About 4 million sweet babies are born in the U.S. every year. And since September & October are two of the most popular months in the year for the birth of babies I’m taking a moment to share a couple of reminders for new families and those of you who support them.
1. Nursing Moms & Over The Counter (OTC) Medications: Every new parent feels a sense of overwhelm and exhaustion after welcoming a new baby. It can be especially exhausting when moms are breastfeeding and carry the new concerns about what they’re eating, how they’re both supporting themselves and their baby’s milk and when moms and dads have concerns about passing OTC medications (or Rx ones) through mom’s milk. Here are a few guidelines and reminders:
- Don’t take aspirin if you’re breastfeeding.
- It’s always best to avoid extra strength formulas of any medication, as they stay in the blood stream longer.
- Always ask your doctor if you are worried or have questions about a medicine or supplement you’re taking if you’re breastfeeding. Always makes sense to ask.
- Read the Drug Facts label as this will sometimes help you understand risks.
- I like LactMed as a resource/search tool to help find information on medications. LactMed is updated monthly and is a database of over 1,000 drugs and other chemicals to which breastfeeding mothers may be exposed. It includes information on the levels of such substances in breast milk and infant blood, and the possible adverse effects on the nursing infant. All data are derived from the scientific literature and fully referenced.
2. When Your New Baby Gets A Cold Or Fever: Your baby’s first bout with a cold or fever can leave you feeling scared (and exhausted) as you watch your baby deal with the inconvenience of mucus and snot, coughs and/or sneezes. Infants are more susceptible to infections because they don’t have fully developed immune systems hence why we all work hard to avoid exposures for them early in life. But upper respiratory infections (“colds”) do happen even with the best of protections.
Oral cough and cold medicines (including cough suppressants, cough expectorants and multi-symptom cold medicines) are not safe for infants and young children under the age of 4 or 6 years of age.
However, if your baby has a fever and is OVER the age of 3 months, you can give them acetaminophen to help relieve symptoms. The label on OTC medicines for infants and children only includes dosing for children age 2 and older; so talk to your doctor for dosing for younger children.
Always dose medicine by your infant’s weight, not their age, so at every well child check-up as your baby grows, ask your pediatrician to provide the proper, current dose for OTC medicines.
You can also give your child ibuprofen for mild infections, fever, or teething. Dosing for children 6 months and older is on the label; talk to a doctor for dosing for younger children although it is not typically recommended. Here’s more on dosing acetaminophen and ibuprofen by weight in infants and toddlers.
There are also several non-medicine interventions for colds. If your infant or toddler is too young to be given OTC medications or you’d prefer not to use them, there are other options to help relieve symptoms and keep your baby sleeping and comfortable.
- Hydration: keeping their nose and sinus and airway humidified can help babies and children move mucus around and can sometimes help reduce cough. Use a cool-mist humidifier in the room. The mucus gets less sticky and dehydrated and they can mobilize it better. Another option is to use saline nose drops to loosen and thin nasal mucus and then suck it up with a nasal bulb syringe or “snot sucker.”
- If your child is over 1 year of age you can use a small teaspoon of honey to help with cough.
- Positioning may help: for toddlers over a year of age you can prop them up in the bed at night with a pillow as this sometimes can help them clear mucus easier and reduces likelihood to cough. NO PILLOWS in the cribs of infants!
- This won’t last forever! Colds are part of babyhood for most infants. And the rule of 7’s: cold symptoms can often last 7 days and it’s not uncommon for a baby to get as many as 7 colds in one year!
3. Tackling Diaper Rash: Diaper rash causes your baby’s bottom to appear bright red and irritated. Sometimes the skin even appears raw. This inflammation of the skin can be caused by plain old bad luck (!!!), or sometimes from more infrequent diaper changes, diarrhea, uncomfortable diapers or from material used to cover diapers. Rarely, a recent course of antibiotics that can cause yeast to grow in the diaper area. Fortunately, diaper rash is usually easily treated and can improve within just a few days. Does make our hearts hurt when we see it, though… so here are a few remedies:
- Use an ointment, such as petroleum ointment, petroleum jelly, non-petroleum jelly, lanolin products and zinc oxide to form a protective shield on your child’s skin after every diaper change. This can help prevent further irritation caused by stool and urine touching the skin.
- Change your child’s diaper frequently to keep it clean and dry. When out of diapers you can even use a cool to warm hair-dryer to dry the skin and then let them crawl around without anything on!
- Put your child’s diaper on loosely or try a different brand of disposable diapers to see if it makes a difference. For example, an extra-absorbent option or one made for sensitive skin might help relieve symptoms — although this isn’t always a sure bet. Letting your child go without a diaper for short periods of time is also a GREAT way to promote healing.
- Do not use an OTC topical pain reliever containing hydrocortisone (a steroid) on a child with diaper rash unless instructed by your doctor. If used incorrectly, it can make your child’s symptoms worse or cause other side effects. This is especially true if your baby has a diaper rash caused by yeast (we have prescription medicines for these instead).
This post was written in partnership with KnowYourOTCs.org. In exchange for our ongoing partnership helping families understand how to use OTC (over-the-counter) meds safely they have made a contribution to Digital Health at Seattle Children’s for our work in innovation. I adore the OTC Safety tagline, “Treat yourself and your family with care all year long.” Follow @KnowYourOTCs # KnowYourOTCs for more info on health and wellness.