Getting any sleep at night with a baby already comes with its own set of challenges, but having a good night sleep when your baby is congested feels almost impossible.
Babies struggle more than adults to breathe through the mouth if their nose is blocked. So, when they have a cold, they usually end up waking up multiple times a night. This can leave the whole family feeling exhausted!
Small babies in particular are more susceptible to catching colds because they are still developing their immune system. When my daughter started daycare at 6 months, it was the beginning of winter and she ended up catching one virus after another. It was such a tiring and stressful period!
Tips to help your congested baby breathe at night
All those sleepless nights really made us think hard about how to help our little one be more comfortable when the baby is congested. I have listed below all the best tips that we learned on how to survive the night when your baby has a stuffed up nose, including tips on how to prevent these viruses in the first place.
1. Thin the mucus
Use a saline nasal spray or drops to thin the mucus and shrink swollen airways. This will help move the mucus to the front of the nose, making it easier to remove it.
I recommend using drops that are safe for newborns, such as Little Remedies Saline Spray or Nose Frida Saline Spray as they are gentler on the nose. But use a nasal spray for older babies, as it is way more effective and easier to use. Also, it is much faster! When babies get older, they really start fighting you putting anything up their nostrils!
2. Suction baby’s nose
Saline nasal spray moves the mucus to the front of the nose, but all that mucus needs to come out to help your baby breathe better! The spray are always the first step and then comes the suction. There are a couple different ways that you can suction your baby’s nose:
- Use a bulb syringe: this method works quite well, though I have found it to be a bit hard to use by yourself.
- First, hold your baby down while inserting the syringe into one nostril.
- Close the other nostril using your other hand by squeezing the nostril closed (otherwise very little comes out).
- Then, squeeze the bulb to suck any mucus out of that nostril.
- Repeat on the other side.
The older the baby gets, the more they hate the suction of the bulb syringe. The reason why you need two people is because you would need a hand to hold the baby, another hand to squeeze the syringe, and the other hand to close the opposite nostril.
- Use a battery-powered nasal aspirator: This is such an amazing tool to have when baby is very little. It’s extremely gentle on your baby’s nose and very effective. With that said, it’s usually not powerful enough for older babies.
The battery-powered nasal aspirator doesn’t necessarily need two people as it does most of the work for you. Simply flip a switch and you have strong suction. However, the con is that these tend to be pretty pricey.
- Use your mouth with a Nasal Aspirator: Ok this sounds pretty gross, but it’s really not as bad as it sounds, plus it’s one of the most effective ways to remove snot when your baby is congested at night. It’s also the quickest, so your baby doesn’t have much time to complain before it’s all over.
- Place the blue nasal tube into one nostril of your baby’s nose.
- Hold the opposite nostril closed with your other hand.
- Place the red mouth piece in your mouth and suck.
- Repeat with the other nostril until it’s all cleared
There is a small filter in the tubing that doesn’t allow any mucus to go that far. So don’t worry, you won’t have your baby’s snot in your mouth! Although, wouldn’t it be worth it for the health of your baby??
3. Moisten the air
Dry air can make congestion worse. Use a vaporizer or a humidifier to release moisture into your baby’s room and help unclog congestion.
While vaporizers and humidifiers accomplish the same goal of releasing moisture into the air, humidifiers use a motor to convert water to a fine mist, while vaporizers use a heating element to convert water to steam.
I personally prefer using a vaporizer as I found it to be slightly more effective. That said, whichever you choose, just make sure to buy one that’s got enough power to make a difference in the room’s moisture levels, as well as having a tank big enough to hold water for the whole night.
4. Elevate the crib
Raise one side of the crib or bassinet (or the mattress) so that it is at a slight angle. When baby’s head is more elevated then the feet, the mucus can flow down the throat easily without blocking the nose.
If you have an older child that is rolling or crawling, you can use a small pillow. For infants and smaller babies, you can simply fold up a towel or blanket or use a crib wedge under the mattress. This technique can also be used under the bassinet mattress as well.
Never put these on top of the mattress as there should be nothing loose in your newborns crib for safe sleep.
5. Have a steamy bath or shower
Steam can also help loosen the mucus that’s making your baby congested at night. Similar to the vaporizer and humidifier, placing them close to steam is way to make suctioning mucus easier.
You could run a hot shower for a few minutes to create some steam and then sit in the steamy room with your baby for a few minutes. Running the bath will have the same effect, as well. Never leave your child unattended in the bathroom with the steam.
6. Apply a soothing ointment to your baby’s chest and feet
Zarbees Soothing Chest Rub or Vicks BabyRub contain fragrances of eucalyptus, rosemary, and lavender. As they breathe in, the scents will help to make your baby feel calm and relaxed as well as open up their airways and help them breathe a bit better.
If your baby is at least 2 or 3 months old, you can apply some on their chest and feet before putting them down to sleep. Make sure not use the Vicks for adults, which can have the opposite effect on babies and increase the production of mucus!
7. Use eucalyptus oil drops
If your baby is at least 2 months old, you can also try place two drops of essential eucalyptus oil on a tissue or cotton ball and keep it nearby while feeding or while your baby sleeps. An essential oil diffuser can help with this but be sure to read into what oils can be used for babies.
Extra tips to help your baby get over the cold
Here’s some extra tips to help your baby get over the cold in general.
1. Keep your baby hydrated
Offer your baby plenty of fluids, as keeping your baby hydrated helps promote less mucus. Make sure they are drinking plenty of formula or breastmilk throughout the day and water if they’re older than 6 months to hydrate.
If you’re breastfeeding, keep it up as breast milk contains antibodies that can shorten the length of the illness and allow your baby to recover more quickly. Not to mention breastfeeding is a great source of comfort to a sick child.
2. Let your baby rest
Sleep helps speed up recovery, so let your baby rest and take as many naps as needed. If you are in the middle of sleep training or have your baby on a strict nap schedule where you like to wake them at certain intervals, it’s probably best to stop that until your little one feels a bit better.
Unfortunately that may mean longer nap stretches during the day and shorter ones at night, but let them sleep when they’re sleeping.
Definitely do not let your child cry-it-out, as crying increases the amount of mucus in the nose. But I would also put off any gentle sleep training methods for the time being.
3. Honey and lemon
This is not advised for babies under 1, but if your child is at least a year old they can use this tip. Squeeze some lemon juice into a glass of water and add some honey to it. Drinking this remedy will provide relief from both a cough and a cold.
How to prevent your baby from getting a cold
Why just treat when you can do something to actually prevent colds in babies? Here’s a couple of things that you can do to boost your baby’s immunity and prevent them from getting congested at night.
1. Offer foods rich in nutrients and vitamins
If your baby is already on solids, offer them foods that are rich in nutrients and vitamins. You can puree fresh fruits and vegetables into other foods if it’s usually tough to get them to eat nutritious meals.
2. Use Echinacea Drops
Echinacea is a popular herbal remedy that has been found to boost the immune system and to be effective in treating colds and upper respiratory infections. You can buy drops for babies and give them the recommended dose throughout winter.
We give our daughters Echinacea throughout the whole winter, and increase the dose when they are sick, as it also seems to ease the coughs at night that come with the colds.
3. Breastfeed if you can
Like I mentioned before, breastmilk contains antibodies. These not only help your baby recover quicker from a cold, but they also help build up your child’s immune system and protect them from illnesses.
I know that seeing your baby sick can be an awful and terrifying experience, especially when they’re a newborn. However, I hope that you can learn a few ways to manage the symptoms when your baby is congested at night.
About the Author
Monica is the proud mom of two daughters and author of the blog Mum in the woods (link: https://muminthewoods.com/). Here she shares her journey through motherhood, with lots of tips and suggestions on how to have the best pregnancy and birth experience, as well as how to survive the first year of motherhood.