Newborn sticky eye

Newborn Sticky Eye – Is it normal?

Newborn babies especially those born by C-section often have gunk/ excess sleep coming from their eyes.  So the very first thing to say is if you are a new mummy and are freaking out as you have a sticky eye baby you can relax!  This is common and most of the time sticky eyes in babies is completely normal.  So breathe, relax and read on to get some valuable information and tips for handling sticky eye in newborn babies and when you should be concerned about that newborn sticky eye. 

All four of my kids have been that newborn with sticky eye, yet it is something no one told me about before my baby arrived.  Now I am not sure that the medical term is newborn sticky eye or newborn gunky eye, but I am not a medical professional so I am going with that!!   This is an important point to stress though;  I am a mom just like you, an experienced mummy, but not a doctor so if you are concerned do check with the professionals.


Newborn Gunky Eyes
Is it normal for a newborn to have sticky eyes?


If you are sitting there this morning typing in newborn sticky eye – don’t panic!  As the short answer is that sticky eyes in newborn babies is very normal.  It is even more typical with C Section babies as they haven’t been forced through the birth canal so have more excess mucus to get rid of when they are newborns.  There is rarely a need to panic if you have a sticky eye newborn, but this can also be a sign of a bacterial infection (Conjunctivitis).  Again this does require a panic, but probably a trip to the GP.  Having said that,  with newborn babies I am not sure you can ever be too careful so I would always check with your GP, Health Visitor or Paediatrician to be sure.


The way to tell really is to know the signs and symptoms and the differences between the two, but as I said if you can’t tell then check with the professionals.  Even the local pharmacist may be able to provide some advice.

Signs and Symptoms of Newborn Sticky Eye

This really is very common in newborn babies and the majority of the time it will be nothing serious.  The main symptoms are a discharge from one or both of the eyes.  With newborn sticky eye the baby’s white of the eye would not have any redness.   Around 1 in 5 babies are born with tear ducts that have not fully developed and this can last for a while (even a few months).  Typically you will be advised to wait and see if it improves, but if it continues to around 12 months you may be referred to an eye specialist.  My advice would be just get it checked out to make sure there is no infection and then follow the advice for cleaning etc…

signs and symptoms of newborn sticky eye. Placeholder for upcoming text
signs and symptoms of newborn sticky eye

Signs and Symptoms of Conjunctivitis

Babies can also get  conjunctivitis. This is inflammation of the thin layer of tissue that covers the front of the eye. The symptoms are similar to newborn sticky eye, but the whites of your baby’s eye will be pink or red. Conjunctivitis in a newborn  can be caused by a blocked tear duct or a bacterial or viral infection.  You should see a doctor if you think your baby has conjunctivitis as they may need some eye ointment to clear it up.  

My Experience with Newborn Gunky Eyes

With my first baby I was convinced he had conjunctivitis or some other eye infection.  I saw the gunky eyes after each nap and started to worry, but the midwives explained that this was totally normal for the first few days. Sure enough it just went away. 

I then totally forgot about the whole thing and so when our second child one was born I again thought there was something wrong.  He had so much excess sleep that his eyes were stuck together completely after each nap and it looked very yellow to me so I was convinced it was an infection.  I did take him to the doctor and I was assured that there was nothing to worry about.  For him this was just the combination of a blocked tear duct (often babies are born with them not quite opened up) and the baby getting rid of fluid that would be forced out during the birth process with a natural birth. The c section process does not achieve this so section babies can take longer to clear fluid and some it will be through tear ducts.  

My twins then also both had sticky eyes as newborns.  So that is four children and four rounds of newborn sticky eye and this was not an infection for any of them just a normal part of being a newborn.

How can you solve Newborn Sticky Eye?

The tips I am giving in this post are based solely on my experience as a mum of 4 and I would suggest that these should only be tried once an infection has been ruled out. 

  • Use cooled boiled water and cotton wool to remove any stickiness from the baby’s eye
  • Put a few drops of breast milk in the corner of the baby’s eye
  • Leave it alone and it will get better on its own usually within a few weeks (if not you should visit your GP)
  • Gently massaging the side of your baby’s nose from the top to bottom making sure just to use light pressure.  This helps with draining the fluid.

Make sure to wash your hands before and after so that you minimise the risk of introducing or spreading infection.  

What worked for me?

Personally I found that the newborn sticky eye breast milk option worked amazingly for me well for my baby.  There was honestly an improvement almost immediately.  It was one of those things that I had read on the internet and I was very sceptical indeed.  I couldn’t believe that breast milk could have any impact in this scenario.  My poor little boy’s eye was so stuck together though that I figured it was worth a try.  Interestingly my doctor also recommended to use breast milk so I gave it a whirl and it totally worked; making my little baby more comfortable and able to open his eyes!

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