The First Time Your Baby Is Sick Is Your Right of Passage


caring for sick babyThe first time my child fell ill, my mother-in-law said to me, “You and your son had your rite of passage,” meaning I wasn’t a parent until I experienced having to take care of my sick child. I guess another way of saying it is, “Welcome to the real world!”

I held my baby as I sat soaked in his throw up. He was so sick and weak that he felt like a rag doll. He didn’t even have the strength to hold himself up. I became more and more concerned as he threw up several times within in a two-hour period and wasn’t keeping down my breastmilk.  I held him close, and I constantly checked him for signs of dehydration or changes in breathing.  Yet, I still couldn’t help but feel that maybe it was my fault that he fell ill.  

As a parent, there is nothing that will worry you more than when your baby is sick.

Here are three tips I learned during my journey.  

Remain calm. When we are calm, we’re better able to assess the situation and be present for our little ones. Not only will we be able to see the symptoms more clearly, we are also showing our little ones that there is no need to panic. If we can help “hold space,” so the baby is not stressed, recovery will be quicker, and the journey for everyone will be smoother. 

I once asked a firefighter why they never run to their trucks or to an emergency scene, like we are so accustomed to seeing in the movies. He explained that “it’s important to remain calm, so you can make correct decisions. When we are rushed or panicking, that is when errors often occur.” So, take it from a professional. Keep calm and carry on.

Be fully present, loving, and aware. Notice what is going on. Are there changes in your baby’s behavior? Does his cry sound different? Have the frequency of wet diapers and bowel movements changed? I started writing down every event and time, so we could have the most accurate information, in case we needed to go to the emergency room.

As cliche as it sounds, love is also so important to healing. So many studies have been done to prove this, and after this experience with my son, I know that it’s a factor that contributes to healing. He felt safe, his needs were being met, and he had the warmth and care of his mama, so his body only had to focus on getting better.  

When the body is relaxed, it will begin to heal, because the body is capable of this.  Love is not to be used in place of appropriate treatment, but in conjunction with it. And the great thing about adding the prescription of love is that there are no side effects, and it’s totally free!

When in doubt, refer out. We’re taught this saying in Chinese medical school, and it can easily be applied if your little one is ill. If you are unsure, make a call or take the drive to the doctor. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!

For those late night illnesses that are not emergencies, many insurance companies offer a 24-hour nurse hotline to call. They may recommend trying something at home, suggest visiting urgent care, or going straight to the emergency room. Make sure to keep the numbers of your doctor and nurse hotline handy, so that it’s easy to make the call and still attend to your little one.  

It’s an unfortunate, but inevitable, fact of life that your child will get sick. However, as my baby boy was lying asleep on my chest, I couldn’t help but think how grateful I felt for how much I was able to help him, even though he wasn’t well. I was able to turn on the heater and cover him with a blanket to keep him warm. We were able to sit in our house that provided shelter from the wind and cold. If needed, we were only a 15 to 20 minute drive from the hospital and a phone call away from an ambulance showing up at our front door. At the end of it all, I was again reminded what is most important in life: our health and happiness.  

What have you learned when your little one was sick? Share your tips and comments below!


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