The sun was just about to set on a chilly November evening. A gust of wind rustled the amber-colored leaves on our big oaks in the backyard, and all seemed to be contentedly serene in the outside world. The inside world was a different story. Troubled by what I deduced to be gas, my newborn son was having a miserable night. His incessant crying had me frazzled to the core. As a new mom, I was suffering from symptoms of exhaustion and bewilderment, but the pain of seeing my son suffer was the most troublesome ailment of them all.
If you are a new parent or soon-to-be, it is inevitable that your baby will experience gas, a cold, or some other illness that will only vaguely be understood through cries and signs of discomfort. Experienced parents know the ropes and usually have an “arsenal” of products on hand for symptomatic relief. I, a newcomer to the game, was armed with organic cotton mittens and soothing lullaby machines, but nothing immediately available that could settle my miserable baby and ease my stressed mind. It is no surprise that an overwhelming myriad of products line the pharmacy shelves, but consider being prepared with just a few basics for when your new bundle of joy arrives.
An organic all-purpose ointment
From soothing baby’s bottoms to protecting minor scrapes and treating eczema, an all-purpose ointment goes a long way. I personally use and recommend the balm from Earth Mama Angel Baby, which is herbal-based and contains shea butter and some essential oils. Some hospitals even prefer to use this in place of other traditional zinc-oxide based creams or pastes. For my baby’s stuffy nose, I have even added a few drops of peppermint oil and made my own chest rub.
A fever-reducing agent such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen
This may seem like common sense to the parent of multiples, however it is not a popular item pick for most new baby registries (Besides a humidifier and thermometer, I personally neglected most health-related items and pharmaceuticals). Teething and fevers are quite possibly the most stubborn symptoms of infancy. Ibuprofen is generally avoided in babies less than 6 months old, however your doctor may provide a dosing based on weight if your child is younger and your doctor deems appropriate. Acetaminophen is the safer alternative in babies less than 6 months. As both a pharmacist and mother, I tend to prefer ibuprofen for its anti-inflammatory benefits and just a tad quicker onset of action. Many clinicians recommend alternating between ibuprofen and acetaminophen if one agent seems to be wearing off.
Saline nose drops
Either let the drops drain down the babies nasal passageways or use in conjunction with a high quality aspirator for visible mucus that may be blocking your little one’s airways. There is no active ingredient in saline, so this is a very safe and mild way to treat congestion. It can also moisturize irritated or crusty noses due to low humidity levels or air travel. Both “adult” nasal saline drops and ones specifically marketed for babies contain 0.65% sodium chloride. This makes for convenience if you already have a bottle on hand for your own nasal ailments. Just make sure of a few things if you are using that same bottle for your baby: that the tip is not contaminated, that there are no other ingredients (like decongestants) in the spray, and to invert the bottle so it comes out in drop form.
Please note that conflicting opinions exist for probioticuse, but I generally support the use in healthy babies (ie no asthma, immune disorders, etc). The AAP last made a statement in 2010 that probiotics could be beneficial in cases of acute gastroenteritis, but the statement also noted that more research is needed to recommend the routine use in healthy babies. A newer study conducted in early 2014 found that probiotics given during the first 3 months of life could ease colic, acid reflux, and constipation. Some doctors are a little skeptical of this study due to various reasons, and so far the results have not made an impact on the AAP’s recommendations. So you may ask why I support the use, and one reason is that breastmilkcontains prebiotics (carbohydrates that stimulate probiotics, or “good” flora). Based on this research, probiotics may be worth considering adding to a formula-fed baby’s diet to promote good flora. Secondly, the gut and immunity are so closely linked, that it makes sense that a healthy gut could confer some benefits to the immune system. For now, I believe enough evidence exists to at least keep on hand for some common GI-related symptoms.
Infant gas drops (simethicone)
By allowing the baby to pass gas more easily and comfortably, simethicone is a long-time trusted product that generally doesn’t cause side effects if given at the appropriate dose. Another benefit is that simethicone is not absorbed by the baby’s system – it simply works on gas bubbles to break them down.
Please consult a pediatrician before using any product for the first time. Being a new mom is hard enough, but I have personally found these products to be helpful in time of need.
Trisha Bogucki is a licensed pharmacist with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree. She is certified in alternative medicine and believes in a holistic approach whenever possible. She is a wife and mother to 1 son, with another on the way.