All moms know that taking care of a sick baby is physically and emotionally exhausting. Your heart hurts as they sniffle, you feel worried when they cough, and you feel helpless as they lay in your arms at 3 a.m., unable to sleep.
As a first-time mom, baby colds can be extra challenging. When my daughter had her first cold, I would have done just about anything to make her feel better. I also learned that in order to do that, I needed to take care of myself, too.
From one new mom to another, here are some tips for helping you nurse your little one back to health, keep yourself healthy, and maintain your sanity.
Double Check with Your Doctor
With their developing immune systems and tiny airways, babies can become seriously sick fast. That’s why it’s incredibly important to know which symptoms are nothing to worry about and which symptoms warrant a trip to the doctor’s office or even to the emergency room.
To relieve my new-mom worries, I called our pediatrician’s office to determine if we needed to come in. Your doctor or the nursing staff may also be able to give you advice on what you can try to make your baby more comfortable or recommend a medicine that is safe for babies.
The recommendations may vary depending on your baby’s age, medical history, and the duration/combination of their symptoms, so it’s always helpful to check with your child’s doctor.
Luckily, we never had to visit the doctor’s office, but it was reassuring to have a list of important symptoms to keep an eye on like her temperature, her mood, and her wet diapers. They also reminded me of the signs of labored breathing and instructed us to go to the emergency room if they were present.
Above all, trust your instincts. A mother’s intuition is a powerful thing—if you feel like something is wrong and you need to get medical attention, do it. You’ll never regret seeking help for a sick baby.
Try Some Mom-Recommended Remedies, But…
In my desperate search for anything that would make my daughter feel better (and get a few consecutive hours of shut-eye for myself), I asked my mom friends what works best when their babies are sick. I had to be missing something, right?
Here were some of the best tried and true recommendations:
- Create a steamy sauna in your bathroom by running a hot shower for a few minutes. Sit in the bathroom with your baby for a few minutes, then wipe away any loose mucus with a warm washcloth.
- Use a nasal aspirator like the NoseFrida to help clear our tiny baby noses. You can also use a few drops of saline to help loosen mucus.
- Apply a little chest rub with essential oils like Maty’s All Natural Baby Chest Rub or Zarbee’s Naturals Soothing Chest Rub. These products promise all-natural relief from congestion. If they don’t live up to these lofty expectations, at least they smell nice.
- Run a cool-mist humidifier at night, which has a few benefits, including keeping baby’s nasal passages and throat moist. Make sure you’re cleaning out the humidifier regularly to prevent the spread of mold and other germs.
- Bundle baby and take a short walk in the cool air. Cool air can help reduce inflammation and may help baby breathe better.
Now here’s the but: You’re not missing anything. There’s no magical cure.
While all of these things probably helped a little, there wasn’t one thing that made her sleep more soundly or cleared up her sinuses. In fact, my daughter hated the NoseFrida so much that her hysterical crying actually made her more congested, so we had to scrap that one.
The very best remedy ended up being a long snuggle session with mom. So don’t worry if you haven’t “done something” to make your baby feel better. You’re doing a great job.
In addition to practicing healthy habits like hand washing and sanitizing, staying hydrated is important for baby and for YOU. You’re probably already offering baby more frequent feedings or extra sips of water, but you should make it a point to drink your eight glasses of water each day.
Your body functions at its best when well-hydrated, which means you’ll feel more energized and you’ll be helping your immune system fight (or recover from) whatever nasty sickness is plaguing your household.
For an extra immune boost, you can also try increasing your intake of vitamins that can help you stay healthy.
The day my husband and daughter started sniffling, I popped some Zinc tablets, filled the biggest water bottle I could find, and luckily, never caught their cold.
Get Out of the House for an Hour (Alone!)
While my baby was sick, my days felt totally off. Her schedule wasn’t right, she was extra tired and fussy, and every day I felt like I was still recovering from the night before. Maybe your child has to stay home from daycare or preschool, maybe you’re also home from work—chances are, you probably feel a little off too.
That’s why taking a little bit of time outside of the house can be a great way to reset. Call in reinforcements—your husband, the grandparents, a friend, a sitter—and get your mind right with a solo Target trip, a fitness class, or just grab coffee with a friend.
Try doing something that you enjoy or something that energizes you. You’ll come back refreshed and (mostly) ready to dive back in.
Remember “This Too Shall Pass”
A friend sent me this quote when my baby was going through a sleep regression, and I think of it often if I’m awake with her in the middle of the night. It’s both encouraging and heart-wrenching at the same time.
This too shall pass . . . your baby will get better. You’ll be back to your normal routine in a few days. You will sleep again.
This too shall pass . . . your baby will eventually learn how to use tissues, and she won’t need you to wipe her nose in a steamy bathroom. One day she’ll put herself back to sleep, and she won’t need you to rock her and sing her lullabies. Maybe, the next time she gets sick, she’ll be too big to cradle in your arms.
So even though you’re exhausted, run-down, and maybe sick yourself, remember to be kind to yourself, enjoy the warm snuggles, and embrace these fleeting moments when you are all they need.