It’s that time of year, when the temperature drops and seasonal viruses begin to enter our households. Steering clear of stomach viruses or the flu is tough – we can only protect our kids so much! However, there are a few strategies that can help your little ones feel more comfortable when they’re sick, and stay as healthy, nourished and hydrated as possible.
I have seen my share of viruses over the years and it can be really scary seeing your little one in such distress. My first experience was when Finley was only a few months old—just over 6 months—and after a long overseas flight, she contracted a gastro virus. Her gaunt little face had me really worried and her crib looked like something you would see in a horror movie, but with some great advice from my pediatrician, she was on the mend pretty seamlessly. Here are the few tips I received on getting baby back to health after a virus:
1. Hydration is key: During episodes of vomiting and diarrhea, the most important thing to do is make sure your baby is hydrated- breastmilk, formula and water are the best ways to keep your baby hydrated.
2. A different cup: If baby is resisting liquids, try using different vehicles to get her to drink—sometimes it’s more appealing in a different type of cup! Try different bottles, sippy cups, straw cups, open cups, or even a syringe. It may be painfully slow but it will keep your baby hydrated. Temperature matters too! Sometimes switching the temperature from warm to cool, or vice versa makes all the difference.
3. Possible rehydration therapy: Sometimes your baby may need an over-the-counter oral electrolyte solution to replenish the electrolytes lost through vomiting and diarrhea. Make sure to talk to your pediatrician prior to offering it.
4. If you are breastfeeding, continue and offer on demand, as the breast milk has the nutrients and fluid that baby needs—in fact, your breastmilk offers many immune-boosting benefits that will help speed recovery. Breastfeeding is also very comforting for a sick baby. If breastfeeding exclusively, continue to do so as often as your baby needs and wants.
5. If you’re formula feeding, continue to offer formula to your baby while she’s sick. Prior advice was to discontinue formula, however it seems babies recover quicker when they continue on their normal source of milk. You can also offer clear liquids if baby is over six months (water being the best source).
6. After your child has gone a few hours (4-6 hours) tolerating liquids, you can start to introduce bland solid foods, if your baby has started solids. These include applesauce, bananas, toast with butter, cooked pasta, white rice.
7. If your baby seems to be tolerating bland foods after about a day or so, feel free to offer other types of food as tolerated and desired. Anything appealing to baby is fine—veggies, fruit, broth based soups, lean cooked meats, poultry and fish, beans, lentils, dairy and whole grains.
Although many symptoms may improve in 24-48 hrs, it can take up to a week for the stomach and intestines to fully recover. Introducing the right foods at the right time are important to prevent further irritation.
Although it can be really tough to dodge an episode of the flu, there are certainly things we can do as parents to help avoid them. It’s important to practice proper hygiene, including hand-washing prior to and after holding and feeding baby, changing diapers and preparing food. It may seem like an eternity getting your baby back to normal health. Try to be patient and understand it can take a few days, and up to a week for full recovery. They will regain their appetite and you will have less laundry!