It's become frighteningly clear to me that making comments like, "My babies have never been sick," as I did in my last blog post on formula-feeding, are surefire ways to tempt fate and get a swift karmic kick in the ass. Yep, just a few days later, my 8-month-old boys got sick with fevers and colds, the works. (With that in mind, I should mention that I've never won the lottery. No big jackpot here, nope, never, not me.)
Anyway, while I thought I was pretty well prepared for my babies to get sick -- you know, armed with the infant care kit I got when I was still pregnant -- I really wasn't. Our medicine cabinet was lacking, my general knowledge was lacking, and I emotionally was not at all ready to watch my babies cry and snarf and sneeze their way through their first real colds. It taught me a few things, that's for sure...
If your babies have already gotten sick, then this is all probably old, obvious information to you. But for those of you who have yet to deal with your first whimpering sniffles, here's what I learned:
- Know the right medicine dosage: As soon as my little guy's fever spiked, I called the pediatrician to find out what I should do. Since it was early afternoon, I was able to reach him and find out what medicine to give, how often, what amount, and other ways to bring my baby's fever down. Had his 103 temp hit in the middle of the night though, I wouldn't have been totally confident about how much medicine to give him, if I even should, if I needed to keep him warm or cool. And, yes, although I do write for the Internet, I refuse to rely on it as a medical source. Since a baby's fever tends to spike in the late afternoon and evening, you may not be able to reach your doctor right away. So, it seems to me that the safest bet is to keep acetaminophen on hand and ibuprofen (if your baby is over 6 months), and get a dosing chart or guidance from your doctor when your baby is still well. Our doctor believes it's best to treat a baby's fever, but many pediatricians think if it's under a certain degree, you should let the fever run its course. It's good to know ahead of time where your doctor stands on that, and gauge your own feelings about it when you're not holding your poor, sick, miserable baby in your arms.
- Have a reliable thermometer on hand: When I could feel the heat coming off of my poor boy's cheeks and forehead, I grabbed the digital thermometer from aforementioned infant care kit. What a piece of crap! The numbers were all over the place, my guy would not hold still as I tried to stick it under his arm, and it turned out, with the underarm reading, I had to assume his temperature was a whole degree higher. Yes, I could have gone the, er, rectal route, but if the little guy wouldn't let that thing under his arm, then how was I going to get it up his butt? Besides, the damn thing was jumping around with every reading. Screw that, my baby was burning up. So I went out to the drugstore and spent $30 on one of those ear thermometers which gave me an instant reading, without all the squirming. Of course, it was so cool, I then became obsessed with it and was taking their temperature like every hour.
- Keep a cool mist humidifier clean and ready: We've had one since the little guys were born, but ours had been in the closet since before Christmas. So the filter was nasty, the inside needed a good cleaning -- it just wasn't ready for use. So, in the midst of my little guys shnookling and crying, I was replacing the filter and giving that thing a thorough scrubbing. It definitely is a lifesaver during the night when they're most miserable and congested.
- Try the Nose Frida: When my babies were about four months old, teething had them all mucuousy and stuffed up, so I tried the Nose Frida to clear them up. Basically, it's a tube with a filter that allows you to literally suck the snot out of your baby's nose. Yes, you do gross things for love. Unfortunately, these days, my little guys won't let me near their nostrils with that thing, but it works twenty times better than those nasal aspirators they might have given you at the hospital. So, I highly recommend at least giving it a try. If your baby will sit still, it's totally gratifying. If he won't, you can at least try to suck out some snot on the fly. I keep trying to pull fast ones on my guys -- something is better than nothing.
- Keep your baby hydrated: Fever or no fever, your baby may not want the breast, the bottle, or food. But, it's important that they at least get the milk they need to stay hydrated and nourished. When my guys weren't finishing their bottles, I'd wait a bit, and then offer them more later. Small doses seemed to do the trick.
- When all else fails, give your baby a bath: There were a couple of days there where both boys were just so uncomfortable and miserable, crying and wailing and both needing to be held. Unfortunately, I'm one Mommy with two babies, and in their sicky state, they didn't feel like sharing me. Not fun, people, not fun! Finally, I decided to put them in the one place (aside from Mommy's arms) that I know makes them happy: the bath! When they were feverish, I kept the bath water tepid and sponged them with the cooling water. But, when their fevers were gone and they were just all bummed out and shnookly, I'd first let the hot water run for a little bit beforehand to get a good steam going in the bathroom. Then, I'd get the water to a comfortable temperature, and put my little guys in. Seriously, it was a miracle! They went from sad little guys to baby mermen, splashing all around. And the high lasted for a good hour or so after -- sweet!
- Be prepared to be a bigger wussy than your babies. You think a cold is no big deal, and maybe can handle illness just fine when you're the sick one. But when your baby looks at you with his big, watery, sad, red eyes, and snot is coming out of his nose and he's rubbing his little fists furiously against his nose, with that face like, "Mommy, what's haaaaaaaappening?!" you can actually physically feel your heart breaking. No joke, I've had chest pains for almost two weeks. And, I think I've cried more in the last few days than they have. Hey, at least I didn't cry in front of them, right? Regardless, it's clear I need to buck up because this is certainly not the last time they're going to get sick, and we're going to likely see much worse than this. But, as my friends with older kids tell me, it's never, ever easy watching your little ones sick, no matter how old they are, whether it's their first cold or their 100th. So, I survived this rite of passage, a little tougher and better prepared for when the next cold or fever or flu hits.
What's your best advice for when your baby gets sick?