With the respiratory system still developing, babies are prone to regular illness and infection, and as they’re too little for cold and flu meds, it’s up to us to help create a healthier environment for their young airways.
A humidifier can be a great way to do that, but is it risky to have one of these near your baby?
A humidifier should be placed at least 6 feet (2 meters) away from your baby’s crib and at least 2 feet above the floor. This ensures the unit is out of your baby’s reach and is far enough from their crib to prevent mist from dampening their bedding and furniture, leading to mold growth.
You should also make sure the humidifier cord is safely tucked away to prevent trip hazards and keep curious hands from pulling on it.
To help you make the best use of a humidifier for your little one, we’ve created a helpful guide to how, when, and where to use a humidifier in your baby’s room, which type is best, the pros and cons, and more.
When To Use Humidifier for Baby
Humidifiers are not always necessary for infants, but they can be beneficial in times of respiratory infections or when the indoor air could be exacerbating dry skin conditions.
Your doctor will let you know if a humidifier is needed. Let’s look at when one may be appropriate for your little one.
Humidifier for Baby Benefits
A humidifier helps to keep the air moist, which can encourage sounder and more comfortable sleep in babies.
The winter months bring cold and excessively dry air that can worsen the symptoms of common colds and infections as well as dry skin.
The steady hum of a humidifier is also thought to create a white noise effect to drown out other household sounds, promoting a more restful environment.
Humidifier for Baby Congestion
When your baby is suffering from a cold, dry indoor air can cause the lining of their nose to become inflamed, producing extra mucus as it does.
This excess mucus has a hard time passing through the dry and irritated nasal passages, causing congestion.
Pediatrician Jennifer Foersterling notes that with the help of a humidifier, “the humidified air keeps the nasal passages moist and mucus less sticky,” improving your baby’s breathing and sleep.
Humidifier for Baby Cough
Dry indoor air can make it harder for your baby to cough up the excess mucus in their system as a result of an upper respiratory infection.
As cough medicine is not appropriate for your baby, pediatricians usually recommend adding moisture to the air to help ease this chest congestion.
The moist air can also help ease a sore throat associated with a congested cough.
Humidifier for Baby Dry Skin
A humidifier can offer some relief to babies with dry skin conditions such as eczema and dry skin in general, according to pediatric nurses Carissa Stephens and Megan Dix.
Babies commonly experience dry skin when teething due to drool causing chapping on the cheeks and chin.
Dry air only aggravates the discomfort of these rashes, so when combined with skin care, extra moisture can help with irritation.
Pros and Cons of Humidifier in Baby Room
There are both advantages and drawbacks to using a humidifier in your little one’s room.
- Helps with nasal congestion
- Helps alleviate a dry cough and sore throat
- Provides relief for the discomfort caused by dry skin conditions such as eczema and teething rashes
- Eases symptoms of colds and infections without the need for medication
- Gentle humming sound creates a soothing white noise effect
- Clearing baby’s airways may help promote sounder sleep
- Added moisture can create a more comfortable environment during winter
- They can be difficult to clean
- They can require daily cleaning and regular maintenance to prevent mold growth (not great for busy parents)
- Not all humidifier types are safe for babies and young children (cool-mist systems are advised over warm-mist humidifiers as these pose a burn risk)
How To Use Humidifier for Baby
Knowing how to use a humidifier appropriately around your baby helps to keep things safe and provides your child with the necessary benefits.
Let’s look at where to place the humidifier, how long to run one, and more.
What To Put in Humidifier for Baby
It’s important to only use distilled water in a cool-mist humidifier (or any humidifier). Distilled water contains no minerals or bacteria that could be released into the air.
You should also think twice about adding essential oils — they may make the nursery smell nicer, but the potency can risk irritating your baby’s sensitive eyes and respiratory system.
Where To Put Humidifier in Baby Room
Web MD advises placing a humidifier on a flat, stable surface at least 2 feet above the floor and 6 feet (2 meters) from any beds or cribs.
At this distance, the mist from the humidifier is unlikely to dampen pillows, bedding, or stuffed toys, which could risk mold and bacteria growth.
Humidity Level for Baby
The EPA recommends maintaining home humidity levels between 40 and 60%.
Your indoor air may already be at this level during mild conditions, but you can monitor your home humidity levels daily using a hygrometer.
How Long To Use Humidifier for Baby
Dr. Katie Friedman of the parenting blog Forever Freckled assures that a cool-mist humidifier can safely run all night while Baby Monitor Spot notes that humidifiers should be run for extended periods such as a minimum of 12 hours a day as babies are more prone to colds and illnesses.
Always consult the manufacturer’s instructions regarding a safe length of time to run your humidifier, and take the lead from your doctor on this to make sure you are only using it when necessary for your baby.
Humidifier Safety for Baby
Be sure to follow these tips for safe humidifier use around your little one:
- Always opt for cool-mist humidifiers. Julie Baughn, M.D., at Mayo Clinic warns that steam or hot water from steam vaporizers or warm-mist humidifiers can cause burns in the event of a spill or if placed too close to a child.
- Keep your baby’s bedroom door open to increase airflow. If you notice white dust accumulating on surfaces, the humidifier is releasing particulate matter. In this case, stop using it immediately, and clean it out.
- Ensure humidity levels don’t exceed 60% to keep mold and bacteria spores at bay.
- Never leave distilled water in the reservoir as standing water can be a haven for bacteria. Be sure to replace the water before each use to prevent bacteria spores from releasing upon each startup.
- Clean and dry the humidifier daily to prevent mold and bacteria growth.
- Give the humidifier an occasional deep clean by soaking all water-exposed parts in a 10% bleach solution.
In addition to cleaning and maintaining the humidifier regularly to ward off mold growth, you also want to make sure the added moisture is not making your baby’s room excessively damp.
Pediatrician Dr. Foersterling advises monitoring things regularly “to make sure the room is not getting too wet” as this could harbor mold and mildew, leading to damaged floors and furniture.
The preference for cool-mist over warm-mist systems also cannot be stressed enough as the American Academy of Pediatrics clearly describes the latter as a burn hazard in the event the device is knocked over or touched by curious babies and toddlers.
Do Babies Need a Humidifier or Dehumidifier?
A humidifier may be beneficial for your baby if they are suffering from an upper respiratory infection since dry indoor air during winter can dry out and irritate their nasal passages.
A dehumidifier may be helpful in homes without air conditioning to bring babies relief from sticky summer conditions.
Is Humidifier Good for Baby Congestion?
Yes. Allergens and cold, dry air in the home can dry out and irritate your baby’s nasal passages, causing congestion from a buildup of excess mucus.
Keeping a humidifier in their room or nursery can help alleviate these congestion symptoms by opening their airways and reducing inflammation.
When used correctly and in accordance with safety standards (cool-mist over warm-mist humidifiers placed at least 6 feet from your baby’s crib), a humidifier can be very beneficial for babies when the indoor air is excessively cool and dry.
Not only can it help alleviate congested noses and dry coughs, but it can also help bring relief to uncomfortable dry skin conditions like eczema and teething rashes.
Just be aware that for humidifiers to run well, they need to be cleaned and maintained regularly.
It may help to ask your doctor if a humidifier is a worthwhile purchase for your baby.
Rebecca is a seasoned copywriter and researcher with over a decade of experience, specializing in parenting topics. With a passion for all aspects of raising children, from breastfeeding to potty training.