Should You Give Milk to Babies With Croup?

Croup and Hydration

Croup is a common childhood illness that is identified by a persistent barking cough. Croup is usually caused by a virus. Most cases are not serious and can often be treated at home. Many parents question if it is suitable to feed their babies milk during bouts of the croup. While milk can provide a croup-stricken child with necessary nourishment and hydration, cow's milk can worsen a croupy cough. If you have any concerns about the croup or your baby is running a high fever, showing signs of distress or having trouble breathing, seek immediate medical care.

If your baby has a mild case of croup, the Mayo Clinic recommends that you treat the croup at home by putting a cool-mist humidifier in his room, giving him a recommended dose of ibuprofen or acetaminophen and sitting him upright to alleviate the coughing. It is also essential for you to keep your baby well-hydrated during his bout of croup. Proper hydration will soothe his throat and alleviate the painful coughing by thinning mucus secretions. Proper hydration also helps to keep his energy up and stave off fever. If your baby shows signs of being severely dehydrated, take him to the doctor or hospital immediately.

Nursing and Croup

It is safe for babies suffering from croup to drink breast milk. Most importantly, breast milk keeps babies from becoming dehydrated or malnourished during their illness. Pediatrician Dr. William Sears claims that breast milk plays a key role in treating croup, as nursing helps babies to relax. If the baby is calm, his airways also become relaxed and his coughing becomes less severe. Breast-feeding may also lull your baby to sleep, which gives him the needed energy to fight off his virus and recover more quickly.

Cow's Milk and Croup

Like breast milk, a bottle of cow's milk will also hydrate and soothe your baby, but registered homeopathic practitioner Melanie Creedy warns that it may also exacerbate his croup symptoms. While other liquids, including breast milk, can thin the secretions in the throat, cow's milk can thicken the phlegm and make the coughing worse; it's better to hydrate him with thinner liquids. Keep in mind that cow's milk is not suitable for a young baby's digestive tract and should not be given to any baby under the age of 12 months.

Alternative Liquids for Croup

If you do not breast-feed your baby and want to thin the secretions in his throat, juice and water are the best options for keeping him hydrated. Cold decaffeinated tea may also soothe his throat. Honey, either in the tea or by the spoonful, is another good throat soother, but avoid giving it to children under the age of 1, as it can cause botulism. If your baby is older and can eat solids, offer him ice pops or warm soup to nourish him and help alleviate his throat pain.