In nine months, Stephanie Allen’s baby, Benjamin, has had a handful of minor health complaints: colds, a blocked tear duct, yeast infection, plus a mild case of eczema. Fortunately for the Toronto-based first-time mom, her medicine chest was stocked for these ailments. “I keep it simple, but I had all the key items, thanks to a list given to me by another mom,” says Allen, who also had wonderful support from a midwife.
Wondering what you need to have on hand to deal with common ailments during the first year? Read on for our medicine cabinet essentials.
1. Pain and Fever Relief
Infant-formula acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol, Tempra) and ibuprofen (e.g., Advil, Motrin) both reduce fever and pain. Ibuprofen reduces swelling and inflammation, too. (It can cause an upset stomach in some babies, however.) “Some infants may get a better response from one or the other, but both are very safe,” says Glen Ward, MD, a Surrey, B.C., pediatrician and chair of the Canadian Paediatric Society’s Public Education Advisory Committee. “In the case of fever in young infants (under six months), it’s important to seek attention from your doctor, not just provide fever relief,” says Dr. Ward. Your doctor will check for signs of dehydration or an underlying infection.
2. Vitamin D Supplement
Breastfed babies need 400 IU of vitamin D daily, administered through drops to help build healthy bones and teeth (it’s already added to formula). Babies in northern communities (north of 55 degrees latitude, about the level of Edmonton) and those with other risk factors, such as dark skin, have double the vitamin D requirements between October and April, when there is less sunlight, according to the CPS. Check with your health care practitioner regardless of whether you’re breast- or formula-feeding.
3. Bum Cream
A bit of trial and error is involved in finding the right diaper rash cream. Some babies respond better to natural products (almond- and sunflower-oil based), others to conventional lanolin, petrolatum or zinc oxide-based barrier creams Meghan Walker, ND, a Toronto-based naturopathic doctor, recommends food-grade olive or coconut oil: “Coconut oil is excellent for the skin and can safely be applied as a moisturizer on a baby. If a more severe diaper rash has developed, a thicker salve containing calendula and in an olive-oil base, is an excellent option.” Dr. Ward says persistent rashes warrant a trip to the doctor to rule out a yeast infection or other issue.
4. Oral Rehydration Solution
“For younger babies, breast milk or formula is best for keeping them hydrated, but rehydration solutions can be implemented at any age when vomiting occurs,” says Dr. Ward. Keep ready-to-serve oral rehydration drinks on hand. (Check expiry dates on a regular basis.) Remember: If your baby continues vomiting for longer than four to six hours, take your child to the hospital.
5. Complementary Remedies (optional)
Increasing numbers of parents take a complementary and alternative medicine approach to their baby’s health and wellness. Allen, for instance, consults both a naturopathic doctor and her family doctor. In her home, camilia drops for teething pain share shelf space with infant-formula acetaminophen and a prescription yeast treatment.
6. Nasal Aspirator and Saline Spray
“Until your baby can blow her own nose, a bulb syringe, or aspirator, is helpful for pulling excess mucous from her nose when she develops a cold,” says Walker. Dr. Ward says that while aspirators can be helpful, “some people can be a bit aggressive with them,” so he recommends using a saline nose spray first to thin and loosen mucous, making it easier to suck out with the aspirator.
7. Digital Thermometer and First Aid Kit
A thermometer, used correctly, is essential for accurately determining a fever. And a first aid kit will ensure all ouchies are covered—especially since today’s baby is tomorrow’s crash!-boom!-bam! toddler.
This story is part of our New Baby Guide. Check it out for more info on bringing home, planning for and surviving having a new baby.