How to Get Through Baby’s First Cold

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How to Get Through Baby's First Cold

Last week, I went to a 1-year-old’s birthday party.  It was a great party, there were lots of children running – and crawling – around, adults chatting about adult things, and of course there was a cake smash!  It was nice to get out of the house for a while and be around adults.  As the weather gets colder, I spend less and less time outside, and the only company I have at home during the day is a 5-month-old baby.  It was a well needed outing, even if it was the beginning of a terrible week.

A day and a half after that 1-year-old’s birthday party, I got a head cold.  It felt like I had a rock sitting in my sinuses and it was NOT budging.  Being that I am the only adult home with the baby during the day, I can’t just avoid the baby all day!  I have to feed her, change her diaper, carry her from one place to another, hand her toys -that will inevitably end up in her mouth – it is simply unavoidable.

Avoiding Baby Without Actually Avoiding her

Knowing that I was sick and probably contagious, I was very careful with what and when I held the baby and her things.  I washed my hands before every interaction, after I touched my face, before I made her food, before AND after I changed her bum.  It felt like I was constantly standing at the sink, washing my hands.  I covered my nose and mouth when I coughed or sneezed; I did everything I could to prevent my baby girl from getting this awful cold; she didn’t have Mommy kisses for almost a week!

Alas, everything I could do wasn’t enough.  One afternoon, I went to the nursery to get the baby after her nap as she had been crying at the top of her lungs – much more than the usual wake up cry.  I picked her up to console her – didn’t calm her down.  Gave her a bottle – she didn’t want it.  I changed her dirty diaper – there was barely anything in it.  Then, as I was lightly bouncing up and down trying to console her and figure out what was wrong, she stopped crying and I noticed her breathing sounded stuffy – we all know the sound of someone trying to breathe through a stuffed nose, they are the ones that we want to yell at to BLOW YOUR NOSE!

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I’m Not Terrible, I’m Actually Quite a Good Mother!

She caught the cold from me.  I felt awful – I’m a terrible mother for not washing my hands more, or not staying away from her more, or not disinfecting all the surfaces more, or… or nothing.  I am not a terrible mother for getting my 5-month-old baby sick.  These things happen and being there for her to take care of her and suck the snot out of her nose when it gets to be too much – that is what makes me a good mother.  Here are some ways you can take care of your baby and make it through that first cold.

Let Baby Sleep

I know, it seems like she is just coming out of the “eat, sleep, poop, repeat” phase, but let her take an extra half hour for her nap, or an extra nap all together.  Allow her to go to bed early if she is showing signs of sleepiness.  Rest will only help your sick baby recover, plus it gives you a little extra time to yourself! Enjoy it!  Much like you and I, baby needs sleep to get over her cold.  My baby normally has a 45 minute to hour long nap.  While she was sick, she had 2-2 1/2  hour naps.  Although, if baby is lethargic, you may want to see a doctor.

Keep Baby Hydrated

Again, just like you, Baby needs certain things to get over her cold.  Sleep and Hydration being the two main categories.  If she is cranky, give her a bottle or breastfeed her and see if it helps.  When we are sick, it drains us of energy and makes us dehydrated.  Having a baby who is both sick and dehydrated can cause added on health issues, and nobody wants that for their sick baby.  If Baby’s soft spot on the top of her head is extremely sunken, she may be dehydrated, and you should consult a Doctor.

Saline Drops 

To help loosen the mucus in baby’s sinuses, you can buy (at any pharmacy, or even grocery store in some cases) an over-the-counter saline drop.  You can put a drop or two up baby’s nose while she is upright or slightly reclined, and wait a few seconds before using a nasal aspirator to suck out any excess saline and mucus.  

You can get a bulb nasal aspirator, or one of the ones where Mom/Dad sucks it out through a long tube (your mouth doesn’t touch any snot, I promise!) 

This is NOT the easiest task – as you can imagine – with a squirmy baby who turns her head at any sight of something – that isn’t a bottle – coming toward her face.  I recommend having someone else there to assist you.

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Put Moisture into the Air

Putting moisture into the air can also help with loosening mucus in the sinus cavity.  You can do this in multiple ways:

Run the Shower

You can turn the shower on hot and sit in the bathroom with baby.  DO NOT allow the baby to touch the hot water, it will burn.  Leave the bathroom fan off for a greater effect.  Stay in the bathroom with baby for about 15 minutes as the air gets steamy and moist.  Once the 15 minutes is up, use the nasal aspirator to remove any mucus.  I found this to be extremely effective when the baby first woke up in the morning.  I would give her a bottle as soon as we were finished.  The warm air and moisture made it easier for her to drink the bottle.

Use a Humidifier or Diffuser

Any run of the mill humidifier can help clear baby’s sinuses.  Run it all night long, or for a few hours at a time.  You can also use a diffuser with essential oils such as lemon or lavender.  Some essential oils are safe for adults to take orally, however this is NOT SAFE for babies.  Ensure all essential oils are through a diffuser.


Sometimes all you need is a hug.  Baby may seem very needy and clingy while she is sick, and you should give her ALL the cuddles she wants.  It isn’t fun being sick as an adult, I imagine it is much worse when you are an infant and can’t blow your nose or wipe your eyes, much less have any idea of what is going on or why you feel this way.  Comfort her.  Let her know she will be okay.

Do NOT Give Your Baby Over-the-Counter Cold Medicines

Although I’m pretty sure most of the baby cold medicines have been removed from shelves, if you happen to find one, DO NOT USE IT.  Consult a Doctor if you think your baby needs more than what is mentioned above.

More information about medications is available here.

When to Take Your Baby to the Doctor

If your baby is less than 3 months old, call your doctor within the first couple of days if not the first day.  Newborns can develop more serious illnesses very quickly.  

If your baby is older than 3 months old, call your doctor in the event of:

  • A fever higher than 100.4 F (38 C)
  • Your baby stops eating
  • Has trouble breathing – Not the stuffy nose kind, but from the lungs.

Click here for 10 other instances of when to take baby to a Doctor.

Always Remember

You are a good Mother.  Just because the baby got the cold from you, doesn’t make you a bad Mom.  These things happen to the best of us!

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