Babies under 4 months old can only breathe through their noses, so when they get congested it can be hard for them to nurse. Here are some ways to help a stuffed-up infant breathe easier.
Step 1: Cradle baby Cradle your baby in the crook of your arm, or lay her down on a changing table or some other safe spot.
Step 2: Squeeze saline Gently tip her head back and squeeze a few saline drops into each nostril. Wait a minute or two to let the drops loosen the mucus clogging her breathing passages.
TIP: You can make your own saline drops by dissolving one teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water—but never give your baby any kind of medicated nose drops.
Step 3: Suck out mucus Now use the bulb syringe to suck out the mucus. Squeeze the bulb flat, hold it just inside your baby's nostril, and slowly release it.
TIP: Sometimes a baby will make your job easier by sneezing out the mucous after the drops are put in her nose. Just gently wipe it away—no bulb syringe necessary.
Step 4: Use washcloth Use the washcloth to wipe away any nose drops that dribble out, as well as any mucus that escapes the syringe.
Step 5: Dab on jelly If the skin around your baby's nose is red, dab a little petroleum jelly on it to relieve the irritation.
TIP: If your baby's having trouble nursing because she's so congested, use the saline drops and bulb syringe about 15 minutes before she's due to eat.
Step 6: Sit with shower running Your baby may also benefit from steam. Sit with her in the bathroom with the shower running full blast on hot and the door closed for about 15 minutes.
TIP: Giving your baby a warm bath using baby-safe products with a menthol scent may also help.
Step 7: Run vaporizer At naptime and bedtime, run a cool-mist vaporizer in her room to keep the air moist.
Step 8: Place towels under mattress To help ease congestion while she sleeps, slip a few rolled up towels under the end of her mattress where her head will be. Don't tilt or prop the crib itself.
Step 9: Increase fluids Increase the amount of fluid your baby takes in, by nursing or bottle-feeding her more often than usual.
Step 10: Look for signs Throughout the day, keep an eye out for signs that she may have something worse than a cold, such as high fever, no interest in eating, or lethargy—especially if she's under 3 months. Otherwise, keeping her nose as clear as possible and offering lots of cuddles should help her feel better in no time.
FACT: Children catch as many as 6 to 10 colds a year; grown-ups usually get only 2 or 3.