Tips to Comfort Your Sick Baby

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on May 19, 2015
2 min read

When your baby is sick with a cold, some simple remedies and a big dose of love can make them feel more comfy. And of course, that means you'll get a lot more rest, too!

Your baby's stuffy head, runny nose, or cough can keep them awake. Try these tips:

Use a humidifier or cool-mist vaporizer. They add needed moisture to the air in their bedroom. That helps keep their nasal passages moist, and reduces nighttime coughing and stuffiness. Be sure to clean the device regularly so mold doesn't grow inside it.

Raise your baby's head. Lying flat makes a cough worse, which is bad news for bedtime. Lifting the head of your baby's crib a few inches can help. You can also place books under the legs, or roll up a towel and put it under the head of the mattress. 

"This keeps the mucus draining in the right direction and helps ease coughing," says Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, a pediatrician and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Like grownups, babies need plenty to drink when they're sick. Fluids help thin mucus, which makes it easier to clear. 

For babies under 6 months, breast milk and formula are the best options. Older babies can also have water, juice, or small amounts of rehydration solutions.

Offer small amounts of warm, clear fluids to help thin out mucus for older babies. Try 1 to 3 teaspoons of warm apple juice or water four times a day while the cough lasts.

If your kid is older than 12 months, you can also use honey. Offer 1/2 teaspoon to a teaspoon throughout the day as needed. You can use it before bed, too. Studies show it works better than cough syrup to ease hacking at night.

For coughing spasms, try the mist from a warm shower. Sit with your baby in a steamy bathroom.

You don't need to treat every high temperature. "If your child is drinking and doesn't seem too uncomfortable, it's fine to leave the fever be," says Claire McCarthy, MD, a pediatrician in the Primary Care Center at Boston Children's Hospital. "But if she's uncomfortable, not drinking, or otherwise acting ill, bringing down the fever may help her feel better."

Check with your doctor about whether you should use acetaminophen or ibuprofen for a fever. The doctor can recommend the right dose, especially if your child is under 2. Don't use ibuprofen in infants under 6 months.

One note of caution -- don't give cough and cold medicine to kids under 4. If your child is between 4 and 6, talk to your doctor about whether you should give medicine to relieve symptoms.

When your baby's sick, there's no greater comfort than holding them close. Whether in a baby carrier or in your arms, they'll love the attention -- and it will probably make you both feel better.