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Nursing Your Sick Toddler or Baby

Since I’ve had more than my fair
share of run-ins with the vomit comet these past few months, I
thought I’d pass on some tips I’ve learned – the
hard way.

I’m assuming here that you’ve got at least one child
who is projectile vomiting, and that this is not a life-threatening
illness, but something nasty and slimy and stinky to be endured
until the ride is over.

First off, bedding is key here. If
you’re using a crib still you have two options:

target="_blank">Crib zip sheets
. These things are the best
crib invention ever. The whole thing is a fitted sheet for a
standard crib mattress, but the top part zips easily off without
having to wrestle the mattress out of the crib while standing
covered in vomit and holding a screaming toddler. Buy three tops
and waterproof liners to go underneath, and hopefully you’ll
be all set. Of course, if you run out and the baby’s old
enough you can go to towels if necessary, but hopefully it
won’t come to that.

If you don’t want to invest in new sheets, then think about
layering the crib sheets. A friend of mine gave me this tip, and it
really works: put a waterproof pad on the crib. Then put a fitted
crib sheet over it. Then another pad. Then another sheet. Then
another pad and sheet, so you’ve got three layers. This way,
if you get into a marathon vomit session at night, you can just rip
one layer off and put the baby back down right away – no need
to completely remove the mattress or wrestle with the bumpers.

But seriously – get the crib zip sheets.

Ok, moving on to dealing with the puke outside the bed.

Remember, you are the most washable thing around the baby.
So if she’s making noises like a kitten getting ready to hack
up a hairball, jump in front of her immediately so you can catch
the brunt of the throw up. A puke-filled t-shirt is better than a
puke-filled rocking chair, where you’ll desperately wish you
could sit and rock when the throwing up’s finished and the
crying’s begun. Truthfully, if one of the girls throws up
once and it looks like it’s going to be a long night,
I’m topless for the rest of the night. It’s just
easier, and I don’t enjoy pulling a puke-encrusted t-shirt
over my head, getting the throw up in my hair, more than I
absolutely have to.

As far as baby goes, you have to act counter-intuitively and
leave the kid in his own puke for a little bit. If you rush
in and your son’s throwing up in the crib, don’t pick
him up and start running; you’ll just leave a trail of hurl
all the way down the hall. Instead, sit him up, let him throw up
all over his lap, and pick him up when you’re sure he’s
finished. The most important things to move right away are not
babies, but loveys – get them out of the way so they are
usable afterwards. Likewise stuffed animals. Once baby’s head
has stopped spinning around and spewing green bile, put a towel on
your chest, pick him up and wrap him in it right away, to keep the
puke from dripping everywhere. Then run to the bathroom to clean

Take the baby’s clothes off, and leave him naked for
the rest of the night. Trust me.

Cleanup in the bathroom’s never fun. Some children
won’t feel well enough to get in the shower; Cora never did.
And clean towels quickly became a precious commodity, so we ended
up leaving a box of wipes in the bathroom for cleanup. If
the child’s got vomit everywhere – hair, mouth,
everywhere – and so do you, climb in the tub together to wash
off. You’re not really a mom until you’ve picked chunks
out of your child’s hair without blinking.

Once the marathon session’s begun, cover all the comfort
surfaces in towels and waterproof pads
, with extra stacks
everywhere. We get a waterproof pad in our bed, and cover
Cora’s rocking chair with towels. Those are our stations:
crib, rocking chair, and parental bed. As laundry gets done, stacks
are re-distributed near these spots. And speaking of waterproof
pads, buy a box of puppy pads – those disposable pads
for housebreaking puppies – at the grocery store or drug
store, to have on hand. You can throw one under bedsheets, layer a
couple over a couch, and so on.

On the subject of food and the vomiting child –
don’t do it
. Try it once, sure, see if the throwing up
was a one-time thing. But then leave off, even if the toddler begs
for it, if food triggers vomiting. I promise, they won’t
starve or develop scurvy in one day. We also have official
“sick food” in this household – mini saltines
– that only come out when someone’s tummy hurts. The
girls look forward to it, so we know if they refuse the crackers
they’re really nauseated.

Realize that Pedialyte is overrated. Most kids don’t
get really dehydrated just from one day of vomiting, so water
should be fine; as long as they’re still producing some wet
diapers you’re good to go. No need to run out and buy a
special drink, just because they’re throwing up.

Realize that Pedialyte is your best friend. On the other
hand, there are some viruses that are particularly violent, and the
toddler will throw up every time anything’s put in her mouth.
Cora’s illness last week was like that, and she’d
thirstily drain her sippy cup of water, then throw up all that
water five minutes later. In these cases, Pedialyte will save your
bacon. A general rule of thumb is one tablespoon every five or ten
minutes, which sounds like a pain, but so is listening to your
toddler scream, “Mommy – water! Milk! Water!
Milk!” because he’s so thirsty. Use one of those
measuring cups that come with children’s Tylenol or Motrin,
and just resign yourself to the fact that it’s going to take
four hours to drink those eight ounces. It kept Cora going until
she was well enough to keep water down.

Television is your other best friend. We have one other
station I didn’t mention – the aero bed in the game
room. When one of the girls is throwing up we’ll blow up the
travel toddler bed, line it with waterproof pads and towels, and
let her lie on the floor and watch t.v. Lots of t.v. Television was
the only thing that kept Cora from trying to get up and go
downstairs for breakfast, which she’d assuredly puke back up.
Set aside your television scruples and allow unlimited access for
the day. Thank your maker that cable television offers Sprouts on
demand; we watched endless episodes of Sesame Street and Thomas and
Angelina Ballerina.

These are my best tips for surviving one of the worst parts of
parenthood. If anyone’s got any others, please share here
– I don’t claim to know it all.

And I’m pretty sure I haven’t ridden my last ride on
the vomit comet.


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