Tips for Surviving Cold and Flu Season With a Baby

baby baby health feeding problems illness newborn Dec 06, 2022
Cold and flu season is hard on babies. There is a sick baby feeling tired while a parent is taking their temperature, to help control common baby illness symptoms.

Did you know it is normal for a baby to have 6-8 (or even more) colds and viruses during their first year of life?

I feel like this year has been much worse than the previous 2-3 years. In fact, my motto for this year's cold season is:

when it rains, it pours

Because, wow...it has been a rough one with so many illnesses floating around.

Speaking from personal experience, Max was sick for 2 months straight with back-to-back viral illnesses.

We are finally able to take a deep breath until the next one hits (which will probably be tomorrow knowing our luck).

In honor of this terrible cold season, I want to go over a few very common illness symptoms that your baby is likely to experience at some point and how they may affect feeding.

If you have questions or concerns about your baby, please call your pediatric provider. If you feel like something is off, trust your gut and have your baby seen as soon as you can.

Feeding your baby with a common cold: runny nose, congestion, and cough

  • General information:

    • Colds AKA upper respiratory infections are caused by viruses and are easily spread, especially in young children.

    • Coughs and colds are very common.

    • Colds are spread when an infected person spreads viral particles by coughing/sneezing/sucking on toys and handing them to a friend, or other gross things babies do like touching boogers and then touching another child.

    • Colds can last from 7-14 days.

  • Feeding your baby with a cold:

    • Bottles/breast: Appetite may or may not decrease. Fluids are important while ill to help loosen nasal mucus.

    • Solids: Appetite for solids may decrease because their tummies are small and may be filled with mucus. 

  • Tips for handling feeding when your baby is sick:

    • Use saline and nasal suction if your baby is having trouble using a bottle or breastfeeding due to congestion.

    • Tylenol or Motrin (over 6 months only) may help your baby feel more comfortable, which may promote eating.

    • Know that it is common for kids to throw up after coughing fits.

  • Warning signs to call your pediatrician ASAP:

    • Your baby is having trouble breathing or breathing more than 50 breaths per minute consistently.

    • You hear wheezing or stridor while breathing.

    • Your baby is throwing up after each feed or refusing all milk.

    • Your baby has 4 or fewer wet diapers in 24 hours.

    • Any other symptoms that are concerning to you.

Feeding your baby with a fever: temperature 100.4 or over

  • General information:

    • Viruses or bacterial infections may cause fever, defined as a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or over. Rectal temps are the most accurate.

    • It is a sign that the body is fighting an infection.

    • Fevers do not HAVE to be treated with fever-reducers, but many parents choose to give the medications to keep them more comfortable. 

  • Feeding your baby with a fever:

    • Bottles/breast: Babies often feel very tired when fevers are getting higher. This may make them not want to drink as much, though it is important because it is easy for children with fevers to become dehydrated.

    • Solids: Babies often do not want to eat when they have a fever, but start to eat again once the fever goes down.

  • Tips for handling eating when baby has a fever:

    • Having a fever is not a bad thing - it is the body fighting an infection.

    • If the fever is making your baby very tired or is disrupting eating, you may consider giving Tylenol or Motrin.

    • Always encourage fluids with fevers to prevent dehydration. 

  • Warning signs to call your pediatric provider ASAP:

    • The fever causes a seizure.

    • Your baby has had a daily temperature over 100.3 for four or more days straight.

    • Your baby has a fever that is not responding to fever reducers.

    • Your baby is don't perking up once the fever goes down.

    • Your baby won't eat or drink, seems lethargic even when the fever goes down, has labored breathing, and/or any other concerns.

Feeding your baby with Diarrhea

  • General information:

    • Diarrhea is three or more loose stools in a 24-hour period.

    • It is a very common illness in childhood, occurring 1-2 times per year.

    • Most of the time it is caused by a virus, though it may also be caused by bacteria or parasites.

    • Sometimes accompanied by vomiting.

  • Feeding your baby with diarrhea:

    • Bottles/breast: May decrease due to cramping/upset stomach/decreased energy.

    • Solids: May decrease due to cramping/upset stomach/decreased energy.

  • Tips for handling feeding:

    • Fluids are very important with diarrhea since it can easily lead to dehydration.

    • Encourage fluids frequently. If your baby or child refuses, try using a syringe or spoon. 

    • You may also try Pedialyte for rehydration. Do not make your own solution.

  • Warning signs to call your pediatric provider ASAP:

    • Baby cannot hold any fluid in.

    • Baby has had diarrhea for greater than 7 days.

    • There is blood in the poop - either dark or bright blood.

    • Baby has fewer than 4 wet diapers in 24 hours, is very tired, and/or is crying without tears.

    • Baby is refusing all fluids and has diarrhea.

    • Baby has a bad diaper rash that won't go away.

Feeding your baby with vomiting

  • General information:

    • The upheaval of stomach contents due to stomach/muscle contraction.

    • Often due to viruses, but it may be something more serious.

  • Feeding your baby with vomiting:

    • Bottles/breast: May want to nurse or take bottles, but they may not be able to keep it down.

    • Solids: Often do not want to eat.

  • Tips for handling feeding:

    • Offering fluids is VERY important.

    • Start with a 5 mL syringe or cup. If they are able to tolerate it, continue to give more every 3-5 minutes.

    • Don't push solid foods and take it easy when you start.

  • Warning signs to call your pediatric provider ASAP:

    • Baby cannot hold any fluid in.

    • Baby has fewer than 4 wet diapers in 24 hours, is very tired, and/or is crying without tears.

    • Baby is refusing all fluids.

    • Vomiting is incredibly forceful (like hit the wall, exorcist style).

    • Any concerns you have.

Feeding a baby with an ear infection

  • General information:

    • Ear infections occur when fluid builds up behind the eardrum.

    • They may be caused by bacteria or viruses.

    • They are often very painful, causing fever and disrupted sleep.

    • They are often associated with colds/upper respiratory infections.

  • Feeding your baby with an ear infection:

    • Bottles/breast: Pressure in the ear may cause discomfort while feeding. Position changes may also cause discomfort. Babies may be reluctant to nurse or bottle feed in a side-lying position.

    • Solids: May eat normally or have decreased appetite.

  • Tips for handling feeding:

    • See your pediatric provider to see if antibiotics are needed.

    • Motrin can decrease discomfort when feeding or eating.

  • Warning signs to call your pediatric provider ASAP:

    • Baby is on antibiotics and symptoms are not improving.

    • Fluid/pus coming from infected ears.

Illnesses are unfortunate realities when it comes to having a baby. 

I cannot reiterate this enough: if you have concerns about your baby, please ask for help. Your intuition is a medical provider's best tool.

I wish you good luck during this cold and flu season.

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