It’s important to keep your baby’s ears clean. You can clean the outer ear and the skin around it while you bathe your baby. All you’ll need is a washcloth or cotton ball and some warm water.
It’s not safe to use cotton swabs or to stick anything inside your baby’s ear. If you notice earwax inside the ear, you don’t need to remove it.
Earwax is healthy for your baby because it’s protecting, lubricating, and has antibacterial propertires. Removing it can cause potentially harmful damage.
Read on to learn steps for cleaning your baby’s ears, plus safety tips.
To clean your baby’s ears on a daily or regular basis, you’ll need a cotton ball that’s been soaked with warm water. You can also use a gentle washcloth with some warm (not hot) water.
To clean baby’s ears:
- Wet the washcloth or cotton ball with warm water.
- Ring out the washcloth well, if using.
- Gently wipe behind baby’s ears and around the outside of each ear.
Never stick the washcloth or cotton ball inside your baby’s ear. This can cause damage to the ear canal.
If your baby has been prescribed eardrops or you want to use them to remove wax buildup, follow these steps.
- Lie your baby on their side with the affected ear facing up.
- Gently pull the lower lobe down and back to open the canal.
- Place 5 drops in the ear (or the amount your pediatrician recommended).
- Keep the drops in your baby’s ear by keeping baby in a lying position for up to 10 minutes, then roll them over so the side with the drops is facing down.
- Let the ear drops run out of your baby’s ear onto a tissue.
Always use drops according to your pediatrician’s recommendation. Follow their instructions for how many drops to administer and how often to give them to your baby.
Cotton swabs are not safe to use on infants or young children. In fact, from 1990-2010, ear cleaning was the most common cause for a child in the United States to be omitted to the emergency room for an ear injury.
More than 260,000 children were affected. Most commonly, these injuries involve an object stuck in the ear, perforated eardrums, and soft tissue injuries.
The safest rule to keep in mind is that if you see any waxy buildup or discharge on the outside of the ear, use a warm, wet washcloth to gently wipe it away.
Leave anything inside the ear (the part you can’t see) alone. Injury to the eardrum, hearing bone, or inner ear can all cause long-term health complications for your child.
Earwax buildup in infants is rare. Usually, the ear canal makes the correct amount of earwax it needs. But in some cases, excess earwax buildup can interfere with hearing, or cause pain or discomfort. Your baby may tug on their ear to indicate discomfort.
Some causes of earwax buildup include:
- Using cotton swabs. These push the wax back in and pack it down instead of removing it
- Sticking fingers in the ear. If wax is pushed back by your infant’s fingers, it may build up.
- Wearing ear plugs. Ear plugs can push wax back in the ear, causing buildup.
Don’t try to remove earwax buildup at home. If you’re concerned about earwax buildup, see a pediatrician. They can determine if your infant’s earwax needs to be removed.
Is earwax dangerous?
Earwax is not dangerous. It serves many important functions including:
- protecting the eardrum and ear canal, keeping it dry, and preventing germs from causing infection
- trapping dirt, dust, and other particles so they don’t enter the ear canal and cause irritation or injury
Let your baby’s pediatrician know if your infant is tugging at their ears. If you don’t already have a pediatrician, you can browse doctors in your area through the Healthline FindCare tool. Also let them know if you suspect a blocked ear canal is making it difficult for your baby to hear you, or if you notice any yellow-green discharge from your child’s ear.
Your doctor may remove the wax if it’s causing discomfort, pain, or interfering with hearing.
A pediatrician can usually remove the wax during a regular office appointment without requiring any further treatment. In rare cases, the wax may need to be removed under general anesthesia in the operating room.
If your pediatrician notices signs of an ear infection, they may prescribe antibiotic eardrops for your baby.
Seek medical help right away if you notice bleeding from the ear after an object was inserted in the ear canal. You should also seek medical help if your child looks or acts very sick, or their walking is unsteady.
It’s important to keep your baby’s ears clean. In most cases, you can clean the outer ear and area around the ears during your regularly scheduled bath time. You’ll just need a washcloth and warm water.
Although there are several products on the market made specifically for cleaning the inside of your baby’s ears, many of them aren’t safe. Cotton swabs also aren’t safe for your baby.
If you notice a large amount of wax buildup or are concerned about your baby’s ears, let your pediatrician know. They can determine if it needs to be removed and advise you on the best treatment.