It may take until a week or two after birth before the tear glands (lacrimal glands) start to make tears. Therefore, you may not notice your baby having watery eyes at first. You may then notice one or both eyes becoming watery. Tears build up in the corner of the eye and run down your baby's cheek, even when your baby is not crying. The symptoms may be worse when your baby has a cold, or in cold weather. Your baby is usually not bothered by the watery eyes.
Sometimes after a sleep, the affected eye looks sticky or crusted but the eyeball otherwise looks healthy and white. Slight redness of the eyeball may come and go. This is due to mild inflammation and no treatment is needed. However, this may develop into an infection of the outer part of the eye (conjunctivitis). The eye may then look inflamed and red. This is not usually serious. See separate leaflet called Infective Conjunctivitis for more information.
Blockage of the tear duct in babies often resolves within a few weeks of birth, when the tear duct has become fully developed. However, sometimes the tear duct remains blocked for several months or much longer. Occasionally if the blocked tear duct does cause any difficulty for your baby or doesn't get better after about 12 months then your baby may need to see an eye specialist to help resolve the problem.
Further reading and references
Nasolacrimal duct obstruction (nasolacrimal drainage dysfunction); College of Optometrists, March 2016
Resolution of congenital nasolacrimal duct obstruction with nonsurgical management; Arch Ophthalmol. 2012 Jun130(6):730-4. doi: 10.1001/archophthalmol.2012.454.
Takahashi Y, Kakizaki H, Chan WO, et al; Management of congenital nasolacrimal duct obstruction. Acta Ophthalmol. 2009 Jul 21.
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