Keeping baby clean is important, but those tiny ears can prove to be a challenge! Here is everything you need to know about how to clean baby ears.
Don’t you just love that new baby smell? I loved visiting new Moms (before COVID-19) just to get those lovely baby smells! But to ensure that your baby smells sweet all the time, you need to keep her clean at all times.
Babies have lots of folds in their skin, and that’s why cleaning them requires special attention to all parts of their body. Of course, the diaper area gets enough attention since you clean it every time you change their diapers. However, when it comes to tiny areas, it can be challenging – like their ears!
Like adult ears, baby ears have three parts, the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. The outer ear has the ear canal, which has glands that produce earwax. And it is this earwax that keeps parents perplexed – how to clean baby ears? But before we get into that, let’s take a look at what earwax actually is.
As mentioned, earwax is produced by glands in the ear canal. Cerumen is another name for earwax and while it looks a little gross, earwax is actually quite useful. It acts as a barrier to protect the ear canal from external elements like water, dust and pollutants. It also contains anti-microbial enzymes that prevent the growth of bacteria and fungus in the ear.
Ear wax may be sticky in some babies, and flaky in others. Either way, it is generally lighter and softer than adult earwax, but it can get harder if baby’s water intake is insufficient. It’s also normal for one ear to make more wax than the other, al though in general, children’s ears don’t make too much earwax.
The body has a natural mechanism to get rid of earwax by gradually pushing it out of the outer ear, from where it falls off during bathing or other times. However, sometimes, it may buildup in the ear. This usually happens when too much earwax is produced – faster than the body can get rid of. When the buildup is so high that it blocks the ear canal, it can cause irritation, itching or even hearing issues. This can be identified simply by looking inside the baby’s ear. You can prevent this from happening by cleaning baby ears regularly.
How to Clean Baby Ears?
Using a Washcloth
The easiest way to clean your child’s ears is by using a washcloth during bath time. Get a soft washcloth meant for babies – it shouldn’t be too rough or abrasive. Wash the cloth and dry it in the sun before using for the first time. Proceed with the following steps after baby’s bath:
- Wet the washcloth with warm water. It should be a comfortable temperature for baby.
- Wring out any excess water – it should not be dripping.
- Gently wipe around the outside of each ear to remove any built up wax. Never insert the washcloth into baby’s ear.
Using Ear Drops
In some cases, the wax buildup may be too hard to remove with a washcloth, or it may be too deep. In this case, some ear drops can help, but you need to get it from your baby’s doctor. This medicine works by softening the hard wax, so that it flows out of the ear. Get a prescription from your doctor and use only those drops according to the doctor’s instructions. In most cases, they will be similar to these steps:
- Choose a time when baby is fed and well rested. You can have someone to keep him engaged while you administer the medicine.
- Rub the ear drops bottle between your palms to warm it up a little.
- Lay the baby down on your lap. The baby should be on his side, so that the ear with the wax buildup is facing up.
- Fill the dropper with the prescribed amount of medicine. Bring the dropper towards baby’s ears.
- Gently pull the ear lobe down to open up the ear canal and drop the medicine slowly, till the ear canal is full. This can cause discomfort for the baby, so keep him engaged and calm.
- Let the baby rest in that position for about 5 minutes so the medicine can settle inside the ear.
- Turn the baby over so the blocked ear is now facing down. This should help the ear wax fall out.
You can also use a washcloth. Dip a washcloth in warm water and wring out any excess water so it isn’t dripping. Use the washcloth to clean out the softened wax and any excess medicine.
Safety Tips to Follow When Cleaning Your Baby’s Ears
You can choose any of the methods above to clean your baby’s ears, depending upon how bad the wax buildup is. However, there are some safety tips to be followed at all times.
1. Never use cotton buds. This may seem to be our first impulse when thinking about cleaning ear wax, but this only pushes the wax further into the ear canal, making it more difficult to remove. It can also hurt the eardrum and cause permanent damage.
2. Always make sure the baby is calm, fed and well rested when attempting to clean her ears. Cleaning ears is an uncomfortable experience, and you want to make it as easy as possible on your child.
3. Never attempt to ‘flush out’ the wax by spraying water or oil or any other substance into the ear.
4. When it comes to cleaning baby ears, avoid home remedies like candling or essential oils.
5. Do not attempt to get the wax out with your fingers. It’ll only push the wax in further causing blockage.
6. Once your children are old enough to understand, instruct them to never put anything into their ears. Avoid using cotton buds or putting things into your ears in front of them.
When to see the doctor
If none of the wax-removing methods work or if the baby’s earwax is too much, you may have to go to the doctor to get baby’s ears cleaned. Doctors generally use a tool called a curette to gently scrape out the wax. This is generally done as a day procedure right in the doctor’s clinic and doesn’t take much time. However, in rare cases the doctor may have to put the baby under anesthesia to remove the wax.
If the buildup is too much for the pediatrician to handle, he may refer the baby to a pediatric otolaryngologist, who is an ENT specialist for children. This is an expert who will have other means to get the wax out. If the doctor notices any infection in the ear, you may be prescribed antibiotic ear drops.
While earwax buildup is generally not a matter of concern, there are a few cases which require immediate medial attention:
- When the baby seems to be in a lot of pain and is tugging at her ears
- If the baby is not responding to sounds and her hearing seems affected
- If the child seems to be unsteady while walking
- If there is too much wax coming out of the ear
- If there is a yellowish-green or milky discharge from the ear
- Any amount of bleeding from the ear