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Soothing Your Sick Infant

by The Kid's Doctor Staff

The holidays can be a great time for relatives and friends to meet the “new” baby in the family. It can also be a time for baby’s first outing into crowded shopping malls, restaurants, and movie theaters where babies can be exposed to viruses and bacteria that make it difficult to escape common illnesses such as colds and flu.

A sick baby is rarely a happy baby, so what’s a parent to do? You’ll want to check in with your pediatrician, of course, and follow all treatment instructions. Beyond that, you’ll have to wait for the illness to run its course. Fortunately there are tips for helping your child feel better and recover faster.

Provide Plenty of Liquids: Make sure that your child is getting plenty of liquids to prevent dehydration. Depending on whether you are breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, offer your infant the breast or bottle often to provide both hydration and comfort. Your infant may also enjoy a bottle filled with cool water.

Make Sure Baby Gets Plenty of Rest: Lots of rest and sleep will soothe your sick baby and help her heal. Put your baby to bed early, if you can, and encourage naps. Avoid situations that will over-stimulate your baby — and possibly expose others to her germs — and keep her as quiet as possible.

Use Nose Drops When Needed: If your baby’s nose is particularly congested, you can use over-the-counter saline drops or spray to thin mucus. Check with your doctor first and ask which specific products she recommends. Use two drops in each nostril before feeding and bedtime, or whenever your baby seems particularly congested

Use a Nasal Syringe: After you use nose drops or spray, use a nasal syringe to clear your baby’s nose of mucus so she can breathe more easily. Clear your baby’s nostrils two to three times a day.

A Humidifier Helps Breathing: Running a cold-mist humidifier in your infant’s room will help keep air moist and ease congestion. (Cool-mist humidifiers are recommended over warm because warm-mist devices present the danger of scalding.)  Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for changing filters and keeping the humidifier clean, and fill with fresh water every day to prevent mold and bacteria.

Give a Warm Bath: A warm bath not only soothes your sick infant, it will ease aches and pains, and steam from the warm water will also help clear congestion. Dry your baby thoroughly afterward to prevent chills.

Give a Gentle Chest Massage: If your baby’s chest is congested, a gentle massage will help loosen mucus. Place your baby face down across your lap, and gently tap her back with your cupped hand.

Elevate the Head: Keep your infant’s head slightly elevated to make breathing easier. By far the best way to soothe your sick baby is to give her lots of love and attention. Hold her and engage in quiet play, give her an infant massage, or read and sing to her.  If you are breastfeeding, she may want to nurse more, which will reassure and comfort her. If she likes being in a snugly or sling, bundle her up and do some chores, or take a walk. Talk to her and reassure her, whether she is old enough to understand or not, as your voice will help relax and soothe your sick infant.

Prevention Is the Best Remedy

Dr. Julia Piwoz from the pediatric infectious diseases division of the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital in Hackensack, N.J., says while there is no vaccine for the common cold, there is a vaccine against influenza that can be used for even very small children.

“Current immunization guidelines recommend that children ages 6 months to 23 months be immunized against the flu,” says Dr. Piwoz. “In addition, children 2 years and above with certain health conditions should be immunized, but the vaccine can also be given to healthy children as well as adults.”

It’s also important to make sure that anyone handling your baby is not sick, and has washed their hands before picking up your little one. Keep plenty of alcohol-based wipes on hand just in case.

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