It was like clockwork around November that my husband came home from a work trip looking run down with obvious cold symptoms. Our son was 6 months old and I had a feeling he would soon be dealing with the same cough and chest congestion that afflicted my husband.
In less than 2 days and I was flipping through my repository of books in search of effective home remedies for baby cough and chest congestion. This virus was strong.
Any illness in the family is annoying but colds in babies can be straight up scary.
The first thing you may think about when this happens is calling your pediatrician. While this is always a good practice, (especially if you have a pediatrician you trust) there is, unfortunately, little your doctor can do other than confirm it is indeed the common cold and suggest over the counter medication to suppress the symptoms.
However, if your baby’s respiratory rate is consistently over 60 breaths per minute, or his chest is pulling in around his ribs as he breathes, it is especially important to seek medical care.
Viruses cannot be killed using antibiotics, and the symptoms that come along with them are a result of the bodies defense mechanisms kicking in. Mucus production and cough are evidence of an intact immune system and should not be suppressed with conventional medicine. This will delay the healing process.
We moms can use a number of home remedies to help our babies’ little bodies heal and minimize suffering from chest congestion and coughing.
Home Remedies for baby cough and chest congestion
1. Homemade garlic ointment
It may sound gross to mask your sweet baby’s smell with homemade garlic ointment, but garlic has strong antimicrobial properties. It is a triple threat to pathogens, killing bacteria, viruses, and fungal infections. It also helps to clear up chest congestion. (source)
For optimal power against the common cold, the garlic you use to make this ointment should be organic and fresh. Rub the ointment on your baby’s feet and chest and cover the feet with socks.
To make homemade garlic ointment:
- Peel 7 cloves of fresh organic garlic and place in a food processor
- Add 1/4 cup of coconut oil and process until smooth
- Store in the fridge through cold and flu season
2. Breastfeed more often
A significant concern with any childhood illness is the risk of dehydration from a fever, not the actual fever itself. Fever is body’s natural defense to burn out harmful pathogens. Please don’t suppress a fever with Tylenol!
Babies who are sick should be allowed more time to nurse and mothers should avoid eating foods that could be irritants to the GI tract. These include cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collards as they can cause the buildup of gas. Also, try to avoid spicy foods and caffeine.
Both nursing mamas and babies need to increase their intake of fluid during family illnesses. Mamas should load their body with immune boosting foods such as vitamin C and probiotics so they can be passed along to your baby.
You may find it hard for your little one to nurse when they are coughing. If you are worried your child is not getting enough fluids you can pump and syringe feed breastmilk.
3. Steam baths
Growing up my mom always drew up a steam bath for us whenever mucus was involved. It is still my go-to remedy and does a wonderful job at loosening mucus and soothing congested airways.
Lavender essential oil is a calming sedative that will help with sleep and relaxation. It also helps to reduce coughing spasms.
Tea tree oil has antimicrobial properties and helps to clear mucus.
To make a steam bath, turn the shower on the hottest setting and let the bathroom steam up with the door closed and vent off for 5 minutes. Then fill up the tub with warm water and add the oils.
Get in the bath with your baby and hold her on your chest in an upright position for around 15 minutes.
4. Pat your baby gently
With your hand in a cupped position, gently pat your baby like you would if you were burping throughout the day. The vibrations will spread throughout the chest, help break up the mucous and make coughing more effective.
This tactic is even used in the hospital for patients with pneumonia who have a lot of congestion. It is most effective after a steam bath when the heat has loosened the mucus.
5. Echinacea tincture.
Echinacea tincture is always good to keep stocked in the medicine cabinet because when used at the first sign of any illness, it is known to lessen the intensity and duration.
It can be safely used for babies and children by following the dosing recommendations on the bottle. I added two drops to my breastmilk and used a syringe to dose my son. Dr. Sear’s recommends using echinacea for prevention during the cold and flu season.
6. Homeopathy for chest congestion and cough
Antimonium tart is the first remedy that comes to mind when a baby is overwhelmed with chest congestion and having a difficult time clearing. Their cough will sound rattled and their little lungs seem full of phlegm.
There are many other very effective remedies for chest congestion and cough. I recommend keeping a copy of The Family Guide to Homeopathy on hand so you can find the correct remedy that matches your baby’s specific symptoms.
7. Skin to skin
It goes without saying that you should hold your baby when they are sick. But often times it seems that we keep such a busy life and only when illness strikes do we take a second to slow down.
Warmth is very soothing for a sick baby and you may find that breathing is easier in an upright position. This makes a mama’s bare chest the optimal place for a sick baby to be.
If you have a busy toddler to run after, you can still offer your baby the comforts of skin to skin by using an infant wrap to baby wear throughout the day. Keeping life simple and allowing for extra rest will help your little one heal quickly.
Colds are a normal part of growing up and your baby’s immune system is getting plenty of practice for a lifetime of health.
Make sure to take care of yourself when you are caring for sick children by consuming immune boosting foods and supplements.
You probably won’t be getting as much sleep so give your body some extra love with some echinacea and elderberry tea!