Your baby will most likely get sick. They don’t have the immunity yet to fight off illnesses, so colds and gastrointestinal infections will happen. This is a normal part of growing up, so you don’t have to worry too much.
Dr. Mary Anne Jackson, a pediatric expert at Children’s Mercy Hospital and Clinics, in Kansas City, Missouri, explained to Parents, “In the first year, babies come down with about six to 12 infections, most lasting seven to 10 days. That’s up to 120 days of the year they may be sick.”
So, what are the signs that your baby needs to go to the doctor, do they need more sleep during this time, and how can you support them through their illness?
When To Take Your Sick Baby To The Doctor
For a baby under three months of age, it’s best to take their temperature rectally as it gives a more accurate reading compared to taking their temperature orally.
Don’t use an oral thermometer to take your baby’s temperature rectally! The two types of thermometers aren’t the same – rectal thermometers have a security bulb for safety.
If your newborn baby (under one month old) has a temperature, take them back to the hospital.
A temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or over is considered dangerous for babies one to three months old, so head to your doctor if this is the case.
Other signs of a fever include fussiness, sleepiness, and a loss of appetite.
If your baby is struggling to breathe, isn’t wetting their diaper regularly (at least every six hours or so), or has a cough that doesn’t go away in a couple of days, it’s best to see your healthcare provider.
Does A Sick Baby Need More Sleep?
Yes! Sleep is one of the ways that our bodies heal. If your little one is taking longer naps, let them.
“During sleep, our bodies heal, so it’s drastically important that we give babies and infants a chance to do just that. If they wake up in the middle of the night, feel free to go in and comfort them and encourage them to sleep; that will help them get better soon and fight off the illness,” pediatrician Dr. Tanya Altmann said to Romper.
However, it’s important that your baby stays hydrated. So, if nap time is blending into their nighttime sleep, or naps are coming up on three hours, you should wake them to feed.
Your baby could also experience difficulty in falling asleep because of how they’re feeling. Take some time to rock them for an extra amount of time and rub their back to soothe them.
However, you may want to reconsider bringing them to your bed if they’re used to sleeping in a crib. Of course you want to be close to your sick baby, but bringing them to your bed to sleep can disrupt their routine and, when they’re well again, you could struggle to get them back into their crib.
Instead, take a mattress into the nursery to sleep on so that you don’t disrupt your baby’s sleep environment.
To learn more about babies’ sleep patterns and how it affects feeding, get my book, Baby Settler: It’s Not Just About Sleep.
What Else Should You Do When Your Baby Is Sick?
Besides letting your little one sleep for longer stretches, you can provide comfort and a healthy environment to facilitate healing.
You should consult your healthcare provider before giving your little one any medicine. You can use a saline nasal spray to relieve some stuffiness and snot. This a sea salt solution with no medicine.
If your baby has a cough, you can put a humidifier in their room. Alternatively, you can run the hot water in the bathroom and rock your baby in the steam.
Also, wash your hands regularly. This is one of the best ways to stop the spread of a cold.
When your baby is sick, patience and extra love and cuddles can go a long way. Give them a gentle massage and engage in quiet playtime with them during wake windows.
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