If you are a first time parent, the first time you hear your baby fake cough you may become alarmed and think something is horribly wrong. You run to baby’s side to check on them and they look up smile at you and giggle. This may be the first signs of baby learning to get your attention quickly, or could something be wrong? Read on to find out more.
Is Baby Fake Cough Normal?
For the most part, the old “baby fake cough” is an action to get a reaction from you. Your baby has just figured out that when they make a noise you either give them some attention like a cuddle, say “bless you” or wipe their nose. Babies learn how to communicate with you early on and they find when they cough or sneeze you will give them some attention. You will also see that if you cough, they may mimic you. This is one “preverbal” developmental skill and you don’t necessarily need to worry about it at all. This can also include sneezes. Before words, your baby learns to make noises and sometimes does it just to hear themselves.
This new communication skill your baby has learned shows you that your baby’s awareness of the world around him is increasing and he is becoming social with you. This behavior usually sets in around 6 months of age and a clue that they are tuning into their world. It is perfectly okay for you to give them the attention they are looking for, go ahead and smile or fake cough right back at them. It might even turn into a fun game between you two.
When Is the Time to Stop Baby Fake Cough?
Over time, your baby’s fake coughing will become more of an annoyance and not cute anymore. It is acceptable to begin curbing this behavior around the age of 15 to 18 months of age. Tell your child to “please tell me what you need,” or gently say, “No more fake coughs please.” When your child reaches preschool age, it is most likely for them to mimic other children when they see that others get attention for coughing. Let them know that these kids probably had a “real” cough and that is okay, but fake coughing is not okay. You also need to let them know that if they continue to fake cough, “mommy will think you are really sick and you need to go to bed and rest.” This will usually curtail the behavior when they don’t want to go to bed. If they do continue to cough, continue with the consequence and put them to bed. It won’t take them long to figure out this is not a good way to get your attention. Make sure if it continues, to evaluate your child for signs of true illness and call the doctor if needed.
How to Tell Fake Cough from Real Cough
At some point, if the baby fake cough continues you may begin to worry if your baby’s cough is real. This is a valid worry as a parent so there are a few things you will need to look for if you’re concerned about this issue. Real illness, especially respiratory problems, may need to be evaluated by a doctor. Things like bacterial bronchitis, pneumonia or even a foreign body in the lungs need prompt medical attention. Look for these signs of true illness:
- Runny, stuffy nose and congestion with or without drainage
- Fever over 101°F
- Excessive drooling not related to teething
- Baby is irritable and cranky
- Trouble sleeping while lying flat
- Poor feeding
- Pale color to the skin or blue discoloration around the mouth
If your baby seems to be “fake coughing” but shows any signs of illness, you need to contact your doctor as soon as possible. If your baby shows signs they may have inhaled a small object or toy, get immediate medical attention.
Watch the following vid where a cute girl fake coughs:
This video shows what a true cough is like in a sick baby:
Experience of Other Moms
“I noticed that one of my baby’s first sounds was actually a cough. She would let out a little cough and then smile and wait for me to react. I did notice an increase in these baby fake cough spells around the time she was teething between 4 and 6 months. The drooling kind of explained why she was doing this more. I do know that if she isn’t running fever, is eating and playing, these coughs are harmless.”
--Mikayla, mother of an 8 month old daughter
“I noticed my son fake coughing for 2 to 3 months straight. I find that it increases when I am very busy and he needs more attention. He also does it sometimes just to hear the noises he is making. He will fake cough, then sit and wait for a reaction from me and then he starts to giggle. Sometimes when I am trying to talk to someone, they may get annoyed, but I actually find it adorable. I guess you have to have kids to get it.”
--Sandra, mother of a 6 month old son
“I work from home and a lot of the time I get caught up in what I am doing. While baby is playing on the floor quietly, she will suddenly let out a cough and then wait. If I don’t respond, she will let out another cough and just look at me and smile. After a few times, I will go over and cuddle her a little and the coughing seems to go away on its own. It was then I realized my daughter just needed a little of my time.”
--Taylor, mom of 9 month old daughter