Soothing Your Sick Child

A sick baby is rarely a happy baby. Your infant or toddler will likely be fussy and out of sorts during her illness. You'll want to check in with your pediatrician, of course, and follow all treatment instructions. Beyond that, you'll just have to wait for the illness to run its course, especially if your baby is sick with a viral infection. In the meantime, there are a number of steps you can take to soothe your sick infant.

Sick Baby Tips

Plenty of liquids

Make sure that your child is getting plenty of liquids to prevent dehydration. Depending on whether you are breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, offer your infant the breast or bottle more often than usual to provide both hydration and comfort. Your sick baby may not feed for their normal duration so smaller more frequent will prevent dehydration. Your infant may also enjoy a small 2 to 4 ounce bottle filled with cool water if he is older than 6 months. Don't give water to your infant if he is under 6 months old because his kidneys are not mature enough to handle water. Breast milk or formula is best at this stage. If he drinks less than usual, remember to offer it more often. Your doctor may recommend a schedule of feedings to prevent dehydration. 

Plenty of rest

Lots of rest and sleep will soothe your sick baby and help her heal. Put your baby to bed early, if you can, and encourage naps. Avoid situations that will over-stimulate your baby -- and possibly expose others to her germs -- and keep her as quiet as possible.

Nose drops

If your baby's nose is particularly congested, you can use over-the-counter saline drops, gel, or spray to thin mucus and relieve congestion. Check with your doctor first and ask which specific products she recommends. Use two drops in each nostril before feeding and bedtime, or whenever your baby seems particularly congested

Nasal syringe

After you use nose drops or spray, use a nasal syringe to clear your baby's nose of mucus so she can breathe more easily. Clear nostrils two to three times a day using a nasal aspirator.



Running a cold-mist humidifier in your infant's room will help keep air moist and ease congestion. (Cool-mist humidifiers are recommended over warm, because warm-mist devices present the danger of scalding.) Be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions for changing filters and keeping the humidifier clean, and fill with fresh water every day to prevent mold and bacteria.

Warm bath

Not only will a warm bath soothe your sick infant, it will ease aches and pains, and steam from the warm water will also help clear congestion. Dry your baby thoroughly afterward to prevent chills.

Elevate head

Keep your infant's head slightly elevated to make breathing easier.


By far the best way to soothe your sick baby is to give her lots of love and attention. Hold her and engage in quiet play, give her an infant massage, or read and sing to her. If you are breastfeeding, she may want to nurse more, which will reassure and comfort her. If she likes being in a snugly or sling, bundle her up and do some chores, or take a walk. Talk to her and reassure her, whether she is old enough to understand or not, as your voice will help relax and soothe your sick infant.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Renee A. Alli, MD on October 23, 2018



Jennifer Shu, MD, pediatrician and spokesperson, American Academy of Pediatrics. "Caring for a child with a viral infection" and "Children and colds." "Common Cold" and "Medication Safety."

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