a thin metal instrument.
  • Placing special tiny tubes to stretch the tear duct.
  • Using a catheter that expands like a balloon to open the tear duct.


Finally, it is important to resist the urge to touch your baby’s sticky eye without following the tips mentioned earlier in this article. This would reduce the chances of an eye infection. With the methods in this post and a little bit of patience, your little one’s eye is going to be just fine.


Rees E, Hobson D. Sticky eye in the newborn. Br Med J. 1974 Dec 14;4(5945):656-7. doi: 10.1136/bmj.4.5945.656-c. PMID: 4216387; PMCID: PMC1612965.

Winceslaus J, Goh BT, Dunlop EM, Mantell J, Woodland RM, Forsey T, Treharne JD. Diagnosis of ophthalmia neonatorum. Br Med J (Clin Res Ed). 1987 Nov 28;295(6610):1377-9. doi: 10.1136/bmj.295.6610.1377. PMID: 3121021; PMCID: PMC1248537.