How to safely help a baby who is congested

Posted in Baby Health.

Your baby’s first real cold can be a distressing experience for everyone involved.

Seeing their tiny little faces cop the brunt of snot and congestion is hard and when they find it hard to breathe, it can make you feel quite powerless to help them. 

According to Sydney GP, Dr Elysia Thornton-Benko, there are several things you can do to ensure your baby’s comfort during the cold and flu season.

“Baby’s first cold will interfere with sleep and feeding and be generally distressing because babies are nasal breathers,” says Elysia.

“First up, do a basic check over and make sure baby doesn’t have a fever, or is otherwise unwell. Have they still got regular wet nappies and just as interactive as they should be? And step up hygiene measures around the home and make sure everyone is washing their hands.”

Listen to Dr Elysia Thornton-Benko  on Feed Play Love:

Grab saline drops, not spray

“Saline or salty water drops in the nose, before feeding and before sleep, can do wonders,” says Elysia.

“Avoid the saline sprays for really little babies. Sometimes you can get a little suction but use your common sense with those, and don’t be too rough about it.”

Elysia recommends applying a couple of drops in the baby’s nostrils and then put them straight on the boob or the bottle. 

“These drops tend to loosen stuff right away, and you will find baby is more able to breathe through the nose. It may only offer short-term relief but it will get you through those next few hours, and hopefully help you to settle baby down to sleep safely.”

Elevate baby’s head safely

“When your baby is snuffly, head elevation can be helpful, but you have to be careful that the baby doesn’t roll off onto the side of the cot. Put a pillow under the mattress of the cot, not under their head,” says Elysia. 

Make sure you check on baby regularly and also look up the Red Nose website to double check that you have placed the pillow in with baby correctly. 

Baby not feeding much? Try not to worry

“In the short term, don’t worry about it. They need to and want to be feeding, but if they have a little bit less for a while that’s okay,” says Elysia. 

“Focus more on hydration. Extra short breastfeeds or boiled water and if they are onto solids, try not to be too fussy and just give them what you know they will eat.”

Elysia also recommends watching your wet nappy ratio: “They need at least five wet nappies over a 24-hour period, that’s the best indication of hydration.”

Vaporisers and humidifiers – yes or no?

“Cold, dry air can make this congestion worse, so warm, moist air can be more soothing, ” says Elysia. 

Just be sure to follow the operating instructions for each model. 

When to see your doctor 

If your baby’s symptoms continue for more than a week or you are quite concerned about your baby’s well-being, Elysia recommends seeking your doctor’s advice. 

“Other signs to be cautious of are if they are extra sleepy during the day, or if the noisy breathing has been around since before baby’s cold or flu-like symptoms.”


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