Helping Baby Through an Ear Infection

Ear infections can be painful to baby and difficult for parents. Here are a few ways to help.

Ear infections are one of the more common reasons parents bring their baby to a doctor. Since baby is unable to express what specifically hurts, it's helpful to learn signs of a possible ear infection and ways to help.

Here are a few things to look out for:

  • Baby begins to cry more frequently during or after a cold, upper respiratory infection, or virus
  • Increased irritability, fussiness
  • Fever
  • Changes in appetite, diarrhea
  • Tugging/pulling at ear(s), rubbing head
  • Eye drainage
  • Ear drainage
  • Baby seems "off," clumsy, frustrated
  • Baby screams when lying down due to painful changes in ear pressure

Why are children more prone to ear infections?

My son had chronic ear infections until he was about six years old and I played the dual role of mom/nurse very often. The reason little ears are more prone to ear infections can be attributed to their little tubes (Eustachian tubes).

Their tubes are short and small compared with the tubes in adult ears. When congested, their small tubes may swell making it easier for fluid to get trapped and built up. It's a breeding ground for bacteria.

Since baby's immune system is still developing, it may be more difficult to fight infections.

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My son would show signs of an ear infection in the middle of the night by screaming in pain. It was never at 10 am when I could easily call my pediatrician, and it was so hard to see him hurting through the night. A baby with an ear infection brewing may go down and then wake up hours later crying out.

What are ways to help baby through an ear infection?

  • To reduce the degree of pain, try holding a warm, wet washcloth against the ear. You may be unsure which ear is hurting, and it may be both so try one side at a time. The washcloth should not be hot, but warm and wet.
  • Elevate baby's head to alleviate some of the pressure. Have baby lay down on the ear that hurts or against you on that ear to promote drainage.
  • Call your doctor and don't feel bad about it. They are there to help you. If seen by your doctor and prescribed an antibiotic, follow the specific instructions carefully.
  • Provide infant/child pain relievers if recommended by your doctor. Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen depending on baby's age.
  • Hold baby up at a higher angle when feeding.
  • Wash your hands frequently to help reduce the risk of baby catching cold/flu germs.
  • If ear infections frequently occur, speak with your doctor and discuss potential contributing factors such as allergens, family history, and cigarette smoke.
  • Nose Frida – This handy device is easy to use, gentle on baby, and effective.
  • 3 in 1 Thermometer – A reliable thermometer is really important. One of the first questions that your doctor will ask when calling is whether you know your baby’s temperature.

It's difficult to see our baby hurting and it's our instinct to try and make it all better. Baby will feel more secure when provided with calm and comfort in a soothing environment.

There are a lot of remedies for ear infections out there. What have you tried and what has helped you?

Linda Scruggs

Linda Scruggs

Linda Scruggs RN, BSN serves as a resource for parents in the digital space, creating helpful health and wellness content. She has specialized for over 12 years in reproductive medicine, and family and women's health as a nurse. A mom of two young children, her work can be seen on her own blog via her site,, as a contributor to The Huffington Post, and created the patient education program in one of the top fertility centers in the country. Linda is all about empowerment in motherhood and would love to connect.

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