I remember when my first daughter started getting her first colds. She had just started daycare at 6 months old and it was the middle of winter. She just kept getting a cold after another and, as much as we tried to keep her warm at home to avoid more bugs, there wasn’t much else that we could do to avoid it.
We went through so many sleepless nights because she couldn’t breathe probably, I thought I was going crazy at some point. Trying to help your baby sleep with a cold, and have a good night rest, can seem like an impossible task at times.
You can imagine how hard it is for an adult to breathe when congested already. Well, for a baby it’s even harder. In fact, babies really struggle to breathe through the mouth. So, if their nose is blocked, they find it really hard to breathe comfortably and sleep at the same time.
Fortunately, there are some actions that you can take to help your little one sleep better at night when they have a stuffy nose. Here’s a list of the best tips we use for our kids. It took us a while to find them all, but once we did, it was so nice to see my daughter sleep peacefully again at night.
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1 Use a Saline Spray
Using a saline spray really helps when trying to clear a blocked nose. The ones for baby are safe to use as many times as you need during the day or night, so flush each nostril with a couple of squirts before going to bed.
What I found though, is that not all saline sprays are the same! Some squirt way more solution than others. My daughter absolutely hates the ones that spray too much at once, so I had to change to ones that sprays less. I recommend trying a couple of different ones and see what your baby likes.
2 Suck the Mucus Out
The saline spray helps, but all that mucus needs to come out! And dabbing the nose with a tissue does not cut it. You have a couple of different options here:
– A battery powered suction: this works wonders when the baby is really small, but after 4 months I found that the suction is not powerful enough to get the mucus out, and the baby becomes too old to stay still long enough to use it!
– A manual aspirator: this works quite well even when the baby is a bit older. The main disadvantage is that, for the suction to work, you need to keep one nostril close with your finger while you suck the other nostril. And babies hate that, so it’s a real struggle to keep them still while you use it.
– Use your mouth: Most people cringe when I say this, but I have found this to be the most effective way to clear my baby’s nose. It’s super fast so the baby doesn’t have enough time to complain, and it clears the nostrils in no time. Just make sure to do it with a tissue in your hand or by the sink so that you can spit it out straight away. (The Fridababy NoseFrida Snotsucker is a highly effective, hygienic must-have for this technique!)
3 Elevate the Head of the Crib
My first daughter slept at an angle for the first 2.5 years of her life! Putting the crib (or crib mattress) at an angle so that the head is more elevated than the feet helps the mucus flow down the throat without blocking the nose.
You can put a pillow, a folded towel, or a wedge under the mattress to raise it. Or you can go for a more permanent solution, like we did, and put some books under two legs of the crib.
Note: The AAP recommends laying your baby on a flat surface to reduce SIDS. If you decide to use this technique, definitely check out their website for the most up-to-date safety guidelines so you can get the whole picture.
4 Take a Warm Bath or Shower
Sit with your baby under a warm shower or in a warm bath. The steam of the warm water in the bathroom helps soften the mucus, so it becomes easier to suck it out.
5 Use a Vaporizer / Humidifier
These add moisture to the air, making breathing easier. Some of them can even be used with oils, like eucalyptus, that really help opening up the nasal passages.
You have the choice of cool-mist or warm-mist vaporizers. They both work great, though I would recommend a warm-mist one because they are slightly less noisy. Either way, make sure you buy one that’s got enough power to make a difference in the room moisture level. We once bought a cool-mist vaporizer that hardly released any moisture in the air through the night.
Also, be sure to keep the device away from baby’s head, and clean regularly to avoid mould growth in it.
6 Rub Some Vapor Rub on Their Chest
Rub some menthol-free vapor rub on the chest before bedtime, this also really helps clearing the nose when sleeping. You can buy the baby one and rub it directly on the chest.
7 Be Patient and Stop Sleep Training
Sleep deprivation with a baby under normal circumstances can be hard already. Dealing with a stuffy nose and no sleep can really feel impossible and can easily tip you over the edge. However, try to remember that babies with a cold are not feeling well and are not having fun either being awake the whole night. It’s very uncomfortable for them and all they need during this time is lots of love and cuddles.
If you are in the middle of sleep training, I really encourage you to stop until your baby feels better. Even if you are using a gentle sleep training method. It doesn’t really work when your baby is sick. Plus, if you let them cry when congested, their nose just starts producing more mucus.
Try not to get frustrated if they now need an extra feed at night. And let them take as many naps as they need: more sleep helps speed up recovery!
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