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November 07, 2009

McGovern Nipple for Infants Born Unable to Nasally Breathe

I recently received a phone call regarding a newborn who the pediatrician suspected had bilateral choanal atresia. This is a situation in which the infant is not able to breath through the nose. This inability to nasally breath is a major problem because newborns are obligate nasal breathers (newborns do not know how to mouth-breath unless they are crying).

As such, there are two options to immediately perform in order to allow a newborn to breath to stay alive. Intubate... or place a McGovern Nipple. A McGovern Nipple is made by (see picture below):

1) Cutting off the tip of the nipple used in a milk-bottle creating a hole about 1cm in size. Try to preserve as much length as possible!
2) Inserting the nipple into the newborn's mouth
3) Placing a surgical mask such that the mask part is behind the baby's head and using the strings to keep the nipple in place inside the infant's mouth.

This forces the newborn to mouth-breath. Without this contraption, the child will literally suffocate.

I have specifically created this blog article because I had a lot of problems trying to find a picture of this contraption to show the pediatrician. Hopefully, this will make it easier for others to figure out what the heck a McGovern Nipple is and how to make and use one.

The only way to definitively correct this problem is by surgically removing the blockage that is blocking the infant's nasal passage.

Cummings Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery 4th Ed. Chapter 178: Congenital Malformation of the Nose. Volume 4, Page 4101.


  1. Great post... Almost 4 years later this is still the only picture aviable on the internet about this McGovern's nipple

  2. That looks more like an oral airway. It it actually a nipple?


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