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How Can I Help My Baby Sleep With A Cold?

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    There is a reason colds are called "common": Many healthy children have eight to 10 colds and other viral infections in the first two years of life (or six to eight colds in the first year).

    Their developing immune systems aren’t good at staving off infections yet — not because you didn’t dress her warmly enough or left the window open a crack overnight. And sometimes, those colds will overlap as your baby catches one just as another ends.

    If you’re a new parent, the constant flow of symptoms (literally!) can be distressing and exhausting, so check in with your pediatrician if you’re worried about your little one, especially if she is under three months old.

    When your child catches a cold, it can be not very nice for the whole family. They probably need a few days off school, but sleeping with a cold will be difficult thanks to their stuffy nose, coughing and fever. This leaves them feeling overtired and fractious – and you won’t exactly feel on top of the world either!

    As well as enabling the family to function as human beings, a good night’s sleep is important when treating a cold, giving the body time to fight germs and get your child on the road to recovery – otherwise, that common cold could end up lasting for weeks.

    With this in mind, we’ve listed the best things you can do to help your little patient sleep soundly through the night when they’ve got a serious case of sniffles.

    We are in the middle of cold and flu season, so that you may have noticed your little sniffling a bit more than usual.  

    In fact, infants can get seven colds in their first year alone! Most of the time, it’ll manifest itself as a head cold, sore throat, ear infection, coughing, and nasal congestion. We remember being so worried the first time my little one got sick.

    And even if your child is a star snoozer, a cold could disrupt sleep, more nighttime wakings, and an extra amount of clinginess around bedtime.

    It’s not fun for them, and it’s not fun for us as parents. We know, first-hand, the heartbreak of wanting your little to get some restful sleep when you know they’re not feeling well.

    So, how do you help your sniffling baby get their sleep back on track?

    COMFORT IS KEY Here’s some bad news. You can’t control your little one's sleep when they have a cold, flu, or other illness. That might mean a handful of sleepless nights again. And for most, you can expect to throw sleep schedules and bedtime routines out the window as the cold runs its course.

    In the meantime, try your best to keep your little hydrated and well-nourished and cancel any unnecessary things or events for a week or so until they start feeling better.

    When they’re dealing with a cold, your little one will be very uncomfortable. Your job in this situation is going to help them find comfort. So, while I’d normally suggest just supporting your baby back to sleep when they have a midnight-waking, this is the time for an exception. 

    When your little one isn't feeling well, and they wake up crying, it’s okay to “run” to their bedside, pick them up, and comfort them back to sleep. Don’t worry about them un-learning the healthy sleep habits you’ve been putting into place – all bets are off here.

    HOW YOU CAN HELP A big problem with colds is that babies are ‘obligate nose breathers,’ meaning they only know how to breathe through their noses. So whenever your little one develops a cold, that can lead to nasal congestion and trouble breathing – which then leads to them spending the night tossing, turning, screaming, and crying, just trying to get comfortable enough to sleep.

    There are some practical things you can do to give them that comfort and help them get a restful sleep as possible during a cold.

    • First, keep up with any pain and fever-reducing medication as prescribed by your pediatrician. Giving this 30 minutes before a sleep period is sure to help.
    • Use a nasal aspirator (if your little will comply) - this can help stuffy noses breathe better at night; you know the one where you suck their little boogies out.
    • A humidifier can ensure the air in their bedroom stays moist, which helps with congestion. Running a hot shower and sitting in the steamy bathroom can also help alleviate congestion.
    • If your little has a fever, giving them a cool bath before bedtime can help them settle for the night.

    Note: Seek medical attention immediately if your little has difficulty breathing or if their general condition deteriorates rapidly.

    AFTER A COLD Once your little one's back to their normal, happy, healthy selves, that’s when you can start focusing on sleep schedules, habits, and routines again. 

    Bring back their bedtime routine if it got thrown off and sleep schedules (including naps), as well as any sleep training methods you implemented before your little one got sick. But keep in mind, there may be some resistance at first.

    Your little one will likely remember those times you rushed to them and comforted them through the night when sick, and they may have gotten used to it a bit. So you have to retrain them so they can sleep through the night without you again.

    Don’t worry about it too much, though. If your infant slept through the night before they caught a cold, they would be able to do so once things get back to normal.

    FAQs About Baby Sleep

    So whenever your little one develops a cold, that can lead to nasal congestion and trouble breathing – which then leads to them spending the night tossing, turning, screaming, and crying, just trying to get comfortable enough to sleep.

    This barking-seal cough is usually the result of a viral infection that has settled in the upper airway and voice box and typically strikes while the child has a cold. Because it causes swelling of the vocal cords, the cough also may be accompanied by noisy, rapid breathing.

    How long the cold should last in babies. Symptoms for a cold will typically last 7 to 10 days in infants and children. Common cold symptoms to watch out for in your baby include a Stuffy or runny nose.

    The protective mucus and cilia in the respiratory tract do not function. So if you get exposed to a virus in those conditions, you're more likely to catch it. Breathing cold air seems to be the toughest on the system. Bathing your baby is okay, as long as she doesn't get too chilled.

    Before you think I'm completely crazy, here's why this is true: When your child is sick, you'll want to let them sleep when they can, as much as they can. You'll also want to be checking on them frequently and adding extra feedings or liquids if needed.

    Baby Cold Symptoms

    Fortunately, most cold symptoms in babies are mild and include:

    • Runny nose (watery at first, then opaque to sometimes yellow or green-tinted)
    • Nasal congestion or stuffiness
    • Sneezing
    • Mild fever (sometimes)
    • Dry cough (which may get worse at night and toward the end of a cold)
    • Sore or scratchy throat (not so easy to spot in a baby)
    • Fatigue or crankiness
    • Appetite loss

    Colds, otherwise known as upper-respiratory infections, are caused by viruses. These viruses are spread through skin-to-skin contact, droplet transmission from coughs or sneezes, and contact with an object that’s been contaminated.

    That means touching, kissing, picking up toys, cuddling — all the delightful things that happen when an adorable baby is around — can spread the cold virus. And there are more than 200 viruses known to cause colds, which explains why they’re so common.

    Babies and small children have more than their share of run-ins with runny noses because they haven't yet had the chance to build up immunities against the many different cold viruses in circulation.

    But here's a reason to take comfort. Though these frequent colds are rough on your baby's nose, they won't harm you. They can do your baby some good. Frequent bouts with bugs can boost your little one's immune system, making her less susceptible to infection later in life.

    Tips For Treating Baby's Cold

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    Check with your pediatrician before giving your sniffling baby any medication, as babies should never be given adult cold medicine, and most other cough and cold medications for children aren't safe or effective either. To help relieve baby's cold symptoms, especially during the germ-packed winter months, try these tips:

    • Monitor mucus. A stuffed-up nose can be uncomfortable for your baby, making it difficult for her to breathe and for both of you to sleep. Use a suction bulb to extract the excess mucus gently. Over-the-counter saline nose drops can soften mucus before suctioning.
    • Heighten humidity. Use a cool-mist humidifier in your baby's room. Moist air can reduce congestion and make breathing easier.
    • Apply moisturising ointment. A light dab of petroleum jelly under your baby's nose can help prevent red skin, chapping, and soreness.
    • Fight back with fluids. Increase your baby's fluid intake to replace those lost through fever or runny nose — especially warm ones (chicken broth, once the ingredients have been introduced, is particularly effective; it can be served strained and slightly warmed in a sippy cup). Feed your baby plenty of nutritious foods, too, including those rich in vitamin C. If your baby isn’t eating solids yet, keep up breastfeeding or bottles.
    • Know which medications are safe to give and when. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is safe for babies ages two months and older, while ibuprofen is safe for babies six months and up. Always check with your doctor first before giving your child medications.

    Unfortunately, there’s no way to protect your little one from cold viruses entirely. The number one way to prevent a cold is to wash your baby’s (and everyone else's) hands regularly, especially after diaper changes.

    Can’t get to a sink? Hand-sanitising gels or wipes will do in a pinch, though they’re not as effective as soap and water in washing away germs.

    Other helpful strategies: Try to keep your baby away from anyone with a cold. Use a disinfectant solution to clean surfaces that may be contaminated with cold germs. While breastfeeding can reduce susceptibility to colds, it’s not foolproof.

    8 Simple Remedies To Ease Baby Colds Naturally

    Stuffy noses and sleepless nights can leave babies feeling anxious. And as already sleep-deprived parents, they can push us to new limits.

    The good news is that there’s a lot you can do to help your baby, naturally. And the silver lining is that this is a wonderful opportunity to connect more deeply with your little one during your mini-crisis, growing her trust in you that you’ll always be there whenever she needs you. 

    So, here are eight tips that have helped me when my baby has a cold and a stuffy nose that we hope will help you too.

    Breastfeed Your Baby, Often

    Nurse, nurse, and nurse again. Breastfed babies tend to get fewer colds and recover faster with less severe symptoms. Breast Milk is chock full of powerful chemicals called antibodies. When a breastfeeding mother is exposed to a cold virus, her body produces specific antibodies to the virus.

    When she breastfeeds, these antibodies are passed to her baby, providing an immune boost to fight the virus and rid the infection quickly. Interestingly, the mother doesn’t need to get sick herself. Being close to her baby will stimulate antibody production specific to the virus her baby is dealing with.

    Carry Your Baby

    Babywearing rocks. We wear my son every chance we get. There are countless benefits to babywearing, but for now, concerning colds, the benefits I’ve experienced are:

    • Babies feel better being in an upright position. It allows stuffy noses and nasal congestion to clear so that breathing becomes easier, which promotes restful sleep. When my little man has a cold, he naps in his carrier, a godsend.
    • Babywearing reduces the incidence of ear infections which can be a complication of colds. Wearing babies upright allows fluids to drain away from the ears naturally, reducing the chance of an ear infection taking hold.
    • Wearing babies improves immunological protection. The sense of touch is critical in the healthy physical and emotional development of infants. Without regular and prolonged periods of touch, babies produce cortisol's stress hormone. High cortisol levels reduce white blood cell production, vital in combating infections and keeping the immune system healthy.

    Unblock Your Baby’s Stuffy Nose

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    Imagine having a cold and not being able to blow your nose. That’s how your baby feels. Until toddlers are around two years old, they can’t clear their noses properly. So, they need your help!

    A gentle saltwater mist that can be sprayed up the baby's nose is necessary. 

    It cleanses excessive mucus in the nasal passages, and it will also encourage your baby to sneeze and expel more mucus. 

    Have you heard of the Nose Frida Snot Sucker? It’s a unique nasal aspirator that forms a seal on the outside of your baby’s nostril compared to a traditional aspirator that enters your baby’s nostril (way less comfortable). 

    Often when our little guy can’t sleep, and we hear that he has a stuffy nose, we use the Nose Frida, and then he peacefully drifts off. He doesn’t love it, but it works!

    Boost Your Baby’s Immunity

    Vitamin D and probiotics can strengthen your baby’s immune system. Known as the sunshine vitamin, our bodies produce it naturally with exposure to the sun. Vitamin D is vital for the immune system to function properly.

    Babies can become Vitamin D deficient as we try to protect them from the sun. In places like Canada, with long dark winters, supplementation becomes even more important. The standard recommendation for a breastfeeding infant is 400IU daily. 

    It’s important to check with your doctor as this dose can vary based on individual factors, including geography and the age of your baby.

    Probiotics are incredible and can help with eczema allergies to diarrhea. Over 80% of our immune systems are found in our digestive systems. This is why it’s vital to maintain a healthy gut to have a robust immune system. Giving probiotics to your baby will help ensure he has a healthy gut.

    Elevate The Bed For Your Baby’s Sleep

    What is the best sleeping position for a baby with a stuffy nose? Well, whether your baby sleeps in a crib or co-slept with you, inclining the head end of the bed can help clear congestion, which makes sleeping easier. Crib wedges can be placed under the fitted sheet in the crib or bed to help elevate babies' heads.

    Humidify The Air To Help Stuffy Noses

    Dry air, which is made worse by central heating in winter, causes nasal mucus to thicken, build up and cause nasal congestion.

    Using either a warm air vaporiser or a cool air humidifier helps clear nasal passages. We prefer warm air vaporisers, but either will work. If you use a warm air vaporiser, keep it out of reach of your baby, as it can pose a burn hazard.

    Use Homeopathy To Help Ease Cold Symptoms  

    Homeopathic remedies are a safe alternative to standard cold and flu medications for babies. They are my go-to for home remedies for baby colds (and any health issue!). We have a family homeopath, so when my baby got a cold, we asked her which remedies would work best based on his symptoms.

    Homeopathy is effective and also free from side effects. If you don’t have a family homeopath, you can find remedies at your local health store or pharmacy. 

    Sleep And Rest As Much As Possible

    Sleep and rest are key to recovery from any illness. And when your baby has a cold, she is more restless than ever. A baby sleeping at night may now wake hourly (as my little guy had his first cold), and nap schedules go out the window. Accept that this is the way it is…and that it’s temporary.

    In addition to the tips above, do anything you can think of to get in those precious naps to speed up your baby’s recovery – go for a long drive if your baby sleeps well in the car, for example.


    Hopefully, these tips will help you with your baby’s first cold. And remember, what your baby needs most are Mum and Dad. She needs cuddles, reassurance, and a tone of TLC.

    And take it easy on yourself. Your baby may be the one with the cold, but it’s hard for parents. A little self-care and time out go a long way. Accept help from others when offered.

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