Parenting when you’re sick is one of the most challenging moments of parenthood – it’s where you earn your wings…it’s a marathon not a sprint…it’s one of those things that’s so unlike anything you’ve done before that no comparisons really sound right. It’s also inevitable – even if you’ve always been hardy and flu-resistant, now that you’ve got this adorable little germ-magnet living in your home (and cuddled in your arms), there’s a good chance that the occasional illness is going to slip through.
The first thing to do when you’re sick with a baby is to not be a hero about avoiding the doctor’s office or trying not to take medication – now is not the time to suffer through, and just figuring out how to parent while you heal has the potential to be hard enough. If you have a virus, there may not be anything your healthcare provider can do besides recommending rest while you heal, but if you have a bacterial infection, antibiotics can help get you back to feeling your best sooner.
If you’re breastfeeding, it’s generally not just safe, but actually healthy, to continue to breastfeed while you’re sick. Through breastfeeding, you’ll expose Baby to the antibodies your body is using to fight the illness. The main cause for concern for breastfeeding while sick comes up if you’re prescribed medication. If you are, your healthcare provider will talk you through any risks or options you might have.
When sickness hits after Baby is born, it’s a good idea to already have a plan in mind. If your partner can take some time off of work, or work from home to lend a hand in the Baby-care, that’s a great start. If they aren’t familiar with Baby’s routines for certain times of the day, take a moment just after you’ve given in and accepted that you might have to take some sick time to crash, and write out a list. If you’ve got the time and energy to spend on critical thinking left by the end of the list, you can also jot down a few of the most important non-baby-related errands or tasks you were planning on doing to keep the home-and-family-unit running smoothly. Remember, there’s definitely no guarantee that these will get done – adding extra baby-time on top of all of the things your partner normally has on their plate means this is going to be a tricky day for everybody – but there’s more of a chance that it will happen than there would be if your partner didn’t even know what those things were.
If your partner doesn’t have the option of taking time off work, or you’re a single parent, now is definitely the time to draw on your support network and not be afraid to ask for a little help. Sometimes you’re on your own, though, and you still have to find a way to rest and get yourself to your sickness. Try making a home-base on the couch where you can doze with Baby in a bassinet or playpen next to it, and make sure you’ve got diapers, wipes, and something for you to drink so you can stay hydrated in easy reach before you drop off.
Finally – and this is an important one – for however long as your cold, virus, or mutant saber-tooth-tiger flu lasts, lower your standards. The important thing about being sick as a parent is getting yourself and Baby through it as safely and healthily as you can. Everything else, from housework to calling your sister back to teaching Baby to speak French can wait until you’ve recovered.