Having a sick baby is never fun. Trying to figure out how to get your sick baby to sleep, feel more comfortable, and ultimately feel better can be hard. These tips will help! Not only will I show you how to make your baby feel better, but also how to handle jealousy from older siblings who might not be old enough to understand.
When I originally wrote this post, it was because Ryan had spent a week with his first illness after licking the glass of a tank at a very busy aquarium.
He had a double ear infection + all four molars coming in and it was basically complete and utter misery. Add onto it that this was during the time that Alex was working in another state Monday through Friday. And, oh, I found out I was pregnant in the midst of it all.
Suffice to say, I was kind of a hot mess trying to figure out how to keep it together with my first sick baby. It felt impossible.
QUE IRONIC LAUGHTER.
I mean, I knew Ryan would get sick more after that first time. I mean, after his first year in prek we spent an entire 3-4 months continuously sick.
But through all of that, I completely forgot how tough the first illness post-breastfeeding immunity is. So here I am, almost 2 years later, having the time of my life with a sick, horribly clingy Owen.
In case you didn’t know, that was sarcastic.
This post was originally published on July 27 2015 and has since been updated to improve user experience.
When you have littles everyone talks about how hard it is for the kids to be sick or how hard it is for mom to see them sick.
No one talks about how freaking draining it is to be a mom with sick kids.
If your kids are like mine and want nothing but to be held and loved on when they’re sick, you have felt my pain.
So I’ve grown to expect that aspect. But what I didn’t count on this time around with a sick baby was the toddler. My poor, sweet Ryan who inevitably felt left out and jealous because his little brother was getting allll of the mommy attention.
Today I’m coming at you with my original, updated tips for surviving a sick baby with your sanity in one piece and adding something I couldn’t have foreseen. That is, how to survive a baby with your sanity intact AND handle jealous siblings.
For all you mommas out there cleaning the house with a baby on your hip and a crying toddler on your foot, I salute you.
How to Survive a Sick Baby with your Sanity in Tact
Drop all rules and expectations.
First and foremost, understand that all rules are off while your baby is sick. That precious sleep schedule you’ve made? Done.
Meals? No, thanks.
10 minutes of hands-free time? I don’t think so.
Accepting this is the first step to remaining sane. Owen is usually quiet and happy while watching animal movies on Netflix. This meant I spent the better part of the day streaming it and watching with the boys.
Am I an advocate for letting your 1-year-old watch cartoons all day? Absolutely not.
Was I willing to set that aside to keep him happy-ish? You better believe it.
- Sibling Tip: Have them help choose what you’ll watch. I told Ryan that Owen didn’t feel good and wanted to watch an animal movie and together we chose Finding Dory. Not only did he feel involved and like he was helping, but he sat and watched quietly with us.
Get in those naps anyway possible.
When Ryan was sick as a baby, the only way I could get him to nap was to put him into the Ergo and pace the house.
No, I couldn’t sit, and was stuck standing and rocking while he nursed himself to sleep for 2+ hours, but I had my phone and Netflix, so it could have been worse.
With Owen, I have no problem packing the boys up, throwing Blaze on the car TV for Ryan and driving around until he passes out.
When trying to figure out how to get a sick baby to slee, the key is to find whatever works and make it happen.
Sleep helps our bodies heal and fight whatever is ailing us. Sick kids need to sleep. If your kid always sleeps in the carrier, slap it on and walk around your house.
Does he sleep in the stroller? Go to the park for a long walk and listen to some podcasts.
Sleep in the car? Go for a drive. If you can, do whatever it takes to get you baby to sleep so his or her little body can do their job!
Now that Owen is a little older, when he’s sick he wants to lay in my bed with me and hold my hand until he passes out. Not ideal, but it’s what I have to do to make sleep happen.
You may need…
My favorite baby must have, sick or not, is the Ergobaby 360 carrier. It’s easy to use, has a ton of different ways to use it, and is super durable.
Sibling tip: There really isn’t a hard and fast sibling tip here, but just let them know how vital it is to keep quiet so the baby can get better. I let Ryan use his tablet for toddlers when Owen naps, but ONLY if he does so quietly.
Easy, one-handed food.
There might come a time during this when you start to feel like you’ve been transported back the the early days of having a baby except they’re a lot heavier.
Both of my boys want to be help all day long when they are sick. Sometimes I feel like I’m having PTSD to when Ryan had colic and I would rock him for hours and hours on end to get sleep.
Just like back then, all of my meals need to be easy to grab and easy to make. Anything that can be made, held, and eaten with one hand is perfect. This way you can eat while your kid is, say, sleeping in the Ergo.
This really made me remember that I love to keep a few different meals on hand that I can just defrost and eat. I plan on making a bunch of burritos soon and freezing, just like I did when I was pregnant with Ryan.
Here are some of my favorite options for foods that can be eaten with one hand:
- Bagels with cream cheese.
- Burritos (either made while not holding kid or from the freezer. I use taaco night leftovers to throw together a few burritos and freeze.)
- Granola/power bars
- Pizza – I make pizza bagels on mini bagels for the boys a lot and it’s perfect to eat one handed.
- Quesadillas (made before picking up the sick baby or in the microwave)
- PBJ – made either ahead of time, from the freezer, or with a lot of talent.
- Cold Cut Sandwiches
There are a million and seven options, obviously, but go with what works for your family. I can pretty much bribe my kids to do anything with pizza and/or smoothies so you can guess what I fall back on a lot.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!!
This is the number one thing for sick babies – really, any sick person. Make sure they are getting in plenty of fluids.
We keep a sippy filled with ice water on hand at all times. If it seems like they aren’t going for it, start to dilute some juice into it until they agree to drink.
During desperate times, I like to keep powdered kids electrolyte mix on hand, especially for tummy bugs or diarrhea.
Vegetable smoothies have the added benefit of being a meal of sorts when your kid isn’t feeling like eating. But this isn’t just for the babe – this means you too!
You’re going to be stressed, tired, and run-down. Don’t add dehydrated to that list! It makes you so much more susceptible to catching what they have if it’s contagious.
Some of my favorite smoothie recipes for sick babies:
If something’s working, keep it up until it’s not.
This is always big in terms of getting food into little bellies. I remember Ryan really only eating when I spoon fed him, which was weird since we did baby led weaning and never used a spoon.
For Owen, he ate a bit but mostly was just eating pouches and smoothies. I’m totally okay with that – if it’s helping and not hurting, go until it stops working.
If you create some bad habits, you can nip them in the bud when the time comes. Same for naps in a carrier, cuddles while watching cartoons, and multiple cool baths a day.
If it’s working and keeping your kid happy and you sane, keep it up even if it’s weird/time-consuming/a little against how you try to parent.
Sibling Tip: This can be a bit hard to navigate with siblings, so I kind of just go the path of least resistance. If one asks for another pouch when the other is on number 3, I offer a substiture. If it’s a no go, I just give it to him.
It’s not fair in my mind to expect a 3 year old to immediately understand rules that bend like that. So again – if something is working to maintain peace in your house while you all recover, just go with it.
I also make an effort to really emphasize the baby is sick and I need him to “be a great big brother!” This helps with tantrums over wanting to watch “his” show versus Owen’s or whatever.
Follow your gut.
I think this is always the most important parenting tip.
When Ryan had his first illness, our pediatrician’s office told us that 72 hours is normal for a fever if there are no other symptoms like vomiting or inconsolable crying for 2 or more hours.
Ryan woke up with no fever about 48 hours later, so I thought we were in the clear. But his temperature went to 99 in the afternoon and I called the doctor. They said it was probably on its way out, but come in if I wanted to, so I made an appointment for an hour later.
Before I left the house, he was at 101 and diagnosed with a double ear infection at the office. I was SO glad I went with my gut and just took him in. As parents, we know our child better than any medical professional, and only you know if your child is acting unlike himself.
Always, always, always go with your gut on your babies.
Know that it won’t last forever.
At the very peak of it all – screaming, clingy, sweaty baby + jealous, rebelling toddler + life in general – the stress and anxiety can be overwhelming.
The only thing you can truly tell yourself is, this will not last forever.
The next week he will be back to his little tyrant self. All you can do was make him as comfortable as possible and wait for it to run its course.
It is okay to take care of your kids and let things fall aside – it will be there when you come back. It’s definitely a hard thing to accept, but sometimes it’s simply the best you can do.
Tips for Handling Jealous Siblings when the Baby is Sick:
A big hurdle I’m facing now with two is that Owen is sick and requires a lot of attention and Ryan is very clearly jealous.
He’s acting out a bit, regressing on potty training, and generally testing me at every turn. I know that the cause is because he feels left out. That in mind, there are certain things I’ve found to help out with this.
Devote time when possible.
It’s so tempting to kind of just flop in an exhausted heap during the minutes the sick baby falls asleep or start knocking off some things off your to-do list while you can.
But try to spend a bit of time with your big kid. Play a game, eat a snack together, or even just watch an episode of their favorite show. A little goes a long way in making your kiddo feel less jealous.
This will look different for everyone, but a special treat just for your older kid is a great way to help them feel remembered. I’m not saying buy your kids’ love, but every once in a while it can help. For us, after I got Owen to bed I took Ryan out to get ice cream, just the two of us. His mood turned around so quickly spending one on one time with me and getting a special treat.
Bend the rules.
Maybe they have a strict 8 PM bedtime – let him stay up until 8:30. Or if you limit screen time, add a bit to it.
Bending the rules doesn’t mean tossing them out, just maneuvering around to either buy yourself some time to take care of the baby or console your toddler.
Get them involved.
I tried to explain to Ryan that Owen was sick and after a day of that, Ryan started fake crying and saying he was sick to. Obviously, that tactic didn’t work for us.
But getting him involved, like having him fetch a water or pick out a movie for Owen helped a lot. I think feeling like they are in on the crew making baby feel better really helps to make them feel involved and less jealous.
Again, remember that this too shall pass – everything will go back to ‘normal’ eventually. Keep it together while you can – enjoy those few precious moments when everyone one is asleep and/or quiet. Pour yourself a glass of wine – you deserve it. Just make it through.
So, what are your golden rules for how to survive a sick baby with your sanity in tact? Have you ever had to go against your parenting rules in order to make your little one feel better? Let me know in the comments!
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