Saturday, December 31, 2005

Getting Through Baby's First Illness

Well, as of yesterday, my son is having his first bout with sickness. Unfortunately for us, the family members with whom we are staying have developed a virus, and my son seems to have caught it. We have called a local pediatrician, who gave him some medicine for the congestion and rattling he has. There really is little we can do, however, except watch over him and cuddle with him when he wants us to, which is all the time right now.

If you have faced your baby having an illness, even something that you know is fairly innocuous and is building his immune system, then you know how I feel - tired and hopeless. If you have not faced sickness with your baby yet, I want to offer a little helpful advice so that you can get through it a little easier when you do face it.

First know that I absolutely am not offering any medical advice. Seek out your doctor or healer for any medical information. We all know, however, that there is more to being sick than just the medical side, and that is particularly true for babies. For starters, as the mom or dad know that you should try your best not to get frustrated with baby. He or she cannot share thoughts on what hurts and why, and you cannot reason with him or her to explain why lying still would be a good idea. Instead you just need to keep your cool as you are making baby feel better. If you begin to get frustrated, see if your partner or another family member can take baby for just a few minutes.

Babies feed off their parents' emotions, and that is never truer than when baby is sick. If you are panicking, do not let it show when you hold baby, even if you are going to the emergency room because of your worries. Let baby see a smiling and confident parent looking down so that baby can feel okay.

Be sure to monitor your baby's illness. If you need to go to the doctor or need to call in for a follow-up, you will need to have some basic information handy to help assist the doctor. Be sure that you watch and record the baby's temperature, when and how much medication you administer, what and how much baby is eating, and how much baby is going to the bathroom. You will not remember these facts, so keep a pen and notebook handy to write them down.

Be sure that you get rest when baby does. A sick baby will not sleep well if he or she is facing a congested nose or other yucky symptoms. You need to leave everything else - the house, the laundry, the errands - and sleep when baby does. Some babies want to be held when they are awake. Give in to this need. It is not coddling or pampering. Instead some babies, just like some adults, want more love and attention when they are sick. Other babies will want you to leave them be. Work with your baby's desires, not your own, so that she or he can feel security while ill.

Be sure that you are eating and drinking as you should be. It is easy as a mom or dad to stay up all night and then try to make it on fumes because baby needs you. Doing that only serves to make both of you feel crummy and frustrated, and then you are more likely to get angry with baby. Take the time you need to eat even if it means calling out for pizza because you do not have the energy to cook.

Finally, learn to relax. This time is not the last that your baby will get sick. There will be other, and probably worse, times in baby's life. You need to be sure that you are calm so that you can work your way through this illness. It is frustrating when your little one cannot tell you what is wrong. You cannot comfort with words that baby can understand. Still, though, this little sickness is just preparing you for later ones to come. Take a breather. It all will be okay.

By Julia Mercer

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