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Why Do My Baby’s Ears Smell? (Smells Bad Like Cheese)

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When you become a parent you expect to be dealing with stinky diapers on a daily basis. But stinky ears? Most new parents don’t know that baby ears sometimes smell.

It can be quite a shock the first time you get a whiff of a foul-smelling baby ear. Some parents describe their child’s ears as sometimes smelling of cheese, fish, and even poop!

If you have noticed a strange aroma and are wondering why do my baby’s ears smell, this article has the answers you’ve been looking for.

Babies’ ears can smell for a variety of reasons. Sometimes ears can smell simply because of wax buildup or poor hygiene. However, different smells can indicate different bacteria and infections affecting your baby’s ears.

It is important to determine the source and cause of the smell quickly, it may just be spit-up milk that can easily be cleaned away or a symptom of an ear infection that requires a course of antibiotics. 

Is It Normal For Babies Ears To Smell?

Babies omit all kinds of weird smells. Milky spit up, eye-watering stinky poop, that intoxicating newborn head smell, and yes, sometimes their ears smell too. Depending on the type of smell, you may not need to worry about the smell around your baby’s ears.

If you have not been paying attention to the skin behind your baby’s ears during bath time, there may just be a build-up of dirt, milk, and spit-up that needs cleaning away.

However, if your baby’s ears are clean and they still smell, this isn’t normal and may be a sign your baby has a health issue that needs treating.

Why Do My Baby’s Ears Smell?

There are many reasons why your baby’s ears smell. As we mentioned, the smell could simply be caused by dirty ears and the surrounding skin. Smelly baby ears can also be a sign of a bacterial ear infection, fungal infection, or Swimmer’s Ear.

Different ear infections have different smells so it helps to try and compare the smell of your child’s ears to something else. Do their ears smell like cheese? Or vomit? Or does your baby’s ear smell strangely sweet? 

To help you to determine whether you need to just clean your baby’s ear more thoroughly or take them to see the doctor, we have outlined what different ear smells could be a sign of. 

Why Do My Baby’s Ears Smell Like Cheese?

If your baby smells a little cheesy, there could be an easy resolution to this problem. Check in the folds of skin on your baby’s neck, under their chin, and behind their ears.

Is there build-up dirt and milk? Sometimes when babies feed they manage to dribble their milk all over the place, including behind their ears.  

Give your baby a wash, paying attention to those often forgotten areas like behind their ears and the folds on their neck. If after a thorough wash your baby still smells like cheese, the smell may be a sign of an ear infection. 

My Baby’s Ears Smell Like Poop 

The only poop smell parents should have to deal with is the one coming from their baby’s diaper, right? Well, if your baby’s ears smell like poop it may be a sign of old wax build up inside.

If your baby seems to have a lot of ear wax, the source of the poop smell is most likely down to a build-up of wax. Your baby’s ears may be crusty or have an unusual discharge if your baby has an excess of ear wax.

You will need to keep an eye out for symptoms of an ear infection and seek medical advice from your pediatrician on how to treat a build-up of ear wax. 

If you have cleaned behind your baby’s ears thoroughly, they are freshly washed and the poop smell still lingers, you may need to see a doctor as your baby may have an ear infection that needs treating.

My Baby’s Ears Smell Like Vomit 

It is gross but occasionally baby ears can smell like vomit. The most likely cause of a sicky smell is your baby has thrown up and some managed to make its way behind your baby’s ears.

If your baby spit-up their milk a lot, it is important to regularly clean behind their ears in case the vomit has dried and built up behind them. A deep clean around your baby’s ears should get rid of the vomit smell. 

However, an ear infection can cause a vomit-like smell coming from your baby’s ear. If you have cleaned your baby and their ears still smell like vomit, it is time you phone their doctor for advice.

Why Do My Baby’s Ears Smell Like Sour Milk?

Baby ears can sometimes smell like sour milk and the most obvious reason for this milky smell is down to your baby dribbling or spitting up their formula or breastmilk during and after feeds.

The milk can easily slide from your baby’s mouth behind their ears and into the folds of their neck while they are in a horizontal position feeding. 

However, if your baby is displaying symptoms of an ear infection and their ears smell like sour milk, they may need to see a doctor and receive the correct treatment for an ear infection. 

My Baby’s Ears Smell Like Wax

It is fairly normal to smell the faint scent of ear wax when you give your baby’s ear a big sniff. However, if there is a strong smell of wax coming from your baby’s ear, this may be a cause for concern.

A strong wax smell may be a sign your baby has too much ear wax or a build-up of old wax inside their ear. Ear wax is there to help protect our ears from bacteria.

However, an excess of ear wax can be uncomfortable. If you notice a strong wax smell coming from your baby’s ears, the doctor can prescribe eardrops to deal with the problem. 

A strong wax smell may also indicate your baby is suffering from Swimmer’s Ear. When you submerge your head, sometimes water can get trapped inside the ear, this is called Swimmer’s Ear.

If your baby has a case of Swimmer’s Ear, you may notice a sudden increase in ear wax and a strong wax smell. Swimmer’s Ear can easily be treated with eardrops prescribed by your doctor. 

My Baby’s Ears Smell Like Fish 

Yes, baby ears can sometimes smell like Fish! A fishy smell coming from your baby’s ears may be a sign of an ear infection that might need to be treated with antibiotics.

The fish smell could be due to fungal or bacterial infection but also may simply be down to a build-up of dirt and oils behind your baby’s ears and in the folds of their neck. 

If you are concerned about how your baby’s ears smell and the foul odor doesn’t go after washing, you must contact a doctor for advice. Ear infections can be really painful for your baby and will need to be treated as soon as possible. 

Symptoms Of Ear Infection In Babies 

If your baby has a smelly ear and any of the following symptoms, it is likely they have an ear infection. When you notice your baby’s ear smells, be vigilant and on the lookout for any of these symptoms of an ear infection:

  • Tugging and pulling on-ear 
  • A fever 
  • More frequent crying 
  • Difficulty sleeping 
  • Fluid coming from the ear 
  • Loss of balance (if the baby is sitting/mobile) 
  • Hearing difficulties/doesn’t react to sounds or voices 

Ear infections are painful and your baby is unable to tell you what is wrong. Keep a close eye on your baby.

If they start displaying signs of an ear infection alongside having a smelly ear, it is important you make a doctor’s appointment as soon as possible. It is also worth mentioning that ear infections do not always cause ears to smell.

If your baby has any of the above symptoms but their ears smell normal, they may still have an ear infection that will require treatment. 

How To Clean Behind My Baby’s Ears 

It is important to regularly clean behind your baby’s ears to avoid dirt collecting there and leading to any nasty smells. Cleaning baby ears is fairly straightforward and should be done daily if possible. 

  • Using a soft washcloth gently wipe behind your baby’s ears.
  • If you want to use shampoo or body wash, preferably use one that is organic, fragrance, and chemical-free.
  • Gently dry behind your baby’s ears, make sure you do this after every bath and face wash.
  • Do not ever stick Q-tips or anything else inside your baby’s ears.
  • Apply a mild soap or body wash to a soft washcloth or cotton swab and gently clean the outside of your baby’s ear.
  • Gently wipe around all the folds and crevices on the outside of your baby’s ears.
  • Dry your baby thoroughly with a soft cloth after cleaning.
  • Ear wax is normal and in most cases does not need to be removed.
  • If your baby has an excess of ear wax you can try applying a couple of drops of baby oil to soften the wax. Once the wax has softened, apply a small amount of warm water to the wax and tilt your baby’s head, this should help the wax to come loose and drain away. 

Pediatricians recommend leaving your baby’s ear wax alone. Ear wax is there to protect our ears from bacteria and foreign objects getting into the ear and in most cases does not need to be removed.

However, if you are concerned about your baby’s ear wax, speak to your pediatrician or make an appointment for your baby to have their ear wax removed by a medical professional.  

If you are still looking for the perfect baby bath then check out our review of Puj Tub vs Puj Flyte bathtub here.

The Final Thought 

It can be a shock to notice a bad smell coming from your baby’s ears. Whilst it is not normal for your baby’s ears to smell, more often than not there is a simple explanation for the strange odor.

It is likely you just need to spend a little more time and extra care cleaning your baby’s ears when you give them a wash at the end of the day. Dirt, spit-up, and oils from the skin can build up and cause an unpleasant odor around your baby’s ears.

However, if your baby’s ears smell like cheese, fish or have any other gross smell, it may be a sign of an ear infection and you will need to get your baby seen by a doctor. 

Hi, I'm Emma and I'm a mother to 5 beautiful children aged from 1 to 21 years old- life is hectic! I have learned so much along the way, not only from my own children but also through my professional life. In my positions as a Childminder and Teaching Assistant, I have studied Child Development and The Early Years Developing Practice. I wish to share all of this knowledge and help you with your own parenting journey!