Soothing Your Sick Child

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on December 08, 2022
3 min read

A sick baby is rarely a happy baby. Your infant or toddler will likely be fussy and out of sorts during their 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.

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 they are older than 6 months. Don't give water to your infant if they are under 6 months old because their kidneys are not mature enough to handle water. Breast milk or formula is best at this stage. If they drink less than usual, remember to offer it more often. Your doctor may recommend a schedule of feedings based on your baby's weight to prevent dehydration. 

Plenty of rest

Lots of rest and sleep will soothe your sick baby and help them 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 their germs -- and keep them 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 they recommend. 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 they can breathe more easily. Clear nostrils two to three times a day using a nasal aspirator, especially before feeding and bedtime.


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