Inside: When your baby doesn’t feel well, sometimes you gotta do whatever it takes to make them happy. Check out these surprising, tried and true tricks to soothe a sick baby — from a mom of 3.
There is pretty much no worse feeling in the world then seeing your baby sick.
No parent wants to see their child hurting — I’m sure we all would do anything in our power to take their pain away and make them all better!
Unfortunately, “bugs” are a part of life, and how babies and young children build their immune system.
Now that our little one is walking, she is really getting into everything: cabinets, under tables, on the floor, dusty corners — you name it.
At thirteen months, she’s on the cusp of toddlerhood, but she’s still a teething baby and any new discovery goes right in the mouth for closer inspection. So it comes as no surprise that she’s had a couple sick spells lately.
For us it usually starts with a sniffle, and then we notice she’s warm to the touch. A quick temperature reading confirms our suspicion: fever. She’s coming down with something.
A Sick Baby is a Grumpy Baby
Sometimes babies act well, despite having a fever or other symptoms of a virus, but many times they just aren’t quite their usual cheerful self.
And babies don’t really have a way to express their feelings except for crying and fussing! Add to the fact that when they’re sick you’re likely going to be stuck in the house until symptoms subside. Boredom AND not feeling well is a recipe for a really grumpy baby.
So how do you comfort a sick baby and keep them entertained at the same time?
How to Soothe a Sick Baby
So you’ve been in touch with your pediatrician and been instructed to “keep her comfortable” and “keep an eye on her.”
So much for that trip to the park, or the grocery store — you don’t want to be that mom spreading the germs around, plus your baby might not be up for that much activity.
Here are a few of my tricks for making the time pass a little easier with a sick baby, and helping them feel a little bit better.
1. Baby Them
Our little one is at a stage where she’s super independent and wants to do everything by herself.
I think if she could fully talk it would go something like this: “Come on Mooomm, this baby ain’t got time for cuddles! There’s too much playing and exploring to do!” (Yes, I will be passing along my West Virginia accent to my baby.)
So I know she’s not feeling well when she comes over and lays down in my lap.
Enjoy these precious moments while your baby still wants to “be a baby!” Give them all the hugs and kisses they could ever want or need — get them in while you can!
I remember that when I was sick growing up, nothing was better than a little extra love from Mom, and your baby probably feels the same way.
2. Feed Them Cookies
Sometimes babies lose their appetite when they’re under the weather, or they don’t eat quite as much as normal.
So when my toddler pointed at a container of homemade butter cookies and said “Oooohh,” I indulged her.
She had refused two nursing sessions, so I was happy that she was expressing interest in eating anything!
To make sure she didn’t get dehydrated I offered some water and she readily gulped from my glass (no sippy cups here — she’s a “big girl,” remember!)
I’m not a fan of feeding sugar to babies and toddlers, but sometimes when they’re sick and not eating or sleeping well anyways, you do what it takes to get a smile and something in their belly.
3. Let Them Watch TV
This is probably starting to sound like a list of what not to do with your baby, but again, guilty pleasures every once in a while won’t hurt.
When they’re sick, my girls are absolutely content to just sit on my lap, nibble on a snack, and watch their favorite shows. I think it takes their mind off how crappy they feel.
If relaxing and watching television gives your child a bit of relief, why not?
4. Take a Bath, or Two, or Three
Our girls all LOVE bath time, whether they are sick or not!
A bath is always cause for wiggles, claps, squeals of glee and shouts of “baahh!” (toddler-speak for “bath.”) Even if she’s fighting a nasty bug, a bath works wonders for our littlest to brighten her spirits and entertain her for as long as my knees can take sitting on the mat beside the tub!
As a bonus, baths are excellent for relieving sinus congestion and helping to bring down a fever (if you use lukewarm water), so they can physically make a baby feel better too.
When our middle daughter was a baby and got the flu, there were a couple nights where we gave her multiple baths to keep her happy and relieve some of her discomfort.
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Thank goodness for her Angelcare Bath Seat which allowed her to relax and recline (plus it dries off super quickly!)
With my two younger daughters, we co-slept for the first three weeks of their lives because I’d had c-section births. I couldn’t the babies in and out of the crib!
As soon as I was physically able to do so, however, I moved them to their cribs so I could have my bed back!
However, when they got sick, occasionally I let them snuggle in our bed we all can get some sleep together. It hasn’t created any “bad” habits, but it has let us all get some much-needed rest.
Sometimes the Best Way to Comfort a Sick Baby is Trusting Your Gut
No matter how vigilant your are about keeping the floors clean and washing hands, it’s inevitable that babies will get sick.
And then it’s on us to try to keep them as content and comfortable as possible. And sometimes that means breaking a few of the “rules.”
A little TV, a couple cookies…extra snuggles. Whatever works! Those are the things a doctor might not tell you, but sometimes that is what works the best!
Trust your gut mama…you’ve got this!
Just a note: When my baby is sick, I always check in with the doctor first, just to make sure that we’re not missing any signs of something more serious. We are fortunate to have a close friend who is a pediatric doctor, and she graciously answers my texts at all hours. Always consult your pediatrician when you think your baby is coming down with something.
Originally published July 1, 2015; updated January 15, 2021
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