Baby’s first year is both magical and mysterious. The magic happens with each smile and coo, and with every milestone reached.
The mystery happens with each fever and sniffle, and with every miserable night of inconsolable wailing and fussiness.
Figuring out what’s wrong with your little one is difficult, and deciding how best to treat it is sometimes even more confusing. We’ve put together a little cheat sheet of remedies and ideas for the most common causes of discomfort during a baby’s first year.
From the first drool to the first toothy grin, those little pearly whites seem to take forever to push through the gums. Teething symptoms can include drooling, irritability, chewing on objects, red cheeks, slight fever, and swollen gums.
Here are the safest ways to relieve sore gums.
- Let him chew on a teether (many parents swear by Sophie the Giraffe). Teethers chilled in the fridge offer cool relief, but don’t freeze them!
- Fill a bottle with water and let baby gnaw on the nipple. Or wet a washcloth and let her suck and chew on that.
- Try Hyland’s Teething Tablets, a homeopathic remedy you can find at most drug stores and grocery stores.
- A dose of Infant Tylenol or Infant Motrin might help baby settle at night, but check with your pediatrician for proper dosing, and use sparingly.
- Give baby frozen banana chunks or frozen fruit slices (berries, peaches) in a mesh feeder, or offer her frozen bagels to gnaw on.
- Massage baby’s gums with a clean finger, or wrap your finger in a moistened, cool washcloth. Note: Rubbing the gums offers relief for some babies but irritates others. You’ll know quickly whether you’re making it better or worse!
- Avoid gels that numb the baby’s gums. With so much extra saliva, the gel can be washed away almost instantly, and there’s the risk of it numbing the baby’s throat, which could interfere with their natural gag reflex.
Colds and Coughs
Infants are too young for over-the-counter cold medications, but when your baby’s sniffly and miserable, “waiting it out” seems cruel and unusual — for both of you. To speed your baby’s healing time, try the following:
- Create your own steam room by letting your shower’s hot water run, then sit in the bathroom (door closed) with your baby for 10-15 minutes, three to four times a day. This will help loosen baby’s congestion. Afterwards, use a bulb syringe to gently suction secretions from baby’s nose.
- Saline (salt and water) nose drops are good for thick, dry nasal secretions. Use a brand made specifically for infants. Tilt baby’s head back and put 2-3 drops in each nostril. The saline will loosen secretions and make them easier to suction out.
- Use a cool mist humidifier in baby’s room at night to keep the air moist.
- Give your baby plenty of fluids to help thin secretions and prevent dehydration, especially when diarrhea is present.
- Keep baby’s head elevated to make it easier to cough. Keep your baby sitting up as much as possible, and put a pillow under the head of the crib mattress.
- Body aches and pains are common during a cold. A nice warm bath followed by a gentle all-over body massage can help soothe an achy little body.
When a tiny tummy is upset, the screaming can be not only ear-splitting but heartbreaking as well. Even full-term babies are born with very immature digestive systems, and the most common digestive issues for infants are gas and acid reflux.
- Signs of gas include crying after eating, pulling up their legs and lying curled up. To relieve gas bubbles:
- Be sure to burp baby during and after feeding.
- Lie baby on his back and massage his stomach softly in a clockwise direction with your hands. Then move his knees up over his stomach. Repeat both motions if necessary.
- Try an over-the-counter medication like Mylicon Drops.
- If breastfeeding, adjust your diet to try to find the culprit for some of baby’s discomfort. (The first thing to elminiate from your diet is typically cow’s milk. Do this for at least three weeks before deciding whether you see a difference in your baby’s eating habits or level of fussiness.)
Gastroesophageal reflux (GER) occurs when stomach contents come back up into the esophagus during or after a meal. Symptoms of GER include excessive spitting up, vomiting, coughing, irritability, poor feeding and blood in the stools. To relieve acid reflux:
- Keep baby upright in your arms for 30 minutes after a feeding.
- Tilt the crib mattress so that baby’s head is 30-45 degrees higher than his feet.
- Give your baby smaller, more frequent feedings.
- If breastfeeding, adjust your diet to try to find the culprit for some of baby’s discomfort.
- Warm a cloth diaper or a towel in the microwave, place it over your knees and lie your baby face down across the towel. (Make sure it’s not hot!)
- Consult your pediatrician about the possibility of thickening baby’s breast milk or formula with rice cereal.
- Consult your doctor about possible prescription medications used to treat GER.
Ear infections can come on quickly, causing parents to mistake their baby’s sudden irritability as teething or something else. If your baby is pulling at her ear, spikes a fever, is generally irritable, has diarrhea or loss of appetite, she may have an ear infection.
- Call the doctor to have the baby tested for an ear infection.
- Administer any antibiotic prescribed to the very last dose.
- With your pediatrician’s OK, offer baby Infant Tylenol or Infant Motrin to relieve her discomfort and pain.
- Try a homeopathic remedy such as putting 2 to 3 drops of warm onion juice in each ear, or 1 to 2 drops of warm olive oil in each ear.