You’re nursing baby when you notice the first signs: she’s not eating as heartily and she seems to be breathing a little more heavily. Overall, she’s fussy, and while she doesn’t seem to be eating as much she typically would, she also doesn’t want to stop nursing. Her nose seems stuffy, too, with a little discharge.
You’re probably right if you suspect she has a cold. In fact, most infants will experience up to 7 colds in their first year of life. If your baby is 3 months old or younger, let your pediatrician know baby is not well. Colds in very young babies can easily progress to more troublesome infections, such as an ear infection, pneumonia or the croup, say experts at the Mayo Clinic.
What we call a cold is typically an upper respiratory tract infection caused by a virus. Antibiotics won’t help your baby clear a cold but good home care can. The FDA recommends against using cold or cough medicines in children ages 4 or younger.
Help your baby get through a cold by keeping her as comfortable as possible. Keep her head slightly elevated to ease her breathing. Nurse her as often as possible to help her stay hydrated, and regularly check for any developing fever.
Suction her nose to keep her nasal passages open and use saline drops to help loosen a stuffy nose. Run a cool mist humidifier in the room where baby is, especially when she’s sleeping. This will help moisturize dry and irritated nasal passages. Your pediatrician may recommend using infant acetaminophen to relieve baby’s discomfort. Always use the dosing chart given to you by your care provider, and give baby the dose recommended for her weight.
Keep baby at home and out of childcare during a cold. It typically takes up to a week to clear a respiratory infection but call your pediatrician immediately if baby refuses nursing, won’t drink any liquids or eat any food (older babies), is struggling to breathe or “bluish” in color around her mouth, or is coughing up blood or vomit.