32 Natural Remedies for Colds, Congestion, Coughs, and Fevers in Infants (Newborn to 6 Months)

February 6th, 2012 by Dionna | 25 Comments
Posted in Feed with Love and Respect, Healthy Living, natural parenting, Use Nurturing Touch

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Having a baby who is sick and unable to breathe well can be incredibly scary for parents. Because babies are obligate nose breathers, it is very important to help them clear their airways. And because they are still so small (and often still have a virgin gut), we don’t want to use anything unnatural to help their bodies fight off illness.

Below are natural remedies for helping your newborn get over congestion (colds), coughs, and fever. If you have any other natural remedies, please let me know in the comments so I can add them to the list.

Congestion/Colds

  1. Breastfeed Often So Baby Is Hydrated: Make sure baby is getting enough milk. She may need to nurse more often than usual, because she may not get as much at each feeding. Why? If she is congested, she will not be able to breathe as well while nursing, so she may tire out and not empty your breast as much as usual.1 If your baby is not breastfed, keep him hydrated with whatever formula he is used to drinking. “Don’t give straight water to babies younger than 6 months; their kidneys can’t process it correctly and an electrolyte imbalance may occur.”2
  2. Give Expressed Breastmilk from a Cup, Dropper, or Spoon: If baby is having a lot of trouble nursing, consider expressing your milk and giving it in a cup, dropper, or spoon – especially in an infant younger than four weeks so as to avoid nipple confusion. For more, see Kellymom.
  3. Breastfeed So Baby Receives Antibodies: Breastmilk is rich in antibodies specific to baby’s environment, and this is why breastfed infants “contract fewer infections than do those who are given formula.”3 But what I find even more fascinating is that once your breastfed infant (or child) does get sick, her saliva actually influences the content of your breastmilk! “[I]f a baby contracts an illness that mom has not been exposed to previously, he will transfer this organism through his saliva to the breast, where antibodies are manufactured on site and then sent back to the baby via the milk to help him cope.”4 So keep breastfeeding your sick baby, your body is actively working to make her healthy!
  4. Squirt Breastmilk in Baby’s Nose and/or Eyes: Breastmilk’s antimicrobial properties can also help baby when you squirt it into baby’s nose. If the cold settles in baby’s eyes, you can also squirt breastmilk into her eyes to help clear up the infection.5
  5. Use Nasal Suction: Babies cannot clear their nasal passages by themselves, so parents need to gently assist them. And instead of using the old-fashioned nasal bulb, that can hurt the delicate linings of your baby’s nose, try one that does not go inside the nostril. I’ve used the NoseFrida for years and love it. You can squirt some saline solution or breastmilk into baby’s nose to help loosen up the mucus before sucking it out.
  6. Coconut Oil: Use your finger to gently rub liquid coconut oil in/around baby’s nostrils. Be sure not to put solid coconut oil in the nose, as you do not want to inhibit breathing. You can also rub coconut oil onto baby’s body.
  7. Visit Your Chiropractor: A properly adjusted spine can help with clear respiration, and regular chiropractor visits can actually help prevent colds.6
  8. Use a Humidifier and/or a Pot of Water on the Stove: Especially in winter when our air is much dryer, putting moisture in the air is essential for helping moisten and heal the sensitive linings of baby’s nose. Keeping the nasal passages moist helps thin the mucus, easing congestion.7 So use a humidifier and get a pot of water simmering on the stove for added moisture.
  9. Try Steam Treatment: Along with using your humidifier, really make an effort to let baby breathe that steamy air. You’ll often hear people say to steam up your bathroom – but that takes time and a lot of hot water. Instead, get a towel and drape it over your head and baby’s head (cradled on your chest in a carrier) while standing over your warm air humidifier. Or have your partner help you get some water hot and steamy in a big stock pot, set the pot on a lower surface like a kitchen table (safely – you don’t want to be at risk of spilling or knocking into it), then drape the towel over you and baby. Be sure to stay under the blanket with baby – you need to know how much steam baby is exposed to. Steam can burn – don’t overdo it!
  10. Sleep Upright: Help your baby sleep upright, so the mucus can drain. You can sleep securely in a chair or on the bed propped up against pillows, holding baby against your chest.
  11. Nurse Upright: Kellymom has a tutorial on some good positions for nursing upright.8
  12. Carry Baby Upright: Try not to let baby spend too much time on his back. Wear baby in an upright position to help mucus drain – many mamas like stretchy or woven wraps in the early months.
  13. Consider Probiotics for Mama and Baby: There is evidence that regularly taking probiotics can decrease a baby’s chance of respiratory illness.9 Kellymom has an article about how to give babies probiotics.
  14. Diffuse Essential Oils: There are quite a few essential oils that can aid in relieving congestion. You can either put some in a room diffuser, or put a few drops in your pot of water. Remember, never use any essential oil directly on baby. The essential oils that are good to diffuse to help with congestion are: Cedarwood, Clove, Eucalyptus, Ginger, Lemon, Melaleuca (ericifolia), Peppermint, Rosemary, Sandalwood, and Thyme.10 Add some lavender to help baby relax. See Essential Oil Remedies for Children: What to Use for more on EOs, and for more on the basics of using essential oils, see Essential Oil Remedies for Children: The Basics.
  15. Make a Chest and Feet Rub from Essential Oils: Alternatively, add one or more essential oils to a carrier oil and run some on your baby’s feet or chest. A few that should be safe to try are eucalyptus, lemon, and sandalwood (peppermint is not recommended).11 Again, add some lavender for its relaxing properties.
  16. Sinus pressure massage: With firm but gentle pressure, run your fingers just under baby’s cheekbones to help relieve sinus pressure. This YouTube video shows massage techniques on an adult to relieve congestion.
  17. Get Skin to Skin: Don’t put baby down, try to keep her in arms or a carrier, and give her as much skin to skin contact as possible.12
  18. Try a Natural Vapor Rub: There are vapor rubs available with natural ingredients. My favorite is from The Natural Newborn.

newborn breastfeeding

Cough

  1. Take a Walk: When your baby has croup, her airways have become irritated and swollen, causing that nasty barking cough you hear. Cool air can help reduce the swelling and ease your baby’s cough.13
  2. Humidify the Air: As with congestion, moisture in the air can help ease your little one’s airways and reduce coughing.
  3. Use Essential Oils in a Room Diffuser: Essential Oils good for coughs are: Eucalyptus, Lemon, Marjoram, Ravensara, Rosewood, Sandalwood, and Thyme.14 See the essential oils section above for more information on diffusing essential oils.
  4. Sleep, Nurse, and Carry Baby Upright: As discussed above, keeping baby in an upright position will help relieve coughing.
  5. Keep Baby Hydrated: Keep nursing as much as possible to keep your little one hydrated – that will help the airways remain moist and will pass along mama’s antibodies.
  6. Rub Vapor Rub on Baby’s Feet: Put some natural vapor rub on baby’s feet, then put socks on him.

Fever

It is recommended that if a baby under 3 months has a rectal temperature higher than 100.4 degrees, consult your doctor immediately. For babies older than 3 months, consult a doctor if the rectal temperature is higher than 104.15

  1. Breastmilk: Again, breastmilk is so important for a sick baby. For a baby with a fever, you want to keep him hydrated with a plentiful supply of breastmilk (or whatever formula he normally drinks).
  2. Take a Lukewarm Bath: Climb in the bathtub with baby – keep the water warm, but not too warm.
  3. Stay Skin to Skin: Infants kept skin to skin are better able to regulate normal body temperature.16
  4. Diffuse Essential Oils: EOs good for fever include Lavender and Peppermint. Add a few drops to a diffuser or pot of water.
  5. Apply Diluted Lavender Oil: Dilute lavender oil in a carrier oil and massage baby on the back of her neck, feet, and behind her ears.17
  6. Give Her Cold Feet: Put some cold, wet cotton socks on baby (water or vinegar), then pull some wool slippers or socks over them to help bring down a fever.
  7. Vinegar Sponge Bath: Give baby a cool sponge bath with water or vinegar.18
  8. Onion in Socks: Cut large slices of onion and put them in baby’s socks (use an older sibling’s socks so they fit). When the onion turns brown, the fever should be down.

What is your go-to natural remedy for infants under 6 months?

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Statements on this website have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products and/or information are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease. Readers are advised to do their own research and make decisions in partnership with your health care provider. If you are pregnant, nursing, have a medical condition or are taking any medication, please consult your physician. Nothing you read here should be relied upon to determine dietary changes, a medical diagnosis or courses of treatment.

25 Responses to:
"32 Natural Remedies for Colds, Congestion, Coughs, and Fevers in Infants (Newborn to 6 Months)"

  1. Lovisa

    Cutting an onion in half and putting them in baby’s socks (probably use an older sibling’s socks so they fit) with the cut pieces touching baby’s feet will reduce a fever and turn the onion into a wilted piece of mush. This really works. I’ve done it with my babies.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      TY Lovisa! I’ll add it :)

    • Sarah

      I have never heard of this: putting an onion in the sock! What is it doing that it helps to lower the fever? And will any onion due or does it need to be special (like only the purple ones?) or something like that?

      • Dionna   CodeNameMama

        I’m guessing white, because I just googled and this doctor says when it turns brown, the fever should be reduced. I’ve never tried it myself, but if you google it, there are quite a few people who swear by it. ;)

    • My natural remedy for my baby cold is heating chopped ginger in a frying pan until all water in it vaporized, then put the ginger in a sock or any small cloth bag,touch it to baby’ foot, this is very effective to expel the cold and keep baby breathe easily.

  2. Thank you for this article! My 2-month-old son just got his 1st cold yesterday. I don’t breastfeed, but pump exclusively. I wonder if my body will still manufacture the specifically tailored antibodies for him since his mouth doesn’t contact my nipple?

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Lena – it’s not exactly the same, since his saliva is not directly influencing your milk. However, your breastmilk produces antibodies specific to your environment – and you share that with your son, so it is still awe-inspiring protection you are giving him!

      By the way – you rock for EP’ing!! What an incredible commitment you have!

  3. Amy G   mamagatzemeyer

    Thanks for these ideas! My 10-month old just got her first stuffy nose yesterday. I just tried the breastmilk in the nose treatment. Hopefully it helps her!

  4. Allison   eco_nester

    Thanks so much for this post! I am currently pregnant with my first and have bookmarked this page and I know that I will come back to it often! It’s amazing how much breastmilk can do!

  5. With 2 kids now, I realised we are more relaxed when our child falls sick. We don’t immediately go into panic mode. As our pead adviced, if your child is still alert, active and is as normal, there’s no need to over worry, but do continue to monitor the situation.

    You know, Chinese people (esp old folks) likes to swaddle up the child when they have fever. They want to make the child sweat it out to break the fever but that is not the right thing to do. I mean, if we are like our forefathers still living in China and have winter season, then yes, can practice that but for me in Malaysia (a hot country all year round) it is not practical to do that, and is harmful actually.

    So I tried to advice parents and new mums (when they asked me) to continue sponging, hydrate the child and let them wear airy clothes to let the heat escape to bring down the temperature.

  6. Boy I sure could have used this a few months ago. My little guy got 3 colds during his first 3 months. No fevers, but the poor little guy had snot galore. Fortunately I did most of the things on your list. I am just starting to learn about essential oils and how to use them. One additional thing we did that is not on your list is putting just a drop of tea tree oil behind the ears to ward off ear infections.

  7. Laura   beansprouthair

    Great list!!! We are experiencing our first serious illness of the winter season and I’m nursing like crazy to help as much as I can. My 9.5 mo DD has a horrible ear infection and I’m just broken hearted over it. We made it through the congestion and the coughs, but the ears got it. At least she’s getting lots and lots of cuddling!

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Laura – I just read that you can drop breastmilk into the ear, “follow with warm (not hot) olive oil and garlic, or bottled garlic mullein oil (sold at natural food stores).” (from Mothering)

      I hope the ear infection goes away soon!!

  8. Charise@I Thought I Knew Mama   ithoughtiknewma

    I’m pinning this as a resource for when Baby Girl arrives – thanks!

  9. katie

    oh, thank you! little baby’s getting a bit of cold from papa, but we’re working through it.

  10. Mike

    My daughter and grandson live with me. As a grandfather, this is my second time around on sickness for babies. I only have two children, but they made it through childhood without any serious problems. However, this is a re-learning curve.

    This site gave me a lot of inspiration. My daughter had no success with breast feeding but otherwise everything was going great until he was plugged up at six months. We’ve had a lot of wind kick up various afflictions in Phoenix (Desert Valley Fever, and such). The doctor said the same thing; hydrate him. We were doing that anyway because of constipation, but never realized how important it was for congestion. His appetite is way off so he wasn’t getting enough fluids, I believe mostly due to being unable to drink and breathe while this way. Even a hungry baby will grow tired of fighting it. It was his drop of half a pound in one week that gave me that impression.

    Thanks again for the many tips. I have placed them all in my tablet and will share with my daughter after I make a pharmacy and herbal supplement run.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Congratulations on your grandson! I’m so glad this helped – I hope that the rest of your winter is illness-free!

  11. Karl R.

    Are you seriously suggesting that a parent take an infant to the chiropractor???? Anyone who does this under any circumstances is guilty of extreme child abuse. Do you have any knowledge of the permanent damage that can be done? Are you doing any research at all, or just compiling a list of google search results that you put minimal thought into?

    • Karl – I have a feeling your experiences with a chiropractor are nothing like ours. Chiropractic care for infants and children looks much different than it does for adults. Obviously, you do what feels right for your family, and no, nothing in this article constitutes medical advice.

    • B

      Karl – You are the one who needs to do your research. How about instead of googling, you read a medical journal.

  12. Paramita

    my baby’s old is 1 month suffering cough 7 days , can i give her a normal bath???

  13. kris

    Interesting stuff, however nipple confusion is not a real thing! At least that’s what the breastfeeding nurse in the hospital told us.

  14. Lisa

    You say not to use peppermint oil for chest congestion, and even give a source. In that source it says it is good for it “There are other essential oils for chest congestion and this includes peppermint and lavender. These essential oils have other qualities that are good for resistance to infection, being anti-inflammatory and of course decongestion

    Read more: http://www.aromatherapy-at-home.com/essential-oils-for-chest-congestion.html#ixzz2ymeA8qs6“.
    Even talks about using it in water to inhale it for relief. I am just wondering why we couldn’t use it then?

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