I love talking about sleep when sick because it’s one that many of us really feel. You have a perfectly sleeping baby, you’ve spent so much time working on their sleep (or maybe you’re one of the lucky few with a baby that naturally sleeps well independently), and then baby gets sick and all your hard work goes out the window.
One of the most common reasons my clients and followers reach out to me is because their infant or toddler was sleeping great, and was even sleep trained, until they got sick. Why does this happen?
Because you’re human.
It can be so scary when our little people are sick. The first time my son was sick he had a really high fever for over a week and was waking up many times at night uncomfortable. So what do we do when sickness starts to mess with our sleep trained babe's sleep?
Listen to your gut and to your child
My son is most comfortable sleeping in his crib, so when he was sick I continued to put him down in his crib for bed every night and for all naps. But every time he woke up I didn't even attempt to use my sleep training method like I normally would.
Instead, every single time he woke during the night, I went in to check on him - I rocked him, held him and nursed him back to sleep. Because that's what he needed.
When your little one is sick, try your best to not introduce any new sleep crutches, such as rocking/feeding to sleep or co-sleeping/sleeping in the same room when previously not. But also know that IT'S OKAY to do whatever you need to make sure your little one is comfortable while sick.
If that means having him sleep on your chest upright because he's congested, nursing or rocking him to sleep, or sleeping next to him because you're worried about him. That's okay! Sickness calls for exceptions to the rules.
Nap challenges when baby is sick
Oftentimes naps can be a real struggle when baby gets sick. Your once 3-hour napper might suddenly only take a 1 hour nap. To combat this struggle and make sure baby is still getting enough sleep, move bedtime up by however much daytime sleep was missed.
For example, if your baby usually gets 3 hours of daytime sleep but only gets 1 hour, you’d make bedtime 2 hours earlier than normal. Don’t go any earlier than 5pm though.
Sounds crazy, right? Won’t that make baby wake up super early in the morning? Nope. Because sleep begets sleep! Making this bedtime adjustment will help prevent your baby from becoming overtired and allow him to get MORE nighttime sleep, which is desperately needed when sick.
Alternatively, it's likely your infant or toddler will need more daytime sleep when sick. Watch their queues. Just like we need to sleep during the day when we're sick, they need more sleep too. It's okay to let naps go longer than
you normally would, and to let baby sleep in later. Try to stick to your schedule as best as possible, but if baby needs more sleep than normal, allow it. Sleep is key to helping baby get well quickly.
The key to having a great sleeper again
If at all possible, try your best not to introduce any new sleep props when your infant or toddler is sick. If their sickness is minor and you know they’re okay, then do your best to continue putting your sleep trained babe down for sleep just as you always would.
If you do have to introduce new sleep props while baby is sick, that’s okay.
The key is as soon as baby is feeling better, go right back to the sleep training method you previously used.
That means that if your child previously slept in their own bed before getting sick, slept through the night without any feedings, or went to sleep on their own, you will go right back to that expectation as soon as they’re well again, using your sleep training method to address bedtime, naps, and any middle of the night wakeups.
Anticipate a few rough nights
The good news is that your sleep trained child already knew how to sleep independently before getting sick. This means they still know how. They’re just looking for those new options you introduced instead. The key to getting them back to sleeping independently again is to completely stop offering those new options.
This is my sleep training mantra. If you offer a sleep prop just one time to baby, they will look for that prop every single time to fall asleep and to fall back asleep in the middle of the night. So remove any new props and be consistent in not offering them again.
With that consistency, baby will get right back to normal sleep in no time.
If you need help getting baby back on track, I have a sleep solution just for you!