How to: survive flu with a baby

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Keep the child entertained and in a good mood at all costs. And catch a quick nap whenever possible…

It’s that time of year again… The leaves are changing, the weather is turning and the germs are spreading in full force. 

Last week, I had flu. I get flu almost every October but this was a particularly bad strain lasting a full seven days, five of which I was in bed with a fever. I haven’t been so ill for so long in a long time. (And hopefully I won’t again!) 

But if there’s one thing worse than flu, it’s flu with a baby.

You’re aching, your nose is streaming, your chest hurts from coughing, all you want to do is lie on the sofa with a cup of tea & wallow, drifting in & out of sleep… But you have to prepare bottles, read stories, and if your toddler is anything like mine, they’ll be banging on the front door demanding to go to the park even if you would rather drown in a sea of Kleenex.  

Of course, we all know how it goes. When one family member gets ill, it’s only a matter of time before the others follow suit. And if there’s one thing worse than flu with a baby, it’s flu with a fluey baby. So while you’re at death’s door wanting nothing more than to curl into a ball in your onesie, you have a baby who feels the same & looks at you with tear filled eyes saying, “Mama, make this feeling go away;” who wants to be held solidly & doesn’t understand that you just aren’t up to this today.

So what do you do? 

1. Stock up on Lemsip & Calpol. Never run out. Ever. You will regret it. 

2. Alternate your medicine times. This way as your drugs are wearing off, your baby feels at their best & vice versa. If both of you are at your worst at the same time, it will only result in tears and possibly the end of the world. You’ve been warned. 

3. CBeebies. We’re quite strict about how much TV Little Miss can watch (we figure she has her whole like to stare at a screen; she can learn to play properly for the time being). But that goes out the window when the lurgy comes to stay. If you can’t face another episode of Mr. Tumble (as if you didn’t feel crap enough already) try some animated movies; Toy Story, Brave, The Princess & The Frog, whatever it takes to keep the little one stupified and still next to you. 

3.1 Netflix. If you don’t have a Netflix subscription you are missing out on a trick. Stop faffing around and sign up pre-emptively now. Thank me later. (NB: also includes plenty of trashy adult-friendly TV shows and movies for while the littl’un is sleeping. Just what the doctor ordered.)

4. Feed a fever, starve a cold. Or is it starve a fever, feed a cold… Either way, you & baby still needs to eat to keep what little strength you have up. It’s tempting to each biscuits, jam on toast and canned soup when you’re ill, but ask your other half to pick up some easy but nutritious things from the shop like bananas, pasta, fresh vegetable soup and scrambled eggs (see our quick and easy microwave eggs recipe here). And also biscuits. Because you are ill and caring for a baby.

Remember, while you’re dying on the sofa, it’s a tough week for hubby too as he tries to take care of you and baby after he gets in from work. Think ahead and get leftovers out of the freezer that are easy to warm up after he’s managed bath and bedtime.

5. Outsource your parenting. Call in any help you can, any favours you have outstanding; you are not above begging. Most nurseries won’t take littlies when they’re running a fever and each nursery has their own policy regarding coughs and colds. So likely that help will come in the form of a grandparent – not many others probably love you enough to risk catching your germs. 

6. When baby sleeps, you sleep. You & baby both feel worse at night – the aching, the coughing fits, the inability to breathe without needing to blow your nose… So it’s likely that sleeping can be effected. Little Miss often sleeps more during the day when she’s ill and while I would love that time to sit without her in my aching arms and enjoy the feeling of the paracetamol coursing through my veins, realistically sleep helps us restore, recharge and get better. So regress back to those early days; crawl under the duvet* with your mini-me, snuggle up and get some rest. You might not feel any better for it, but you certainly won’t feel worse! (Also, check out last year’s Parenting Hack to help prevent your baby’s nighttime coughing fits here.) 

*always use duvets in a safe, non-smothering, non-suffocating way with babies. Refer to NHS/NCT/some other authoritative body’s guidelines if you’re unsure. Remember, duvets are not as friendly as they appear and do not have your’s or your baby’s best interests at heart.

7. Keep the fluids flowing. It’s hard to be on the ball when you’re ill but if nothing else you’ve got to remember to keep baby hydrated. Leave the sippy cup of water within easy reach to remind you. If you’re still breastfeeding, breastfeed on demand – ill babies want feeds more regularly than usual, even if it’s a struggle because they can’t breathe through their noses. 

Good luck.

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