How Long Does Sticky Eye Last In Newborns

Stick eye is caused by excessive eye discharge or watering in newborns. It happens because their tear ducts are most likely blocked. This situation is often harmless and get’s better naturally over time, but if you’re examining your newborn and notice he or she is looking different, it might be time to see your doctor or pediatrician. You’ll know your little one is not happy if there is excess redness, swelling, and/or tenderness around their eyes.

You’ve stumbled on this post as you’re adoring your lovely newborn baby, and noticed that he or she has excessive eye discharge and it’s causing stick eye. Your doctor might have informed you a bit about it, and I’ll do my best to cover the topic in detail in the post below.

The sticky discharge happens because of your baby’s blocked tear ducts in the inner corner of their eyes. Your little one is crying a lot and those watery eyes need to stay clean.

How can I tell if my baby has an eye infection?

Mom is checking her crying newborn baby to see if she has an eye infection.

I mentioned before that sticky eyes itself is fairly normal and harmless, treating itself over time. However, if you notice your baby is not getting better over time, it might be time to take action.

The time you’d want to take action is if you notice redness, swelling, and/or tenderness around your baby’s eyes. If your newborn is constantly crying and trying to rub their eyes, it can only get more severe.

The rule of thumb is to give it 3-4 days without treatment and constantly monitor to see if there’s progress over time.

If the skin around your newborn’s eyes is still red and not improving, call your pediatrician to share the information and discuss the next steps.

What causes sticky eyes in my newborn?

Your newborn has tear ducts in each eye, and when it gets blocked over time, the excess discharge in his/her eye will cause sticky eyes. You’ll notice the inner corner of the eyes getting crusty, and your baby’s eyelashes looking and feeling sticky.

It can happen in one or both eyes, and it’s not usually associated with anything else happening to your newborn’s body. This is not preventable, but there are definitely ways to prevent it from happening.

  1. Parents and anyone else that cares for the newborn should always wash hands and keep proper hygiene around the little one. If any family member has an eye infection, definitely avoid contact with the newborn.
  2. On top of clean hygiene, make sure to always have separate towels for your newborn to wipe their body and face. This will help prevent any transfer from one person to your newborn.
  3. For the time being, avoid going outside and exposure to allergens like pollen and dust. If you notice this is a persistent thing with your baby, consider getting an air purifier for their room, and take them outside during low pollen days for fresh air.

How should I clean my baby’s sticky eyes?

Mom is cleaning her newborn son's sticky eyes.

During my research on this subject, I found several home remedies recommended by different cultures worldwide. I would avoid doing anything at home if things are not going well and immediately speak to your pediatrician.

That being said, you can always use water to help comfort your newborn.

  1. Make sure your hands are properly washed with warm water and soap before moving forward. Remember the “happy birthday” process where you wash and clean your hands for up to 20 seconds, or as long as it takes to sing the happy birthday song entirely.
  2. Get a ball of cotton wool or very soft cloth, and soak it with sterilized water.
  3. Start gently cleaning your baby’s inner eye area, going only from up to down motion.
  4. Use another cotton wool if needed, and wipe away excess water around your baby’s eyes once you’re done.
  5. Repeat this step once or twice a day to help speed up the progress and comfort your newborn.

When should I go see a doctor for sticky eye?

If you’ve spent 3-4 days at home trying to help clean your baby’s sticky eyes and allowing for your newborn to heal naturally and nothing’s happening, it may be time to call your doctor.

Your doctor can recommend some further remedies that are safe for your newborn. If your doctor is not specialized in this area, they might refer you to one called a pediatric ophthalmologist.

These doctors who focus on eye care can help diagnose this issue. These doctors also help babies who pass the newborn phase and continue to get sticky eye from time to time, up to 6-8 months after birth.

At this point, it’s time to look further into the causes to see how to remedy it for the long term.

Saline solution can only do so much to help the bacterial infection in the inside corner of your baby’s eyes, further help might be needed for your little one.


Sticky eye is fairly normal and happens to about 20% of newborns worldwide, but if it doesn’t seem to get better over time, it could get worse or be something else like Conjunctivitis.

After a few days or monitoring and water-based cleaning at home, if you don’t notice your newborn getting better, it may be time to set an appointment with your pediatrician.

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We're a group of writers, mostly parents, some medically certified, who publish helpful articles for all stages of your child from newborn, infant, toddler, to a big kiddo.

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