Operational Medicine Medical Education and Training

Aspiration of the Newborn Airway with a Bulb Syringe

The bulb syringe is readily available, safe tool for clearing the airway of a newborn infant.

This short, free video demonstrates, on a model and a live patient, this use of the bulb syringe.

Bulb Syringe Aspiration
Runtime 0:42 Min
1.8 MB wmv
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 Bulb suctioning of the Newborn


Suction the Airway
When  babies are born, they need to clear the mucous and amniotic fluid from their lungs. Several natural mechanisms help with this:

  • As the fetal chest passes through the birth canal it is compressed, squeezing excess fluid out of the lungs prior to the baby taking its' first breath. This is noticed most often after the fetal head is delivered but prior to delivery of the shoulders. After several seconds in this "partly delivered" position, fluid can be seen streaming out of the baby's nose and mouth.
  • After birth, babies cough, sputter and sneeze, mobilizing additional fluid that may be in their lungs.
  • After birth, babies cry loudly and repeatedly, clearing fluid and opening air sacs in the process. Crying is a reassuring event and does not indicate distress.
  • Newborn grunting actions may further mobilize fluid, in addition to opening the air sacs in the lungs.

While babies will, for the most part, bring the amniotic fluid out of the lungs on their own, they may need some assistance in clearing their airway of the mobilized fluid. This will require suctioning.

Bulb syringes are commonly used for this purpose, suctioning both the nose and mouth of the baby. If a bulb syringe is not available, any suction type device may be used, including a hypodermic syringe without the needle.

If no suction device is available, keep the baby in a slight Trendelenburg position (head slightly lower than the feet) and turn the baby to its' side to allow the fluids to drain out by gravity.

From OB-GYN 101: Introductory Obstetrics & Gynecology



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