It is quite an unnerving experience to watch your little baby having a hard time to suck milk and even breathe while suffering from cold. Babies are so fragile. So, obviously self-medication should not be tried on them. Cold take its own sweet time (about 1-2 weeks) to go away. There are some tried and tested home remedies, which can help soothe your infant at this time.
Saline drops to ease nasal congestion
Small babies have trouble breathing due to nasal congestion. Saline drops can be used to moisten the dried mucous inside the nasal canal. One drop of over the counter saline nasal drops can be put into each nostril by using a dropper. Loose mucous can then easily be pulled out using a bulb syringe. This can really ease the breathing process in babies with stuffed nose. Nose of babies should be cleared before feeding and sleeping at night for peaceful routine during cold.
Steam Treatment to help with nasal and chest congestion
A very bad cold comprising of nasal and chest congestion can cause extreme discomfort when baby is sleeping. Baby becomes irritable and is unable to sleep, as she cannot breathe properly through blocked nose. Dry winter air can irritate the sensitive lining inside the baby’s nose and throat. Humidifier steams the air and keeps it hydrated. This helps in keeping the nasal passages moist and prevents thickening and sticking of mucous inside airways. Thus, keeping the humidifier in room where baby is sleeping, helps to ease her chest and nasal congestion and get a good night sleep.
Humidifier should be kept clean and filters should be changed frequently to avoid bacteria and mold development inside them. Dirty filters can lead to other infections.
Breast milk is rich in antibodies and is the baby’s first vaccine. It prevents many diseases like painful ear infections, respiratory infections, allergies, stomach infections, meningitis, pneumonia, etc. Even if baby gets the infection, breast milk provides antibodies to fight against it. Baby’s immune system is immature and totally depends on the breast milk for immunity. Mother’s milk not only provides immunity against the infections, for which mother is immune but also against the infections that mother has not come in contact so far.
Keep feeding the sick baby
While nursing the sick baby, mother comes in contact with the germs and her immune system start producing antibodies. At the time of next feed, antibodies are passed to the baby through milk. So, mothers should keep feeding the sick baby, as it is the best medicine for her.
Increase the frequency of feeds
Baby is not able to suck the sufficient milk at one time due to congestion. Moms may also express their milk and give it to the baby with the help of spoon or dropper, if baby is not able to take the feed from breast. It is very important to keep the baby hydrated when she has cold. Avoid giving plain water before the age of 6 months as baby’s kidneys are still not mature to handle it and an electrolyte imbalance may occur.
Increase the fluid intake
Warm Fluids help in melting the phlegm and should be given to the sick baby as lack of sufficient fluids can cause the mucus to harden and worsen the chest congestion and nasal blockage. Babies below 6 months should be exclusively breastfeed or can be given formula feed if former is not a viable option. Babies of age more than 6 months can be given other fluids like warm water, warm fresh fruit juices, vegetable soups, pulse soup etc. But, starchy fluids like rice water and milk other than breast milk should be avoided for older babies as they increase phlegm.
Essential Oils fumes for congestion
Some essential oils, which help in relieving congestion, are Eucalyptus, Ginger, Cedarwood, Clove and Thyme. Eucalyptus oil is the best to help with baby’s congestion. It is a very strong oil and please don’t overdo it. You may add one drop of oil along with water in the diffuser once a day only and not daily also. Do not spray the oil on the bed or pillows or clothes of the baby. The fragrant fumes from the diffuser help in opening the nasal blockage of the baby naturally.
Indian households have an old practice of roasting 1 tsp of ajwain (or caraway seeds) in few drops of ghee and then wrapping it hot in a muslin cloth to make a potli. It can be kept on the baby’s pillow. Its fragrance is amazing and it works wonders in opening the blocked nose and chest congestion.