Baby’s First Cold: What to Expect and How to Prepare


Bellamy’s Organic provides this information as general information only. If you are at all concerned about your child’s health or wellbeing we recommend that you speak directly with your pediatrician or another qualified healthcare professional.

Babies are tiny, precious creatures, which make them great for cuddles and cooing over, but also very vulnerable. Did you know that on average, babies have between eight and ten colds every year?

Colds are common throughout childhood, but what may seem like a bad thing can often be the opposite. Each time your baby has a cold, they are not just fighting a different virus, but remembering how to fight it. The next time they are faced with the virus they can quickly shut it down, meaning once they’ve made their way through the 200 or so viruses that cause colds, their immune system can handle any cold virus that comes their way. An adult life that’s free from sniffles – imagine that!

Colds, for the most part, aren’t something to fear, but on someone so tiny you can’t help but feel sad for them. In fact, your heart is likely to break as you watch them battle their first ever cold.

What to expect from baby’s first cold

The common cold comes on slowly and generally lasts for around nine days. Three days coming, three days present, and three days going. The first three days is when your baby is contagious, which is quite unfortunate considering you’re likely unaware that anything is going on. You may find they’re a little fussier than usual and seem slightly ‘out of sorts’, or that they’re not eating as much as usual.

By day three, you will have likely spotted a runny nose, which signals that your baby’s body is working to fight a virus it’s picked up. Mucus should be thin and clear, and running constantly. Because of this you may need to pick your battles when it comes to wiping their nose. Do it too much and they’ll be forever fearful of the common cold.

In the early-middle stage of the cold your baby may present a fever. If your baby is between three and six months old and has a temperature of more than 38 degrees, or is over six months and has a temperature of 39.4 degrees, call a doctor.

By day four, baby’s mucus will have started to thicken and turn a shade of yellow. This is the ‘classic stuffy nose’ we all recognise and loathe, and can be the trigger for a cough come night time. If mucus travels down the nasal passage when lying down, your baby’s body will cough to keep the fluid out of her lungs. This of course relates to a lack of sleep for both baby and you.

By day seven, mucus will have thickened again, making it a little crusty. Temperature should by this stage be back to or returning to normal, and appetite will be back.

Preparing for baby’s first cold

The truth of the matter is that however much you prepare for your baby’s first cold, it’s still going to be hard. Hard because although you are prepared, your baby isn’t and won’t understand what is happening to them. They’ll be hot, stuffy nosed and irritable, and will have no idea that it’s only temporary. No parent wants to see their child suffer in this way. That’s why you do everything in your power to ease your little one’s pain…

1. Have medicine on hand and know the right dosage

Fevers tend to strike late afternoon or during the night, so don’t expect that when baby gets their first fever that you’ll be able to call your pediatrician for instructions. Check with your baby’s primary health carer to gauge their thoughts on medicine, and have the right medicine on hand with the instructions and dosage written down. Act while your baby is well and you’ll be better prepared for that 11pm fever.

2. Have a decent thermometer on hand

Again preparing for baby’s first fever, have a high quality thermometer on hand and practice using it when baby is well. Taking a wiggly worm’s temperature can be tricky, so get your baby used to the process early on. That way you won’t have to fight with your baby to keep still, and you can get an instant reading.

3. Practice syringing

Most babies aren’t capable of blowing their noses until age two, and therefore holding a tissue to your baby’s congested nose might not do a lot. Instead, you may like to use a bulb syringe or aspirator.

To use a bulb syringe, guide the rubber tip into one nostril and gently squeeze and release. The suction produced will draw clogged mucus out of the nose and into the syringe. Not to be used too often (you could end up irritating your baby’s nose), it can be a great way to get rid of stubborn mucus. Baby’s over six months old tend to bat it away, however, so get them used to it when they are well and happy.

4. Understand saline

A baby’s natural instinct is to breathe through their nose, and when it’s blocked this can not only be hugely frustrating, but also cause disruption to sleep and feeding. Saline solution can help, however, by clearing your baby’s nose at key times.

A gentle saline solution loosens and thins mucus so your baby can breathe easier and more naturally, and will soothe inflamed nasal tissue. Being non-medicated, it can be used as often as needed and is ideal just before a feed or sleep. When combined with a bulb syringe, it can work wonders for your baby’s blocked nose.

5. Invest in a cool mist humidifier

Humid air is a great natural decongestant during the night and a cool mist humidifier will moisten dry winter air. Running a humidifier in baby’s nursery can soothe a wheezy cough, loosen mucus in their lungs and clear their nasal passage as they sleep. This of course results in better sleep, which is hugely important for speeding up cold recovery.

The reason for choosing a cool mist humidifier over a hot water vapouriser is simple. It comes without the risk of hot water being left near your baby.

6. Protect yourself

As the primary caregiver, you’re of course susceptible to any cold germs your baby is carrying. If you’ve prepared your body for this exposure with a healthy, organic diet, plenty of sleep and regular exercise, you’ll be in good stead to fight off anything that tries to take over. The last thing you want is to be feeling rotten yourself when caring for your sick little one.

Keeping calm

While colds are not a pleasant experience, a cold will rarely cause serious harm. It’s important to remember this and not panic when one strikes. Monitor your baby, help ease their symptoms, and call the doctor if you’re really concerned. Being prepared will help you remain calm, and if you’re calm, your baby is likely to be calmer too. Colds are a natural, normal part of life, so take the time to learn how to manage them effectively.

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At Bellamy's Organic, we believe a pure start to life means providing your little one with uncomplicated nutrition – good food that is straightforward, wholesome & nutritious. Our pursuit will always be to provide pure food that nourishes the gentle tummies of the little ones in our lives.