How to keep your child's sleep on track when they are sick.
Sick kids are THE WORST!! It doesn’t matter if your child is a “good sleeper” or not, a sick kiddo is, well, sick and will have rough, tough nights.
Child illness always seem to come riiiiiiight when you think everything is cool and steady. Often, I have clients who, after months of sleep issues, finally decided to take the initiative and get serious about getting their baby onto a schedule, baby starts getting the hang of it, the whole family is starting to see longer periods of consolidated sleep, and everyone’s getting ready to break out the champagne...And then BAM! Baby gets a cold, or an ear infection, or a bout of diarrhea, or one of the other seven thousand illnesses that babies are prone to, and the whole thing goes off the rails.
Babies get sick, and sometimes frequently - ESPECIALLY if your little one is in daycare or school like mine are (does it feel like they are sick every week or is it just me?). When it comes to starting sleep training, I always telling my clients to plan on starting the program when you have a couple of weeks that they can really devote to the training, but you can’t schedule around an illness. So when it happens, it can really take the wind out of everyone’s sails.
So, today, I have a few suggestions for you in case this happens. Hopefully this can help you push through an undoubtedly a trying situation and get you motivated to get back on track.
How to keep your sick kiddo on track
1 - First off, resist the temptation to bring baby into your bed. I know that when I am sick I don’t want to be anywhere else than my own bed – the thought of even our really comfortable guest room makes me cringe. Your baby wants to stay in their own comfortable and familiar space. So, keep them in their own room and bed - If you’re really concerned and want to be in the same room as them through the night, I suggest YOU GO to them! Get a camping/air mattress or a bunch of pillows and prepare to sleep on the floor (side note: I do NOT recommend that you have a full time bed in your child’s room, that sets the expectation that you will stay in their room whenever they want you to do so– don’t set that expectation!!). Keeping them in their own room with familiar sleeping conditions will be much less disruptive for them than moving them into your room and you don’t run the risk of them getting used to sleeping in your bed.
2 - Second, do NOT give in to the temptation to start offering any sleep props that you might have recently taken away. I know it’s tough, because obviously you want to offer them all the comfort you can while they’re feeling miserable, but you really don’t want to reintroduce those things they were dependent on prior to starting sleep training. It can be really confusing and is often even more difficult to break the association the second time around.
You should definitely go in and check on them more often, take care of any needs they might have, and even give them a little cuddle or a rocking session in order to comfort them.
Just be vigilant and be sure to put them back into bed before they fall back to sleep. Otherwise you run the risk of them developing those associations where falling asleep requires a rocking session or a cuddle, and then you’re back to square one.
How can I be prepared to soothe them?
When my own kiddos are sick, I make sure I have a few staples ready to go. My “sick kit” includes, medicine (specifically Tylenol and even honey for babies 12mo+! ALWAYS consult with your child’s doctor for ANY medicine given to your child), a syringe to administer meds (I like this even for the big kids!!), a water bottle next to the child’s bed, a humidifier, possibly some towels (or a bucket for older kids) for the floor (never put these in the bed with young children!!) as well as multiple clean sheets and PJs easily accessible (if applicable) for quick changes, a trash bag available to put soiled items into (that will likely go straight to the washer) as well as wipes at the ready.
If your child vomits or has diarrhea, you’ll want to change them and clean them up as quickly and gentle as possible. I have heard of some people even layering the mattress with a sheet, water proof pad, another sheet, another pad, and a final sheet so that if the sheet gets soiled you just remove the top two layers. And of course, reassure your child that you are there for them and give them extra love and cuddles
In most cases, child illnesses are relatively mild and take a few days to run their course. You may notice a slight regression when the illness has passed, but not to worry. Your baby has learned some great sleep skills due to having already been sleep training at this point and will probably only need a slight reminder of how things go before they’ll be back into their routine and sleeping soundly through the night again. Just get back to the program, reintroduce the old bedtime routine, and you’ll be seeing those same wonderful results in no time.
What are your go to soothing remedies when your kids are sick? Drop your suggestions in the comments!