Baby’s First Cold and What You Can Do to Help

A sore throat or stuffed nose may make your baby want to nurse less. But breast milk is especially important for your little one during this time!

What You Should Do During Baby's First Cold and Why It Helps

When your little one experiences their first cold, it can be tough on you both! Since your baby can’t yet talk, it can be difficult and frustrating for him or her to express that they aren’t feeling well and effectively communicate what’s bothering them. Changes in behavior are often the first sign that your baby may not be feeling well, such as crying more frequently than usual, low energy, listlessness, crankiness, and being more difficult to console. Common physical signs of an oncoming illness include a rash, skin appearing pale or extra flushed, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing through the nose or swallowing, and refusal to nurse or take a bottle.

Oftentimes, a sick baby won’t nurse because their throat is sore or because the congestion associated with a cold can make it hard for your baby to breathe clearly through his or her nose. Despite this temporary challenge, your breast milk is especially important for your little one during this time. Your body can often sense when your baby is unwell and then tailors the composition of your breast milk to provide the vitamins, antibodies, and other essential nutrients that he or she needs most to fight through their illness. Though it can be exhausting, keep breastfeeding through baby’s first cold, Mama! Know that your little one may breastfeed for shorter periods of time due to congestion or throat pain, but you are providing them exactly what they need. Keep in mind that nursing is usually easier for a sick baby than drinking from a bottle, though there are things you can do to ensure you both stay comfortable during feedings and throughout your baby’s first cold:

  • When breastfeeding, keep your little one as upright as possible. Try propping him or her up with extra pillows for added support while nursing. Congestion is often relieved when upright, so also try propping your baby up when they sleep by placing a pillow beneath their mattress. This allows them to be more upright, while also staying safe and snug in their bed.
  • Use saline drops and/or a rubber suction bulb to remove congestion from your baby’s nose before breastfeeding. You will likely have to do this several times through the day and night to continuously clear out backed-up mucus while providing a more comfortable feeding experience for your little one.
  • Use a humidifier in your nursery to keep the air moist and ease your baby’s cold symptoms while they sleep.
  • Feed or simply sit with your little one in a steam-filled bathroom. To do so, run a hot shower and sit outside the tub and/or shower area to nurse your baby or even just relax together – the warm steam can help relieve congestion!

When a sick baby won’t nurse at all, you can instead try giving them breast milk with a syringe, dropper, or cup instead of by bottle or breast. You may also consider freezing some of your pumped breast milk until it’s slushy and then feeding it to your little one with a spoon or cup – the cold, slushy mixture may provide some relief for a sore throat while providing the important antibodies and nutrients he or she needs from your breast milk. However, if your baby’s cold worsens or becomes severe, be sure to visit a healthcare provider right away for professional care.

Maintaining Your Breast Milk Supply During Baby's First Cold

If your little one is nursing less – or not at all – while they are under the weather, it’s important to continue pumping so you can maintain your milk supply. Because breast milk is created on a supply and demand basis, regular expression tells your body to continue production. This is particularly important if there are any changes to how your baby breastfeeds while sick, such as breastfeeding for shorter periods or less frequently through the day and night. Consistent, daily pumping during this time with a reliable double electric breast pump can help you continue providing breast milk – and its antibodies, vitamins, and other nutrients tailored specifically to your baby’s needs – for as long as you choose.

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