Home Remedies For Baby’s First Cold


On the night of my birthday dinner, when my husband’s sister was babysitting, Liam came down with a nasty cold: stuffy nose, a cough… the poor thing couldn’t sleep and all he wanted to do was nurse. We rushed home, and I spent the majority of the night in his room rocking him to sleep.

The whole cold thing really did throw me off: I had no idea what to do, especially since he didn’t have a fever. I’m not a fan of medication (unless for a fever, of course), and don’t see the point in using them for viral infections if it’s just to reduce symptoms.

So if Tylenol is out of the question, what can moms do to naturally help their babies’ cold symptoms?

After some research and experimentation: Here are a few safe, natural ways to help your little one get over the common cold… All “Liam tested” 🙂

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Ginger is very effective in treating colds (cough and congestion) in babies. It increases the circulation of blood and also warms up the body so that phlegm is melted and expelled out. Ginger also has antibacterial, antiviral, and antioxidant properties, to name a few of its incredible, natural benefits.

How to prepare it: I simply remove its tough skin to reveal the yellowish flesh, chop it up in small cubes, and add to Liam’s purée for the day. Today, I blended it with butternut squash and mango. For toddlers, make a tea by adding five grams of ginger to one cup of boiling water. Steep for ten minutes and then add half a teaspoon of honey (as mentioned above, this is ONLY for toddlers – giving honey to a baby under 12 months can lead to infant botulism!)

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Garlic is an antibacterial agent that helps destroy the cold-causing bacteria.

How to prepare it: For babies, make a garlic oil ointment treatment, as explained in detail here. For toddlers, make a tea by chopping two garlic cloves and adding to boiling water.

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Turmeric is amazing and should be a part of everyone’s diet. It is so easy to incorporate the spice into your meals — simply sprinkle the spice on meals, dressings, etc… It is revered for its anti-bacterial properties and is believed to prevent infection when sprinkled into cuts and wounds. It is also excellent for digestion, has powerful antioxidant properties, and strengthens the immune system. Interesting fact: research has found that there may be an association between turmeric and lower childhood leukemia rates!

How to prepare it: Add the spice to apple sauce or stir it into veggie purées. However, be aware that it stains everything it comes into contact with… My suggestion is to have a bib for “dirty” foods, like turmeric and beets.

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This is a must: the antibodies in your milk will continue to protect your baby. The more you nurse your baby, the better! Something else to point out: there is a misconception that mothers should stay away from their babies when they are sick. Except in extreme situations, there is nothing better you can do than continue to nurse your child — and besides, your baby was exposed to the illness well before you even knew you were sick… So nurse on!

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We have a humidifier on at all times in Liam’s room (not just when he is sick, but throughout the whole winter to prevent the air from becoming too dry.) It is essential for a stuffy nose as well. Another great option is to run a steamy bath and nurse in the bathroom – it will clear your baby’s nose (since he is forced to breathe in and out of his nose, not his mouth) as he nurses comfortably in your arms.

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This combo works amazingly well, but you can expect some fussiness and even some tears with younger babies. Liam wasn’t a fan until he was a bit older and we were able to make it into a “game”. I use this Boogie Mist Saline Spray then (gently) use the Nose Frida to remove excess mucus. I try to do it twice a day. The nasal bulb works fine as well, but I’m not a huge fan of them (see why here).

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This is an essential oil blend I ordered here. I am always a little nervous about using essential oils on Liam since he is still very young, but this gave me peace of mind: the blend is pre-diluted in coconut oil and totally safe for little ones. Another option is to make your own chest rub (similar to Vapo Rub), explained in detail  here. Love the idea!

Note: Regardless which method you choose, always take your baby’s temperature regularly to make sure he or she does not have a fever. Fevers above 100 degrees should always be a cause for concern and precautions should be taken immediately.

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Johanna Riehm teaches in the department of Communication and Media at Manhattanville College and in the department of English at Mercy College. She teaches courses in the history of communication, public speaking, and social media, as well as creative and technical writing workshops. Johanna’s work has been featured in Graffiti Literary Magazine, The Write Place at the Write Time, The Bangalore Review, Cactus Heart Press, and the LaMothe Review. She is working on her first longer work, a creative nonfiction novel called We Carved Our Names in Tamarind Trees.

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