Babies Health Pregnancy and Newborns

How to help a baby with a cold


The first thing I need to tell you is that I’m not a Doctor. You probably already knew that, but just in case – this isn’t a medical guide written by a doctor. This is a tips guide written by a mum. A mum who has had to deal with an angry baby with a cold screaming from a blocked up nose and crying because he doesn’t understand what’s happening. The medical disclaimer applies – always get help from your health visitor or doctor for your situation. Every GP office should have an open baby clinic walk-in with your assigned health visitor. Call the NHS non emergency helpline – 111 – if that’s not open or if you’re not sure when / where that is and they’ll direct you.

My son caught his first cold in the hospital at just a week old. It took almost 2 weeks to clear up, but in his newborn fugue he just sort of dealt with it and it was much harder for me (coughing straight after a c section is not fun!). His next cold, at 5 months old, was much worse because now he was fully aware that something was wrong and he couldn’t breathe or eat properly. Cue many sleepless nights, meltdowns and sobbing (from both of us!)

After that we figured out what worked, but a baby with a cold is inevitable. No matter how many you’ve dealt with, they’re still stressful and every mum wants to ease her child’s suffering wherever possible.

During these times I spent countless hours quizzing friends and family, talking to my midwife (for the first) and health visitor (for the second) and pouring over information on the internet. Here’s some of what I found practical and helpful:

How to Clear a Blocked up Nose / Congestion

  • Use Saline drops up to three times a day to clear the pathways. You can buy saline drops or you can make your own. Boil a cup of water and let it cool until it is lukewarm and then add half a teaspoon of salt. Then just add a few drops to each nostril.
  • Run a vaporizer, but if you’re buying a medicated vaporizer check the suitability for age first. The ones I originally looked at were 3 months+, which was no good when my son had a bad cold at 2 weeks old! Most rubs and topical treatments are not suitable for babies, but there are a range available in chemists and supermarkets such as plug-ins that are suitable for younger ages. Unfortunately very little is available for those under 3 months
  • You can make your own vaporizer at home by boiling a pan of water (or buying a humidifier) and adding a few drops of essential oils – menthol or eucalyptus will help with a cold.
  • Steam will clear things out. Because my son was too young on his first cold (which he caught in the hospital!) for any medication or menthol, the midwife recommended steam as a treatment. My husband and I showered at different times of the day and we had the baby on the floor of the bathroom with us. So he got two steam treatments per day which really helped clear out the mucous.

How to Feed a Baby with a Cold

When my son is fully blocked up and trying to take a bottle, it’s hard. He’s already struggling with breathing through his mouth, and now he’s trying to swallow at the same time. It makes him panic and cough and then cry cry cry. It’s distressing for both of us.

But here are some tips that I’ve found can help:

  • Keep baby upright as much as possible. Propping up, lots of pillows or feed tummy to tummy if breastfeeding and can’t find the right position.
  • Feed smaller meals more frequently if baby is struggling. This may be more comforting as well.
  • Saline drops in the nose just before feeding can offer a temporary reprieve enough to get a good meal.

Breastfeeding & Hydration for a Baby with a Cold

We’ve all heard about those precious precious antibodies that pass from our milk into baby, toughening up that immature immune system. You might not know, but if your baby has a cold and you don’t – the antibodies are not specifically targetting that cold. When you get sick, your body produces antibodies directly to target the problem and then those filter through your breastmilk. So it’s actually a good thing for him if you’re sick too!

A woman breastfeeding her baby

If like me, you aren’t breastfeeding, it’s nothing to worry about. But if you are producing, and can pump even a small amount then every little helps.

If you’re breastfeeding and you both have colds, remember that you need extra hydration and extra calories too. Don’t focus on the baby and forget about your self-care!

Whichever way you’re feeding, baby might need more food when he’s sick. First is for hydration reasons, as he may becoming dehydrated more often, and the more hydrated he is, the thinner the mucuous will be which will help him cough or sneeze it out. Second is simply for comfort. If he takes comfort from nipple or teat, it might make him feel better to have something more frequently.

I hope this has helped anyone. If you have a tip or product that is suitable for a baby with a cold, please comment and let me know!


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  • Reply Bee October 2, 2017 at 7:58 pm

    Haven’t had to deal with one with my little one yet but going to remember all these tips later because i’m sure i’ll need them.

  • Reply Dominic October 2, 2017 at 9:49 pm

    Great tips, thanks!

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