Caring for Your Sick Baby: 9 Real-Mom Tips

May 5, 2015

How do you survive caring for a sick baby without losing your sanity? These moms share their tips.

Having a sick baby is hard, especially if you're a new mom. Your little one is miserable and all you want is for her to feel better. It's also one of the most frustrating parts of parenting -- lots of crying (from both of you?) and not nearly enough sleep.

Hang in there and remember these nine tips and tricks from moms and experts around the country:

  1. Clean Your Baby's Nose
    Elizabeth Pantley, the author of the best-selling "No-Cry Solution" series, says stuffy noses are usually the biggest problem for sick babies. "Since young babies drink their food, either by breast or bottle, and find comfort in sucking, a stuffy nose makes your sick baby doubly miserable." She recommends squeezing a mist of saline drops in his nose and then using a clean rubber bulb syringe and a tissue to gently pull mucus from the nose. Repeat as needed.
  2. Get Your Silly on
    Laughter really is the best medicine. "I rely on lots of singing, dancing and acting silly when my little one is sick," says Jennifer Ullrich of Florida. "And lots of hugs."
  3. Get Skin to Skin
    Linda Roberts, an internationally board certified lactation consultant and doula who runs the Belly Beautiful parenting support group, says breastfeeding is a great tool when dealing with a sick baby. "It has medicinal value from antibodies to antimicrobial and antifungal properties. It can certainly make babies healthier and it is also liquid love. Plus, breastfeeding calms and quiets sick babies." Not breastfeeding or have a weaned child? Roberts says skin-to-skin contact also provides a high level of comfort. Strip your little one down and snuggle her up to your bare chest.
  4. Cut Yourself Some Slack
    Stephanie Herres Thompson urges parents, "Relax and let the less important things go in order to rest when you can." Translation? Let the laundry slide or the dishes pile up in order to catch a few winks if possible.
  5. Indulge a Little
    "Wine. For you, not the baby," says Sheri Rouse, an Indiana photographer and mother of three. If wine doesn't do it for you, choose another small treat to perk you up and get you through the day.
  6. Cover up
    Michelle Smith, a California therapist and mother of two, has a very practical tip. "Put a towel over the sofa -- and over yourself." After all, the last thing you need is a stain on your white couch to remind you of the time your baby wasn't feeling well.
  7. Have a pediatrician-approved bag of tricks
    Pauline Campos of Maine swears by gripe water when her daughter is sick, while Nicole Ramage Whitfield of Oregon goes right for a layer of vapor rub on the feet, covered with footie pajamas. Ask your pediatrician ahead of time what over-the-counter methods are OK to try or give the office a call when symptoms strike.
  8. Enlist a Helper
    Amy Hrynyk of Florida says, "You need a reliable person to get supplies from the grocery store for you, as well as any medicine you might need because you can't go anywhere when your child is ill, especially if you are a single parent."
  9. Know When to Call the Pediatrician
    How sick is too sick? Pantley says it's time to call the doctor if:
  • Your baby is younger than 3 months old and has any symptoms of sickness.
  • Your baby is having difficulty breathing, even after you clear her nose.
  • Your baby has a cold that doesn't improve after a week.
  • Original symptoms subside, but other symptoms appear or linger, such as coughing.
  • Your baby seems to have pain in her ears.
  • Your baby has a sudden or disturbing change in temperament, such as extreme fussiness and crying, or sleepiness and lethargy.
  • Your baby is refusing fluids.
  • You can't put your finger on it, but your intuition says it's time to call the doctor.

Want more tips to care for your sick infant? Check out The Sick Baby Survival Guide.

Rachael Moshman, M.Ed. is a mom with over two decades of working with young children and their families. She has seen hundreds of sick babies - and their very worried parents!

* This article is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be providing medical advice and is not a substitute for such advice. The reader should always consult a health care provider concerning any medical condition or treatment plan. Neither nor the author assumes any responsibility or liability with respect to use of any information contained herein.

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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