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Opinion: Dad Alex Jee on a baby’s first illness

Emotions run high when your child becomes ill for the first time – as columnist Alex Jee has been discovering...

The first hint that we get that something might be wrong is the peace and quiet.

Columnist Alex Jee with his baby daughter
Columnist Alex Jee with his baby daughter

It has been three weeks since my daughter has slept more than 45 minutes during the day.

Nevertheless, here she is two hours in, sleeping undisturbed despite a plumber carrying out noisy repairs to the bathroom next door.

I am in the room opposite nursing a migraine and the work is disturbing me, so how on earth is she managing to sleep through all of that? I wonder to myself as I gaze mystified into the baby monitor.

Perhaps this is God’s intervention and she is finally getting some rest, exhausted after a morning of rattle shaking and rolling around?

Or maybe she is planning on packing three wake windows’ worth of activity into one later on, and wanted to rest up ahead of time?

There is, however, one thing I cannot get out of my mind – one of those small facts read online or in a parenting book at some point between pregnancy and birth. It’s the memory that babies need much more rest when they’re not feeling well.

As soon as I think it, I dismiss it – it’s about time she started sleeping more anyway, so this can only be a good thing, surely?

It is at this point I would direct anyone who has not read it to my column on tempting fate. Hopefully someone will learn because clearly I never will.

The second hint that something really is wrong is the sneeze. She sneezes from time to time anyway, as babies and people do – but never this frequently. Still, it could all be nothing, I think.

Unfortunately, any hope is soon disparaged by the arrival of – horror – the cough.

It’s that childhood cough – you know the one that tells of a body that doesn’t quite have control over itself quite yet.

It’s the kind of cough that sounds adorable in a child aged six months, but turns a toddler into a walking, talking germ machine usually reserved for crowded restaurants, buses or airplanes.

At this point, it is hard to tell who is more upset – the baby, who doesn’t understand why she isn’t feeling well nor why her parents keep trying to get her to drink this strange pink liquid (I used to love Calpol as a kid), or her parents who are worried to death about her.

Thankfully, we have a strong network of in-the-know people with ready remedies for any ailment in infancy; although I’ve been reliably informed that six months is not old enough for a hot toddy quite yet.

The first illness is, I would imagine, always hard for new parents to deal with and we should certainly be glad that it is just a cold. We called the doctor straight away who told us to keep our daughter topped up with fluid and to make sure she got plenty of rest.

No fear – although she may have different ideas!

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