Knowing what to do when your baby is sick is impossible. Trying to figure out how to get your sick baby to sleep, feel more comfortable, and ultimately feel better can be hard. 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.
Find our best tips for breastfeeding a sick baby here!
When I originally wrote this post, it was because Ryan had spent a week with his first illness.
He had a double ear infection + all four molars coming in and it was basically complete and utter misery.
Being my first baby, I was kind of a hot mess trying to figure out how to keep it together with my first sick baby. It felt impossible.
This post was originally published on July 27 2015 and has since been updated to improve user experience.
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.
What to do when your baby is sick (without going crazy)
And when you have older kids, you have the added stress of an inevitably felt left out and jealous kiddo.
Today I’m coming at you with my original, updated tips for surviving a sick baby with your sanity as well as how to handle jealous, grumpy 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.
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. My middle is usually quiet and happy while watching animal movies on Netflix. When he got sick as a baby, that’s what we did all day.
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.
Have them help choose what you’ll watch. I told Ryan that Owen didn’t feel well and wanted to watch an animal movie 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 and driving around until he passes out.
When trying to figure out how to get a sick baby to sleep, 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 your sick baby to sleep so his little body can do their job!
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My favorite baby must have, sick or not, is the Ergobaby 360 carrier or Ergo Embrace. It’s easy to use, has a ton of different ways to use it, and is super durable.
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.
Both of my boys want to be held 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.
This really made me remember that I love to keep a few different meals on hand that I can just defrost and eat.
Here are some of my favorite options for foods that can be eaten with one hand:
- Bagels with cream cheese.
- Granola/power bars
- Frozen burritos
- Pizza – I make pizza bagels on mini bagels or english muffin pizzas for the boys a lot and it’s perfect to eat one-handed.
- 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 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:
- Easy Spinach Smoothie Recipe
- Pina Colada Smoothie
- Layered Strawberry Beet Smoothie
- Orange Carrot Smoothie
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.
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 substitute. 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, 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.
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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