10 Steps to Surviving Baby’s First Cold

I spent the first two months essentially locked up in our house because I didn’t want to expose my baby to germs before her 2-month shots. I knew she would get sick at some point, and probably sooner rather than later as I put her in daycare at 12 weeks.

But I’d really hoped for later…

No such luck. I found myself sidelined with a vicious head cold over the weekend, including a fever, congestion, sore throat and all the rest. Yuck. I was a whiny basketcase on Saturday, full of “poor me”s and and “Whyyyyyyyys” that would put Nancy Kerrigan to shame. But on Sunday, when my poor 10-week-old started snuffling and sneezing and fussing, I realized that I would have suffered two more weeks of the creeping crud to spare her just one day.

Sadly, my pleas to the sickness gods went unheard, and the last 48 hours have been a whirlwind. I think we are now on the tail end of baby’s first cold, and here’s how we survived (products are affiliate links — feel free to remove the tags).

1) Patience

I know — this isn’t something you can buy. Sorry. But you’ll need to just take a deep breath, brace yourself for tears (mostly your own when you see how pathetic and miserable your little one is), a lot of messes and some long days and nights. Every moment that Audrey was sick felt like an hour because there just wasn’t much I could do to help.

And because our girl got sick for her very first Christmas, I had to put aside a lot of my plans. Hey, at least I got the gift of an extra snuggly baby.

2) Steamy Bathroom Snuggles

Especially on the first full day of her cold, when the snot and nose junk caused a lot of congestion, the most effective treatment was to take my diaper-clad baby into a bathroom that was all steamed up by a running hot shower. Audrey went in fussy and came out sleepy and content, thanks to the power of steam. It loosened up a lot of the grossness that was causing her so much pain. We sat in there for nearly 20 minutes, just holding on to each other (as a bonus, it cleared out my nose as well!).

3) Lots of Nursing

Just like when you’re sick, baby needs a lot of fluids when she is sick, so I nursed not only on demand, but sometimes in between sessions. It not only helped her stay full and hydrated; breast-feeding helped comfort her. I loved looking into her eyes and trying to explain to her that it would be OK…eventually.

The antibodies in my breastmilk also supposedly helped (although I’d hoped they would prevent her from getting sick in the first place!)

4) Elevated Sleeping Solutions

Ohhhh to be a fly on our bedroom wall. We usually use a co-sleeper crib next to our bed, but in it, she lays flat on her back. I preferred having her elevated because when the post-nasal drip when down her throat, she choked and gagged to get it out (so scary), finally spitting up a sticky mess.

So we used a Rock ‘n’ Play (one of my very favorite baby products) at the end of our bed, and because I wanted to keep a close eye on her breathing through the night, I slept with my head at the foot of the bed and my feet near my husband’s head. I set my alarm to wake up every two hours so I could make sure she was OK. Blessedly, she slept soundly at night, and I think that helped make her a bit less miserable during the day.

5) NoseFrida (the most bizarre yet effective baby product I have ever used)

This is going to be part of every baby shower gift I give from this day forward. It’s THAT GOOD. And yes, totally bizarre. It’s a nasal aspirator that requires you to suck out the snot from your baby’s nose…

Now, there is a filter and a plastic cap that means you never actually get the nastiness near your mouth, and it all stays inside the tube, so it’s actually pretty hygenic. If you’re like me, you’ll think this is totally gross until your kid is sick and you’re making deals with the devil to help. This thing gets all of the snot and phlegm and sickness OUT OF BABY and that’s the goal, right? Baby didn’t love me using it but as soon as I was done, she would smile and babble — I think it gave her instant relief. See the video below for a demonstration (not me):

6) Saline Spray/Drops

In a haze of Christmas Eve stress-stocking-up at Walgreens, I threw these in my basket and thank goodness I did. I put a few drops of the saline solution in baby’s nose, waited 10 seconds and then used the aspirator…it completely cleaned her out and helped hydrate her poor nose. I have read that too much use can actually dry things out too much, so I tried to keep the drops to four times a day, but always used for the last sucking-out of the day so she could get some sleep.

7) Bulb Syringe

You probably have friends that told you, “DO NOT LEAVE THE HOSPITAL WITHOUT THIS,” and they were right. I threw ours in the bag as we checked out of the hospital but never actually got it out until this weekend. While I think the NoseFrida does a more thorough job of cleaning out the nasal passages, I used the syringe during diaper changes for a quick treatment (it also helps clean up leftover snot that the Nose Frida sucks down but not out).

8) Plug-in Vaporizer

I almost bought some Baby Vapo Rub (note: the adult version is NOT recommended for babies!) but was concerned about putting it directly on her skin. While I could have put some on her clothes or her feet inside of pajamas, I instead used this plug-in vaporizer that released some menthol scent throughout our bedroom. You can control how much is released, so I started on the lowest setting, which turned out to be plenty for us.

(I am ordering a humidifier, stat, since I know this is not our last cold of the season…)

9) Warm Baths

Baby likes her baths anyway, so I figured that getting some of the sickness off her skin after that first dreary night would cheer us both up. But it did more than that — the warm water helped cool her down (she never had an official fever but did run hotter than normal for her), loosened up some of the congestion (thanks in part to the California Baby soap we used) and distracted her for a few minutes. We splashed around, sang some songs and then I gave her a gentle baby massage. Followed that up with fresh pajamas and socks and my girl rewarded me with some big smiles!

10) Pacifiers

My girl always loves her paci, so this wasn’t new for sickness. But she seemed to need it more often — not just for naps, but while sitting on my lap, snuggling on my shoulder and even on the changing pad. She even started holding it in her mouth with her hand, and seemed really comforted by it. I think that it also helped her loosen her jaw and keep her mouth open, which helped her breathe easier. Because I was trying to cut down on the sickness cycle, we actually used four pacifiers in very heavy rotation.

Now, as always — I remind you to err on the side of caution and call your doctor with any concerns. Had Audrey been younger and not had her shots yet, I’d have been more vigilant about checking for fever (I did twice a day anyway, but with newborns you have to be VERY careful) and I probably would have called our doctor. Our bad luck is that she started getting sick around 3pm on Christmas Eve, and the worst of her illness fell on Christmas Day. Not a great time to get help. Had she been vomiting, showed signs of trouble breathing (other than congestion) or anything else, I would have taken her to urgent care or even the hospital. But if you find yourself at home with a miserable, sick baby, these are some things that might help!


  1. Katie says

    Great list! My three-month-old baby recently got his first cold too. It happened right after I went back to work (I am a teacher- germ city!!!) and I felt so bad about it :( I’ve been looking into humidifiers. Do you plan to get a warm or cool one? I’m undecided and have read conflicting things. You always do a great job with your research and decision-making so I’m curious to hear what you think.

    Audrey is so beautiful!

  2. Mary says

    My BabyGirl is now 19 1/2 years old and let me tell you, the blue bulb snot sucker (sorry, that’s what we called it way back in the early 90’s) was a total miracle~We used to make a game out of it and she made some of the silliest faces~We also had to be really careful because my daughter was very prone to ear infections~Glad to hear your little bundle of sweetness is on the mend~The first sickness is the worst, but follow your instincts and you will be fine~

  3. Grandpa Al says

    Your mother was a vaporiser baby with vicks added! The first cold is the scariest. Sounds like you are doing a great job Mommy! Of course when your mother was a baby, we could call Dr. Long at Mid Night and he would awake and give us orders. The good old days. Love You.


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