Updated: Apr 19
So your baby is sick, and you see the snot running, the crankiness arises and you're thinking, "Oh, here we go..."
Let me start by saying that there are some benefits to your baby dealing with a cold; they need more cuddles (umm, okay!), it's good for their immune system, oh, and they need more cuddles.
When it comes to sleep, things can get a bit trickier. Stuffy noses, coughs, etc. can all impact your baby's quality of sleep (just like you or me!)
So here are my go-to's when it comes to managing sleep with a sick baby.
1) Continue with your sleep routines!
Still do your bedtime routine as you've been doing, and continue to do your short and sweet naptime routine.
Chances are, you had to work to get a good routine in place and keeping it in place when your baby isn't feeling well will help them sleep better overall.
2) Your baby will need extra comfort in one way or another.
They may need more time in the bath.
They may need more cuddles before being put in their crib.
They may need you to use the snot sucker one more time.
They may need some Tylenol/Advil (age-appropriate, of course).
They will most certainly need more fluids, so you can expect to breastfeed or offer another bottle here and there.
3) What to expect at night? Look at the day!
If your baby has a mild cold and doesn't seem too affected during the day, I would expect minimal disruption at night.
This, of course, can change with congestion or a cough.
If your baby is very unwell at night, you might have an extra night waking or two.
When you go in to check on your baby, help them out with the snot sucker, a feed and a cuddle, then back to bed!
What they need is sleep and getting good nighttime sleep helps us all get over colds.
4) Should I let my baby sleep more?
One question that may cross your mind is 'how long should I let my baby nap when sick?'
Maybe your baby usually naps over an hour, but now it's been two hours!
They most likely need more sleep, and the rule of thumb is to let them sleep.
If they're having a 3 ish hour nap, I'd consider waking them up soon, so that they can be awake for a bit, and have a feed before their next nap or bedtime.
5) Baby has regressed post illness, what can you do?
Let's say your baby was quite sick for a period of time, and during that time, you had to hold/rock/feed to sleep to just maintain some sanity, and now it's a habit.
With illness, there can be varying degrees of regression: mild, moderate, or severe.
If your baby has a mild regression, they will get back on track within a couple of nights of doing the old routine.
If it's moderate, you might need to dust off the sleep strategy for a week.
If it seems like a total and utter regression, dust off the strategy and begin from night 1 of your sleep plan.
Yup, night 1.
Sitting in the room, offering comfort and reassurance and taking a break at the one-hour mark if needed.
Or maybe you're into the Leave & Check method, so you'd put your baby to bed, leave the room and do check-ins every 10-15 minutes as needed.
I have had clients say that their baby was sleeping well, and then they got sick and that seemed to change everything.
So when I say that you might need to start again, it's a very real possibility!
Thankfully, most babies have massive improvement within the first week, and then others in the second week come around.
So hang in there!
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