Newborn baby minutes after the birthWhy do some babies get mucousy?

During pregnancy when your baby is inside the uterus (womb), they are surrounded by amniotic fluid (also referred to as ‘liquor’ and the ‘waters’). When you give birth, particularly when your baby is born vaginally, most of this fluid gets squeezed out as the baby passes down the birth canal and their chest is compressed. However, some mucous tends to remain and if your baby is born by Caesarean section, this fluid is not squeezed out and tends to remain in the baby’s stomach for longer. This can make your baby feel quite sick.


How will I know that my baby is mucousy?

You may notice that your baby’s tummy is making noticeable gurgling sounds and they may blow clear bubbles of saliva from between their lips. Your baby may also be disinterested in feeding; may be seen to swallow a lot and ‘gag’ when they are offered a breast or bottle feed, and vomit up clear mucousy fluid. They may often ‘retch’ and ‘heave’ during this time in an effort to vomit up the mucous. This may be alarming to watch and is often mistaken for choking; however, as long as your baby remains pink in colour and is breathing normally there is no need to be concerned. After a day or two your baby will stop this method of retching. This fluid may also contain milk where they have fed since being born or tiny amounts of brown-coloured (old or ‘altered’) blood that was swallowed around the time of their birth (eg from perineal trauma).  If you have any concerns please contact your midwife, health visitor or GP.


Is there any treatment?

There is no need to worry because your baby will naturally clear this mucous by themselves. This often happens when your baby has their first few breastfeeds or formula milk (bottle) feeds. The milk sits on top of the mucous in their stomach which tends to prompt your baby to vomit up this unwanted fluid – it is basically a sort of ‘Mother Nature’s’ way of clearing out the baby’s stomach after their birth. Research also suggests that holding newborn babies skin-to-skin can help to reduce the incidence of mucousy babies.

If your baby vomits, it is important to sit them forwards to help them bring up the mucous. Research has shown that where a baby is lying on their back in the cot, they will often automatically turn their head to the side when vomiting. If you are concerned however, you can turn your baby onto their side while vomiting and gently rub their back to soothe them. It is still considered the safest practice to place your baby on their back to sleep because this has been shown to significantly reduce the risks of cot death (‘Sudden Infant Death Syndrome – SIDS).

Once your baby has vomited, we advise that you let them settle for around 10 minutes or so before offering them another feed. Mucousy vomits tend to resolve after around 24 hours post birth, by which time, your baby is likely to be feeding enthusiastically! However, where you have any concerns about your baby’s health and wellbeing, you should always speak with your midwife, health visitor or GP.

Ingram J, Johnson D, Greenwood R (2002). Why are some babies mucousy after birth? British Journal of Midwifery 10(2):94-98.