Blocked tear ducts occur in 1 in 20 babies. The tear ducts are a narrow tube that clear tears from the eye to the nose. In a newborn the membrane in the tear duct can be slow to open causing a blocked tear duct.
A baby with a blocked tear duct will have a constantly watery eye. When baby wakes up their eye may be sticky.
Progression of a blocked tear duct
A blocked tear duct usually clears up before the baby turns one year old.
Ask your doctor to show you how to massage the tear duct to help to clear the blocked tear duct (ensure you use clean hands with clipped finger nails).
If a blocked tear duct does not resolve there are surgical options.
When to see a doctor about a blocked tear duct in your baby
- Baby has red eyes
- Hard lump on baby’s inner eye
- Baby shuts eyes when lights are bright
- Green discharge from baby’s eye
- Blocked tear duct after the age of one
(Medical disclaimer: Tips provided need to be considered in conjunction with medical advice. For immediate concerns, please contact HealthDirect (Australia wide) ph 1800 022 222 – to talk to a registered nurse 24hrs a day, and in emergencies call 000.)
Community question about blocked tear duct experiences in a baby
Are there any parents who have dealt with blocked tear ducts? What were your experiences? My 7 month old has had a blocked tear duct in both eyes since birth and we’ve been told we will need surgery if it hasn’t unblocked by his first birthday.
- My son (who is now almost 10 months) had blocked tear ducts when he was born and I was using the saline wash and it wasn’t working unfortunately so I eventually tried the Breast milk and it literally cleared up within a day good old liquid gold. Jasmine
- Daughter was born with it..had first surgery (probe) at 17 months. .. she is now 12 and we still have issues … we have had Crawford tubes..septum surgery… and other surgery. . Unfortunately she just falls into that small percentage that needs extra surgery…
Try massage of the tear ducts too as this can also help the ducts open up. She has had 4 lots of probes… 3 lots of Crawford tubes… then we did septum surgery opening up the tear ducts into her nose .. but they then had to redo the bilateral tubes..and we are now waiting for another date to see her specialist as she has some more gunk build up.. but its not as severe as it has been. But it definitely gets worse when she gets sick and conjunctivitis is the pits. Shes 12.. but i have noticed that since having her tonsils and adenoids removed her eyes gunk less… wether that’s tied into it or wether its just her age and maturing of her body systems I’m not sure. But its a journey. .and sometimes it takes a little bit more to get some kids through to working tear ducts. Rosemary
- My little one had both ducts blocked for a while. I put breast milk in his eyes (like you would for congunctivitus) and after a minute or two I spent a minute very gently stroking from the corner of the eye along the duct path, down under the eye, using my little finger. I did this every day for a week before they both unblocked. Worked best during milk time as I had a captive audience. Diane
- My son’s opened at 8 months. I used to massage the duct when I fed him. Breastmilk or salt water can help prevent infections when you clean the gunk but won’t really do anything to encourage the duct to open. His did seem to get particularly gunky right before it opened but I don’t know if that was related. Shelley
- My baby had a real gunky eye when she was born we thought it may have been blocked tear ducts and saline drops I was given at the hospital did nothing neither did breastmilk in her eye, the chemist suggested Little Eyes gentle cleansing wipes. Within two days her eyes were normal and have been since. Highly recommend. Emma
- Yes breast milk is great and gentle massage from the top of the nose down in a sweep type motion. Best done while feeding. Marilyn
- Make sure you get shown the correct technique for unblocking as the gp showed us and we tried clearing the duct several times a day for 8 months and then the specialist showed us the correct way and it was gone within two weeks. Jenny
- I got a referral at 10 months for the kids hospital but never got an appointment from them. We started massaging the duct a couple of times a day and it fixed itself in a week or so. Should have done that earlier! Kat
- Yes! Both my boys. My first had runny eyes from it every day for over a year and nothing worked, not even breast milk. I looked into it further and tried Chamomile tea, which worked within a week, after all that time! Just infuse a Chamomile tea bag for a couple of minutes, take some of the hot tea out and put in another cup and add some cooled boiled water, about half and half. When it’s the right temp, soak some cotton makeup pads, the type that aren’t fluffy, and trickle some tea in and then wipe very gently over the eye away from the nose. Don’t wipe twice with the same pad. I did this a few times a day for a week, along with some gentle massage as was mentioned by other people on here. My second boy – the Chamomile wasn’t working so I tried breastmilk and hey presto! Worked for him. Good luck. Emily
- We were told the same. It’s all good now, I almost forget it was even blocked. Cleared at eight months. Just woke up one day and it was all good. Good luck. They say it’s pretty rare to need an op. Steph
- My 2 sons have had the same problem. My eldest is 4 and has had 2 surgeries and the next one they are saying will be very invasive as his eye still gets gunky when he has a cold. My youngest son has the tubes in and they come out next month but his eye is still weeping tears and gunk. What other surgeries has your daughter had to have? I’m worried that we will be going down the same track. Brooke
- My son had the same problem, they said the same thing to me about my son. We were so worried but it ended up being fine at around 11 months. Majority of the time it clears up. Just give it a little more time. Amanda
- My daughter had blocked tear ducks from birth at around 8 -9 mo we noticed a difference she is 10 mo now and is fine. Good luck. Shanara
- My son had it but had surgery by 8 months as he reacted to the closing eyed rope and his eyes would blister. It was literally a 10 minute procedure and we were home 2 hours later. Don’t stress too much. Kirsten
- Yes my baby had blocked tear ducts a few times but it went away by gently but firmly massaging inside of the eye w finger several times a day, and cleaning eyes with breast milk or chamomile water. Good luck! Erika
- breast milk in the eyes and massage the corner of eyes worked for us but worked well before 7 months. breast milk in the eyes and massage the corner of eyes worked for us but worked well before 7 months. Lucy
- My baby had this for 3 months. Look up massage for blocked tear duct. I did that during every day feed and it went away. It may not have been that as it could have just fixed itself, but it’s worth a go. I did it religiously and I believe it worked. Pip
- my son was born with blocked tear ducts. I used to wash them with saline then breast milk and would apply a warm face washer to them and gently massage the inner corner of his eye and follow the nose line down a little. Seemed to work but make sure you do it gently as so not to cause any damage. Katie
- My bub had a blocked tear duct, I gently massaged between the corner of her eye and nose a few times a day, I also washed her eyes with warm camomile tea using one cotton ball per stroke.
Her tear duct was unblocked within a week or two. Sussan
- If you are breastfeeding squirt some milk in and massage just below the tear duct. I did this a few times and away it went. Katie
- Yes my son had blocked ducts and had to have the surgery it was very quick in and out in less then half an hour it was day surgery so we went home a few hours later. 6 months on and the ducts are all clear. good luck. Steph
- My daughter had blocked tear ducts, we massaged just under the eye near the tear duct everyday, at least twice a day and it would release the tear build up if we forgot it would look like she had conjunctivitis, she never needed surgery thank goodness, she is now 11 and all good, it was only in her younger years she had the problem..but my brother in law did have surgery twice first time didn’t work he would continually be sent home from school because they thought he had conjunctivitis…Joanne
- My now 2yo daughter had a seventy blocked tear duct from birth until 7m. We ended up seeing a specialist at the children’s hospital who showed me that I had to use my pinky finger with a fair amount of pressure and push in the corner of her eye near the tear duct 10 times for 3 seconds each time, once in the morning and one at night. After months of icky eye it cleared up within a week. Jessica
- Yes we used to use the special eye wipes for kids from the chemist which would help but whenever he got sick they would be really bad…we never needed an op though. Megan