Many parents ask me what to do when their child gets sick, especially when the sleep gets disrupted.
Unfortunately, kids get sick time to time and when that happens, they normally have a tough time falling asleep, remaining asleep and they become cranky on top of everything else.
Even if they have previously learned to sleep independently, their sleep patterns could get easily thrown off.
But the good news is, it’s not forever!
So, you are probably wondering what can you do to help your little one pass through this sickness phase?
Here are my tips for you:
1. Expect Night Awakenings
Don’t be upset if your child wakes up during the night. Those awakenings are normal as your kid is uncomfortable and he may be in pain or fever. Your little prince may need your reassurance and soothing because he is not feeling well.
Don’t assume that over-the-counter cold, allergy or pain-relief medications will help your child to sleep. These medications do make some children sleepy, but they can also stimulate other kids to stay awake for hours.
Especially ear infections can be very brutal on kids because the pain increases when a child lies down. In fact, frequent and distressed awakenings could be a sign that your little one has an ear infection.
So, expect those night arousals before you get disappointed.
2. Respond Quickly
When your baby is sick and he is crying at night, go to him immediately. Even if he has previously settled on his own or was sleeping through the night, you should still check on him.
3. Provide Support
Because your little one is not feeling well, do whatever he needs to feel soothed and comfortable.
I believe that this part isn’t really difficult for most of parents.
Once you go to your child, do whatever you need to do – give him medicine, aspirate his nose or clean him up. If you want, go ahead, hold him and comfort him as much as you think he needs.
Keep in mind that little noses have less room for air to move during a bout with an illness. If your child’s sinus cavities are enflamed, breathing could be more challenging.
I suggest to you keep a humidifier in your child’s room during the night. It will help him to ease the breathing. Humidifiers increase the amount of water in the air which is helpful during the illness, especially if the temperatures outside are causing very dry air.
If your little one is having bad cough, you could raise his mattress a bit to keep his head more elevated. That could help prevent severe coughing at night.
I also recommend to check with your pediatrician before you administer any medications. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Make sure you clearly understand the dosage of medicines.
Don’t forget that after you comforted your child during the night, you should gently guide him back to bed.
Remember, a good sleep is the first step helping your child to pass through the sickness. The better he sleeps, the quicker he will get better.
Allow your child to sleep longer than usual during these difficult days. You can even move his bedtime a bit earlier.
4. Don’t Overdo It!
You want to take care of your little one during the night but you don’t want to teach him to stick to bad sleeping habits forever.
Remember, there is a difference between backsliding and total regression.
If you just recently ended co-sleeping, don’t put your child back in your bed.
You can sit next to him, hold his hand, stroke him, snuggle him, but don’t take him back to your bed.
If you are really worried and want to remain next to your little one during night, you can sleep in his room but do so in a separate bed. In this way your kid will have comfort of his own bed and you will still be nearby.
However, if you have been trying to get rid of his water bottle at night and your child has got a tummy ache, give him water fluid he needs to stay hydrated until his stomach calms down.
If you just weaned your little one from nigh time nursing and he needs liquids because he is sick, try a cup or a bottle instead of nursing.
Similarly, if your child was emotionally attached to a specific sippy cup, try letting him to have a few sips out of a “big boy” cup.
I have also discovered another powerful technique – reminding children of sleep rules even while we are twisting them. For example, it could be super helpful saying this to 3 years old: “ I’m going to pick you up and hold you until you fall back asleep to make you feel better, but as soon as your tummy ache goes away, you won’t need Mommy to do this”.
Warning your child in advance helps to make the rule breaking less confusing. Once he knows and understands your expectations, he will have an easier time adapting to his old routine once sickness has passed.
5. Go Back to the Old Routine
Don’t forget that once your child is well again you need to go right back to your normal bedtime routine and return to setting limits on his behaviour during the night.
If you have stopped sleep-training for few days, now is a good time to continue. Even if your child was previously sleeping through the night, don’t panic!
Just stay consistent and he will go back to normal again. Most kids adapt quickly, especially if they have already developed good sleep skills.
Sometimes you may have to do another round of sleep coaching, but it usually goes faster than the initial go-round because you are reminding a child of a learned skill and not introducing it from a scratch.
If your child has not yet developed independent sleep skills, meaning that he needs you or any other external help in order to fall asleep, I will be glad to help you with this. I am using a very gentle and effective approach which has helped many parents whose kids were struggling with sleep. You can book a FREE 15 min PHONE CONSULTATION to get us started.