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Baby Tips From Moms and Doctors

By Leslie Petrovski
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Renee A. Alli, MD

Parents, especially new parents, hate seeing their babies suffer. Plus with all the warnings about over-the-counter medications and children under the age of 4, parents of infants are often confused. What’s safe? What’s effective? How can you ease common symptoms in your baby and maintain peace of mind?

Helping babies feel better is as much an art as it is a science. Who better to ask for advice than moms like you and seasoned docs?

Congestion: Moms’ Advice

Congestion tends to be more challenging to deal with in babies than it is in adults. Why? Because babies can’t blow their noses.

To tackle stuffy noses and coughs, moms often recommend propping up the bed along with variations on the theme of water -- think steam and saline. One mom swears by her cool mist humidifier, while others recommend saline spray and a nasal bulb to loosen and suction away mucus.

Doctor’s Take

Miriam Schechter, MD, an attending pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, New York, is also a fan of the saline-and-nasal-aspirator approach for relieving nasal congestion.

She also suggests that parents invest in a humidifier. “This is something parents will get a lot of use out of,” she says. “There’s no magic cure for a cold, but putting moisture in the air can loosen mucus and help it drain out a little better.” A vaporizer can also soothe a sore throat.

When buying a humidifier, she says, choose a simple, inexpensive model. “When patients ask whether to buy cool mist or warm, I recommend cool mist for safety,” she says. “The warm mists have a heating element; you don’t want a child to stick his hand in front of that hot steam or to knock it over. But a cool mist humidifier is something parents will find very useful.”

Constipation: Moms’ Advice

Often the transition to eating solid food changes a baby’s elimination patterns. If your baby is having a hard time having bowel movements, try an ounce of good old-fashioned prune or apple juice.

Doctor’s Take

Moms tend to worry if their babies skip a day, says Schechter. “It doesn’t bother us unless the stool is pebbly or dry.”

Schechter addresses constipation first with education, by explaining to parents what’s normal. As long as baby’s stools are soft and don’t cause discomfort when being passed, the child is probably not constipated, even if the baby goes only once a week.

But if your baby’s bowel movements are hard and dry, she suggests mixing up baby’s diet by cutting back on bananas and adding more fruit juice or baby prunes. “We wouldn’t use medication as a first-line treatment,” she says.

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