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Navigating Sleep While Your Baby Is Sick

For our family, this year has been extremely tough with all of the viruses going around, and I am sure you are feeling overwhelmed with the amount of times your little ones have been sick this season too! Navigating sleep during an illness can be very confusing, so I hope to ease your mind a little bit for the next time your little one gets sick with these tips:

When our babies get sick it is so important to tend to them as much as they need. This can make parents anxious, especially if your little one has just started to get on a healthy sleep routine. Rest assured, that once your little one is feeling better, they will most likely get right back into the routine they were on before the illness, and there are things we can do to make sure of it.

The most important thing to follow when your little one becomes sick, is your mama/dad gut. During this time, it is so important to make sure they are receiving the extra comfort and care they need. If they are upset in their bed, it is strongly recommended to go in and check their temperature, their diaper, provide water as needed, and elevate them by rocking them to help with breathing if necessary. You shouldn’t question your baby's needs during this time, and no matter what time of the day or night it is, if you feel like your little one needs medical attention, it is important to follow through.

One of the main requirements of fighting off a virus, is sleep. It is so important that your little one is receiving enough sleep prior to getting sick, during and after to ensure they will get back to their normal selves again quickly. Infants & toddlers require anywhere from 10-12 hours of sleep at night and the daytime amount varies per age. We all know that when we are sick nighttime tends to be a bit worse, causing our little ones to be extra tired during the day. As important as it is for them to be getting enough sleep, we still don’t want them to be getting too much. Keeping your child on their same routine (for the most part) is super important. You can allow them to sleep a bit longer when they’re sick but I wouldn’t allow any longer than an extra hour in the daytime, and an extra hour sleep-in in the morning. The reason we don’t want too much sleep during the day is because when nighttime rolls around - your little one is going to be wide awake. In order for them to heal and get better they need that nighttime rest. Keeping up with fluids is very important as well, and if our little ones are sleeping all day, chances are they are not taking in enough fluids. Maintaining your regular nap and bedtime routine - even when they are sick will ensure fluid intake stays up, and proper nighttime sleep is provided. Limit activities during the day to promote rest instead. Provide cuddles on the couch watching a movie, read books or colour quietly during awake time. Try to refrain from bringing your little one into your bed at night, and instead care for them in their bedroom (this may include sleeping in their room while they are sick). It is easier to transition back from this, than it is to transition from co-sleeping.

Depending on the severity of the virus - it can be impossible to keep your child awake, and it is so important to seek medical attention if they are becoming lethargic, and dehydrated. As stated above - follow your gut. If your days and nights get mixed up, you can start adjusting their schedule to get back on track once they’re feeling better. If you are struggling with getting your child back on track after an illness try these tips:

Start with morning wake up - wake them up at the same time every day, regardless of how their night went.

Get back on track with naps - follow age appropriate wake windows, and nap times. By having the same wake-up time every morning this ensures your first nap is always going to be the same. Securing that first nap is key for the rest of your day.

Push those calories every 3-4 hours (bottle/breastfed babies), and get back on track with a routine mealtime (solids) schedule, even if their appetite isn’t back to normal. It is important to offer the meals at their regular mealtime.

Be consistent with your bedtime routine! Follow, age appropriate wake window following the last nap, and stick with it every night.

If you ended up bringing your child to your bed when they were sick - Remember consistency is key, and protest is normal. If you maintain consistency throughout protest, your little one will quickly adjust back to their regular sleeping habits in their own bed.

If you began providing feedings in the night after they were fully weaned, you can start weaning those feedings again by reducing the amount of time on the breast, or amount of oz in a bottle until the feeding is gone.

Occasionally gentle sleep training may need to be implemented to regain structure.

Remember, it can take up to two weeks of consistency for your little one to get back on track!

If it has been more than two weeks of trying to get your infant/toddler back on track after an illness and you're still struggling to get back to normalcy, I’d love to chat! Feel free to book a free 20 minute consultation with me, to learn more ways to get your great little sleeper back!

- Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant

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