How to maintain healthy sleep habits with a sick kid.

Cold and flu season is in full swing, my friends. I say this with my bottle of bleach on stand-by to mop up my 2-year old’s vomit.  I thought it would be fitting for us to chat about the dreaded “illness factor”, especially in regard to how it impacts our children’s sleep.


I want to give you some tips for handling sickness so that you don’t derail on any progress you have made with your child’s independent sleep habits. It’s pretty typical that your baby or child is going to wake in the night when experiencing an illness, therefore, it’s important that we know how to handle these wake-ups, so we don’t create new or worsen any negative sleep habits.


1.Offer comfort without the PROPS: One of the big mistakes people make is that they start to intervene in their child’s sleep skills. Meaning they go in, rock, offer bottles, lull baby to sleep in their arms, and go back to all their old sleep props.  (Read all about Sleep Props in my last post).

I understand wanting to comfort your sick baby, and you absolutely should.  I always tell my parents to tend to their babies when sick, but be smart about it.   Go into her room, have a short cuddle, wipe her nose, give her a drink of water, whatever you need to do to offer some comfort…… Then put her back in her crib or bed to fall back to sleep on her own.


2. Keep your doctor on stand-by: The only time I want you to go back to nighttime feeds is if your doctor or pediatrician suggests it. If she’s had a high fever for several days, she might need some extra fluids through the night. 


3. Rule of Three: You definitely want to make sure if you go back to any old habits that it only happens for a few nights. Three is kind of my rule of thumb. If anything happens for more than three nights, then there is the danger that the baby is going to now expect this and start waking up looking for feeds even once the sickness is gone.


4. Don’t bring baby into your bed: Another big mistake people make is that they bring their kiddo into bed with them. Again, I understand where that desire comes from. You want to comfort your sick child. If you’re really concerned about your child through the night, it is much better for you to go to him than to bring him to you.  Throw down an air mattress. Spend a night or two in his room to keep an eye on him. Again, keep in mind the Rule of Three.  Try not to do it for any longer than three nights or you might find yourself six months later still sleeping beside his bed.


5. Get sleep when you can: Nursing a sick child is exhausting work and it’s important for you to remember that you can’t pour from a cup that is empty.  You need to stay on top of your game to ensure that you can take care of your sick little human.  This means you need to get as much rest as you can.  So, go to bed as soon as your child is down for the count (insert mom voice)!


6. Cut yourself some Slack: If everything falls apart, cut yourself a bit of slack. Sometimes it happens. As soon as your baby is well again just get right back on track with the independent sleep habits you've been working towards. 


Remember I’m always here to help.  Schedule a 15-minute Sleep Assessment if you need me!