With flu season just around the corner, I’m restocking our baby’s medicine cabinet. I like to be ready for the big three baby afflictions: cold/flu, teething, and ear infections. Babies suffering from any of these are just pitiful to behold, and darn near impossible to comfort. The very things they need most (food/milk and sleep) are hardest to come by.
We’ve suffered through it enough that we know to be prepared. Nothing is worse than running out of Orajel or Baby Advil or even Q-tips at a critical moment. So do yourself a favor, and stock your baby’s medicine cabinet with these bare essentials.
Fevers, teething discomfort, and ear infections are unpleasant enough for our babies that we’ll consider giving them a liquid pain reliever (after discussing it with the pediatrician, of course). Our go-to medicine used to be Baby Tylenol, but recently all of the infant/children’s Tylenol was pulled from the shelves because there was some kind of problem. So now we go with Children’s Advil Infant Drops, which you can buy on Amazon and come highly recommended. It comes in a couple of flavors, but the white grape seems to be a universal favorite.
Another reason to keep this handy is for the regular pediatrician checkups when we know the babies are getting one or more immunizations – usually the doctor likes us to give the pain reliever before the shots, so that 0ur little ones are a bit more comfortable.
Nasal congestion is one of the most noticeable symptoms when your baby gets sick. You can usually hear it when your baby breathes; another sign is that your baby pauses while drinking to catch his or her breath because breathing through the nose isn’t possible. You can try the classic blue bulb syringe alone to try to clear out their noses, but most babies hate that. Plus, when their noses are running, they become dry, chafed, and super-sensitive.
We’ve had much better luck with the Little Noses stuffy nose kit. You lay your baby down, wait until he or she is comfortable (i.e. not whipping the head back and forth), and then put a couple of saline drops into each nostril. Then you can use the bulb syringe to clean up if necessary. This strategy helps the stuffiness drip out and seems more effective.
Another common symptom is the runny nose. All I can say is “Yech!” We can use tissues for this (or even a napkin, if we’re in a pinch) but Boogie Wipes are really the best option. They’re like miniature saline wet wipes for baby noses. They’re super-soft and lightly scented – more effective than a dry tissue and also gentler on the baby. These are kind of pricey in the store (if you can even find them), but you can order a 12-pack on Amazon.com. If your little one has allergies, you can even sign up for Subscribe-N-Save and have them delivered on a regular basis.
The most direct (and possibly effective) treatment for a baby with nasal congestion is an aspirator – a device that literally sucks the snot out of their nose. The Nosefrida Snotsucker Aspirator was invented in Sweden and consistently hovers high on the Amazon bestseller lists for baby care. Because it works. You provide the suction, so there’s better (and safer) control of the removal. I must admit that the concept is kind of gross, but not worse than wiping runny noses and having a baby cough right in your face.
First things first: monitor your baby for a fever. This will inevitably be the first thing you’re asked about when you call the pediatrician. And just so you know, 100.3 degrees is the baseline for a true fever (anything below that is generally considered within the margin of error).
When our babies were in the NICU, we learned to take their temperature with those little pen-sized digital thermometers. We held stuck it in their armpit and held it for a long time until it beeped. This wasn’t too bad; they were just newborns and couldn’t do much about it. Try keeping a one-year-old still for that long while you stick something in his or her armpit!
As we learned later in the pediatrician’s office, there are faster, more accurate ways to take a baby’s temperature using infrared technology. You can read our detailed review of infrared baby thermometers, but here are the highlights of the two bestselling thermometers on Amazon:
Teething is a miserable process for most babies, but some of them really seem to suffer. The swollen gums, the constant fussiness, the refusal of food and bottles all point to the same thing: your baby is cutting a new tooth. Another common symptom of this is that your baby starts biting everything (including you).
When this happens, some soft gum massagers like Zo-li Gummy Sticks can offer some relief. Your little one will love the soft, rubbery, textured nubs, and you’ll love the fact that they’re biting something other than you.
Plus, these look and feel like a baby toothbrush, so they promote healthy tooth habits. And they’re long enough to reach back to the molars, where teething pain seems to be the worst.
There are many parents who eschew giving their babies the latest-and-greatest wonders from the pharmaceutical industry. I’m not one of them! When my baby is in teething pain (one of my boys is right now, actually), I like to throw everything at the problem: homeopathic remedies (like frozen waffles) as well as modern science. In the latter category is Baby Orajel, a topical solution for teething babies that contains a mild anesthetic and is praised by thousands of parents.
You squeeze a little bit on a Q-tip and slather the sore areas of baby’s gums. The numbing effect is almost instantaneous and (in my experience) the baby instantly sees life in a better light. In fact, they’re usually ready to eat or drink something because the pain has gone away. This is something you don’t want to run out of. We get the nighttime formula for putting baby to bed, and we get the travel version (with a built-in Q-tip) for vacations or day trips.
A teether toy is something you might not think about for the medicine cabinet. Usually these get lost somewhere in the freezer, in kitchen cabinets or drawers, or even in the toybox, and are never seen again. My article on what to do when baby is teething covers a nice selection of the bestselling baby teethers.
However, I just came across a new one that I really like, the Sassy Teething Tail Fish. It has both hard and soft surfaces for your baby to chew on, the latter being a water-filled tail that you can optionally chill in the icebox. And the shape of the tail is designed to reach back to the troublesome molars.
Another good thing to stock in your cabinet is your baby’s first toothbrush/toothpaste kit. We have been using the Grins & Giggles Tooth and Gum Cleanser (made by Gerber) for the boys. We like this brand because it:
- Tastes good to the babies, and can be swallowed safely
- Begins to teach them about dental hygiene
- Includes a soft fingertip toothbrush that you can use to clean/massage the gums
It’s never too early to start on dental hygiene. Even toddlers can get cavities in their little baby teeth.
Q-tips, or cotton swabs on a stick, are a staple of any medicine cabinet. Certainly for a baby. You can use them to clean out baby’s ears, of course, but also to apply Orajel or diaper ointment (make sure you apply each to the right location!), to clean out baby’s nose, to get an eyelash, etc. Luckily, Q-tips are inexpensive and you can pick them up anywhere. You can even stock with an 1875-count package of them on Amazon. That seems like a lot, but you’re going to need them.
Because babies drink milk all of the time, their nails tend to grow like crazy. This won’t be a problem until they start scratching themselves (you’ll notice little cuts and scratches on their face or head), or start scratching you. Trust me, you’ll notice this. Trimming a baby’s fingernails is serious business. They’re so small that you’re pretty much worried about clipping off a finger the entire time. Sometimes I just chicken out and go with the emory board, which takes longer but reduces the risk.
I do like the Red Cross Nail Clippers with Magnifier by The First Years. They’re baby sized, with an easy-to-use lever, and a magnifying glass so you see exactly where you’re clipping.
Diaper rash is a common problem, and there are dozens upon dozens of diaper rash cream out there. We have tried many of them. There is one that consistently works better than any others: Dr. Smith’s Diaper Ointment. This stuff is like a magical balm mixed up by a Chinese guru. It’s unlike any other diaper rash cream in consistency and appearance, but it works. Quite literally, some of the worst diaper rashes I’ve seen on my boys disappear overnight when we use Dr. Smith’s. More than anything, this deserves a spot in your medicine cabinet.
Baby baths are a lot of fun. I love the smell of their shampoo, and how a clean baby smells afterward. As you’re probably aware, baby shampoo is buffered so that it won’t sting their baby blue eyes during bath time. At first this stuff goes rather slowly, because you only need a teaspoon or so for a newborn’s bath. As they get older you’ll start using a lot more. And there will be spills, too. We keep a couple bottles of lotion next to it, to apply right out of the bath. Our daughter just loved having a little lotion rub-down after her bath; it relaxed her and made going to sleep a breeze.
While we’re on the topic of skin care, I’d be remiss not to mention baby sunscreen. In general, pediatricians recommend that you don’t put sunscreen on a baby less than 6 months old, because they shouldn’t really be in direct sunlight (and thus shouldn’t need it).
However, if sun exposure is unavoidable, there are some chemical-free baby sunscreens that provide sun protection.
For example, the bestselling baby sunscreen on Amazon is California Baby SPF 30, a fragrance-free sunscreen. It can be applied to the baby’s face without worrying that it will string them if they rub it into their eyes.
Your Baby’s Medicine Cabinet Is Stocked!
Stocking your baby’s medicine cabinet can be a lot of fun, though sometimes it can seem like a chore. The next time your baby gets sick, cuts a new tooth, or has an ear infection, you’ll be glad to have everything you need!
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