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What to Do if Your Breastfed Baby has a Cold and Stuffy Nose

Crying breastfed baby

Certainly, your baby’s runny, stuffy nose could be explained by allergies. But here, I’m going to primarily address infectious, contagious, viral infections in the winter that cause the really bad stuffy noses and thick icky mucous. You’re in charge of your baby’s health, so if your breastfed baby has a cold and stuffy nose, here’s what to do.

Step up the breastfeeding if your baby has been exposed to germs

A mother recently called me to say she had a terrible case of the flu. She asked me what do to about breastfeeding. I basically said, step it up, if you possibly can! She was petrified that being in close proximity would mean that her baby would get flu, too. Nope. Never happened.

That’s because the custom-designed immunoglobulins (the protective factors) in a mother’s milk will reach a baby’s gut as soon as he consumes it. Then, it will almost immediately be used by his immune system. Consider this like an instant “vaccine,” if you will.

In adults, it doesn’t work that way. We aren’t aware that we’ve been near the infected person, and by the time we have symptoms, it’s hard to ward off the virus. And, I daresay there is no substance on earth that has as many immune-protective factors as a mother’s milk! Hence, babies are in good hands here — literally.

Continue breastfeeding if your breastfed baby has a cold and stuffy nose

If breastfeeding continues as usual, there’s a low likelihood that you’ll need to supplement with something other than your milk. Keep nursing.

However, your milk supply may dwindle if your baby is not adequately draining your breast. And, you can run into mastitis if your milk doesn’t get removed. So, remember to hand express or pump if your baby isn’t fully removing your milk.

Make sure baby is well hydrated

Just like us adults, babies who are ill need to keep up their fluid intake. This includes a baby with a cold and stuffy nose.

How many wet diapers do you need to see? Especially with super-absorbent diapers, it can be hard to tell.  Put one piece of toilet tissue in the diaper for better visualization.

Meanwhile, I’d want more information. Pale yellow (straw) color is good. I’d be very worried if I saw only scant dark amber-colored urine in those diapers.

If your baby has any of the classic signs of dehydration it’s time to call the doctor. Or if your instinct says get help, listen to yourself. (As always, this post is for information only; individuals have different needs, capabilities, and circumstances, so what you do is up to you.)

If your baby is totally disinterested and won’t eat at all, it’s time to call the doctor.

Short, frequent feedings can be key

Your breastfed baby with a cold and stuffy nose may not be able to suckle with her usual speed and gusto, and may putter out sooner than usual. Therefore, shorter, frequent feedings are the way to go.

Remember, too, that your baby may want to come to the breast for comfort. Everyone knows that the mother’s milk is food, fluid, and protection. But sometimes we forget that breastfeeding is also comforting for a baby.

Loosen up that junk in baby’s nose

If your breastfed baby has a cold and stuffy nose, it may be hard to suckle and breathe at the same time.

Getting your baby into a steamy room — like the bathroom after someone has taken a shower, can help to loosen up the thick mucus. You can also run a steam vaporizer in the room where your baby sleeps.

I’ve heard several breastfeeding mothers say they have put a few drops of their milk into their babies’ noses. I can’t say I’ve seen any evidence to support that practice. (But then, who would fund such a study?) In her book, Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Profession, internationally-recognized author Dr. Ruth Lawrence tells us that human milk is a physiologic substance, so this practice probably has merit.

If your breastfed baby has a cold and stuffy nose, you can also use a bulb syringe to remove nasal mucus. You can do this no matter how young the baby is. I admit, this is a task that I don’t like doing, and the baby doesn’t like having it done. But it’s very helpful for really thick, icky mucous. You could use drops of saline, too.

Breastfeed in an upright position

If your breastfed baby has a cold and stuffy nose, she’ll nurse better sitting upright. True, babies younger than six months or so can’t sit by themselves. But you can put young babies in a sitting position on your lap while supporting their backs.

This makes sense, right? Ever sleep on three pillows when you’ve had a head cold? Right. That’s because being in an upright or semi-upright position is less uncomfortable if you have a cold.

Alternatively, you could sit in a laid-back position, about 20-30 degrees off the bed, and put the baby on your breast, face first. Beware, though, this probably increases the likelihood of spreading staph infection onto your nipples. At least one study has shown that the mucous in a baby’s nose increases the risk for maternal mastitis.   

Consider alternative feeding methods

If your breastfed baby has a cold and stuffy nose, nursing will almost always be easier than sucking a bottle. However, if your baby can’t nurse and breathe at the same time, you can try some alternative feeding methods. Put your expressed milk into a cup, syringe, or eyedropper.

Remember a few “do NOTs”  

The American Academy of Pediatrics says you should NOT give children less than 4 years old those over-the-counter cough and cold remedies.

Furthermore, you should not use products such as camphor or peppermint. And before you use any essential oils, check and see if they are safe.

Remember, this will pass

If your breastfed baby has a cold and stuffy nose, you probably feel worried and fatigued. But most cold or flu symptoms don’t last more than a few days. Hang in there! This, too, shall pass!

What remedies have helped your breastfed baby when they’ve had a cold and stuff nose? Have you tried any of these tips? Share this handy info with other parents!

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