Baby Sleep & Sickness
Parenting is hard when everyone is healthy, but as soon as illness strikes, life feels like a drudge. A sick little one is so sad, and we want to do everything we can to help them feel better quickly. Dealing with illness can affect mood, appetite, and especially sleep, but we know as parents that getting enough sleep will help them recover much more quickly! Let’s review a few things you can do to keep your baby well-rested while they fight sickness.
Keeping Baby Comfortable When They’re Sick
- Give your little one lots of cuddles and sleep support. Support can mean rocking, contact napping, or laying down with them while they doze off.
- Wash everyone’s hands frequently! Whether an infant or an older child, dirty hands spread germs faster than anything else.
- For congestion, coughing, or stuffiness, I love the Nose Freida, saline drops, and, when appropriate, Baby Vicks.
- My kids get chronic coughs, and a cool mist humidifier can be a game changer. Talk to your doctor about a persistent cough, but sitting in a steamy bathroom can help with chest or croup coughs.
- Talk to your doctor about clear liquids when age-appropriate for any vomiting or diarrhea. If you’re breastfeeding or bottle feeding smaller, more frequent milk feeds may help prevent dehydration.
What if My Child Has Trouble Falling Asleep While They’re Sick?
- Stay Consistent! Illness tends to make life feel chaotic; survival mode, here we come. Keeping to your naptime and bedtime routines can help everyone maintain a sense of normalcy.
- Sleep Support: If you’ve done any sleep training, it may feel scary to reintroduce some extra help to get your little one to sleep. Don’t worry; it doesn’t have to last forever. Rocking to sleep or laying down to rub their back and help them relax is entirely appropriate during sickness. They need all the love and comfort you can give them.
PRO TIP- If you are not currently co-sleeping and do not want to co-sleep, I highly recommend sleeping in your child’s room if they need overnight monitoring. Pull out a mattress or some extra blankets and sleep on the floor. Moving a parent out of a child’s room once they are well is much easier than moving a child out of a parent’s bed.
- Take Deep Breaths: Sickness can increase anxiety and a sense of being out of control. You love your little one and want to help them. Our kids sense our anxiety, so do your best to remember that you are exactly what they need. You’re doing an excellent job, and they will feel better soon. Get the sleep you can, ask your pediatrician for guidance, and take it one day at a time.
Do Children Sleep More When They Are Sick?
Your child may sleep more while their immune system is fighting illness. Their little bodies are working hard to get well. If you notice your baby is too sleepy, contact a physician. Research shows that sleep helps our bodies fight infection and improves mood and quality of life. Helping your little one get adequate sleep while they’re sick is extremely important.
How Much Should I Let My Little One Sleep While They Are Sick?
It’s normal for kids to sleep more when sick; watch your child’s cues. If they are sleepy before nap time, try putting them down a little earlier.
Here are a few rules of thumb:
- Letting them sleep an hour or so longer than usual in the morning is okay. If your baby or toddler usually wakes up around 7 am, go wake them up by 8 if they haven’t roused themselves.
- If they are napping longer than usual, let them sleep, but consider waking them up after 2.5-3 hours, especially if it’s approaching dinner time. Knowing your child’s appropriate wake window helps determine how much sleep to let them get during the day.
- Keep track of their liquid intake. Having decent bouts of awake time to eat, drink, and interact is also important in fighting illness. Monitor the amount of liquid they are taking in, especially if experiencing vomiting, diarrhea, or fever.
Best Sleeping Position for Sick Baby
Parents sometimes ask if sleeping in an elevated position will help their congested baby sleep better. This is NOT recommended. It may seem like a reasonable solution to elevate their mattress or let them sleep in their car seat, but it can block their airway, they can slide down to an unsafe position, or it can cause an infant to roll unsafely. Use saline solution and a bulb syringe or Nose Frieda to remove the congestion before sleep.
Can I Sleep Train My Baby if They Are Sick?
No, if you have started sleep training or planned to sleep train and your little one gets sick, wait until they are well. Sleep training is learning a new skill. They will be learning to self-soothe, so waiting until they are well will make that process much easier on all of you.
If your little one has regressed in their sleep skills during illness, don’t panic! It’s normal for them to want your continued help to sleep even if they don’t need it anymore. One of my Pinpoint Coaching options may be just the thing to get you back on track.