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Sick and not sleeping?

Sick and not sleeping?

When sickness hits it can turn a household upside down!  You can expect that when your child is sick it will cause some night wake-ups because anyone who is sick does not sleep as well as they normally would. We tend to have two, five, or even more nighttime wake-ups when we either can’t breathe or don’t feel well.  Although, how you handle those wake-ups will make a big difference in your child’s sleep after they are over their illness.

Babies may need a little extra help with sleep during the onset or for the first couple of days of becoming sick.  While this is okay to help them more during this time, try to keep in mind that if you help your child go to sleep for too many days in a row, they will start to expect that help even after they are sick.  It’s fine to give them some needed help for the first few days, but then go back to your normal way very soon, otherwise they will develop a sleep prop (something that helps them fall asleep) and continue to need that at bedtime or during the night.

If you’ve worked hard to move away from sleep props (feeding to sleep, rocking to sleep, etc.) or don’t want to start any new sleep props, then what you can do is go in and have a short cuddle, wipe his or her nose, give some water, or sing a song to help comfort for a short time, but don’t interfere too much with helping him or her to go back to sleep.

Although, it’s not always that simple and often you will need to help more.  Here are some common sleep props and some tips on how to use them during a cold:


If you are using a pacifier, during a cold can actually be a perfect time to stop using it while your child’s nose is stopped up!  Some babies will need that extra comfort of a pacifier but they get frustrated because they can’t breathe while using it.  Talk with your child (no matter how young they are) and tell them that it’s too hard to use and let’s have a cuddle instead or grab their sleeping buddy for some extra comfort.  This is a great way to wean off of using a pacifier!

Night feeds

If you haven’t been feeding at night, try not to go back to that to help go back to sleep unless you plan to continue, but if your child has had a high fever for several days, s/he might need some extra fluids through the night and that’s okay to offer water or milk during that time.


If co-sleeping isn’t in your family plan, think twice about bringing baby back in bed with you.  If your child has established great sleeping skills and needs a night or two in bed, no problem!  But if you are trying to work away from co-sleeping, don’t start again unless you are ready to work on it after the illness passes.  Instead, go to them and, if needed, sleep in their room for a couple of nights.

With any sleep prop you need to use again during illness, make sure you only help out for a few nights.  Three nights is a good rule of thumb because if any extra help happens for more than three nights, then there is the possibility that your child is going to now expect this at bedtime or start waking up looking for feeds or rocking to sleep even once the sickness is gone.

If everything falls apart, cut yourself a bit of slack because sometimes it happens. Know that as soon as your child is well again, just get right back to how they were going to sleep before getting sick.

If your child wasn’t sleeping well before they became sick, then check out www.HappySleepingBaby.com for sleep tips on how to get to restful nights.

Happy Sleeping!


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