Baby Sleep and Sick Season:

What’s a Mama to Do?

Cara Dumaplin, Founder

So you’ve set your baby up for sleep success (or you’re desperately trying to), and now your sweet little one is sick!

What now???

First, when babies are sick, they need lots of love. They DON’T need to “tough it out” or “learn how to sleep in all circumstances” as some may think. Sick babies simply need YOU.

Sleep is disrupted for many of us when we get sick. Don’t let this convince you that your baby will never sleep again! Sick babies actually sleep more overall, but they often wake up more frequently during naps and nighttime. This causes many parents to stress. Please don’t! If you had a good sleeper, you will get her back once she’s well. If you didn’t have a solid sleeper before, well, help is available AFTER this illness passes.

Some Tips to Keep Temporary Sickness from Doing Permanent Sleep Damage

1) Don’t allow your baby to cry. When he cries in the night, go right to him. His cries mean he needs you immediately, so comfort him right away. If you have just begun sleep training, you must stop.

Don’t worry: we can resume once your baby is 100% well. If you have been implementing the newborn class, it’s okay to stop with those tips as well.

2) Offer Tylenol or Motrin for pain relief (as instructed by your pediatrician).

3) If he isn’t eating well during the day, please feed him during the night. Even if your baby has not eaten during the night for months, it is definitely okay to offer night feedings. Your goal is to keep your baby hydrated.

4) Provide a comfortable and healthy environment for the fastest recovery time:

– For congestion/stuffiness, use saline drops and a Nose Frida to suction out that icky-cold snot.

– For coughing, run a cool-mist humidifier in your baby’s room and/or consider sitting in a steamy bathroom with your baby.

– Discuss with your pediatrician whether to add in Pedialyte for electrolytes if your baby has diarrhea or a high fever.

– Give your baby lots of patience and snuggling.

– Wash your hands frequently.

5) Allow naps to be a bit longer than normal. (Remember, sleep is good medicine.) Typically, for babies who are taking more than one nap, we cap each nap at about 2 hours. While sick, you can allow a bit more sleep, but keep in mind that hydration and calories are important too. Trust your gut on this one, but consider waking your little one if it’s been longer than 2.5-3 hours for any given nap. Even being awake for a quick feeding and going back to sleep is helpful.

Insider info: Did you know that it’s very normal for babies and small children to have several colds a year? Until your little one has a more mature immune system, colds and other illnesses are so easy to catch. The #1 way to prevent the spread of cold and flu is to wash hands frequently and well. That means you aren’t crazy or silly if you ask people to wash hands before touching your baby: you’re smart!

Some parents pull baby into their bed during sick times. I know that’s what I did! I wanted them close to me so I could hear their every breath. I must admit, this created so much havoc in our home. Once the babies were better, it was difficult to get them back in their own crib.

By the time my 4th baby was born, I found a way to be close yet not disrupt his sleeping environment. Here’s the secret: take a mattress into your baby’s room so that you can sleep on his floor so that his sleeping environment remains unchanged. This will help maintain consistency during the illness, yet fulfill your mommy-heart desire to watch his every move. (This is the mattress I used.)

Don’t we all sleep better in our own bed? Babies do too!

(I didn’t sleep very well, but who does with a sick baby? At least he did!)

Insider info: Research shows that when we get adequate sleep, our bodies have a boosted immune system to fight off infections. Our bodies actually make the white blood cells for fighting bacteria and viruses while sleeping! On the other hand, lack of sleep actually puts us all (babies included) at risk for more frequent illnesses.

Now, let’s say he has moved from “sick” to “recovering from a cold.” How do you get your baby back on track??

Watch his caloric intake. If he’s not getting enough in during the day, consider adding in a dream feeding at 10-11pm. Our goal is to slowly wean back off of these night feedings. Offer less and less in the night. If he is eating well during the day and you are no longer concerned about his caloric intake, comfort him and lay him back down in the crib before he’s completely asleep when he awakens in the night.

If you have implemented the ABC’s of Sleep, just follow your plan. Your good little sleeper should return in 3-5 nights.

If you haven’t taken The ABC’s of Sleep, you still have time to help your baby conquer night sleep before the cold and flu season really gets underway! “The ABC’s of Sleep” gives you a step-by-step plan to follow once your baby is well. It is a balanced approach in teaching your little one to sleep in her crib while still providing hands-on reassurance. It is a 14-night journey to restful nights AND knowing that your baby can quickly bounce back from sickness to great nights.

Perhaps you have a newborn, and sleep has been derailed by sickness. “Will I Ever Sleep Again?” is a cry-free method for teaching foundational sleep skills to newborn babies. If you have already taken this course, but your little one is now waking every 2-3 hours due to an illness, No Worries! Those long stretches of sleep do not have to be completely ruined by illness. Start where you are currently. If your baby is waking every three hours, try to get to four. Go back to your booklet again. These tips will still work! When your baby awakens in the night, implement the steps on page 6. After you hit four hours, aim for five and slowly build from there. It will take time. If you aren’t seeing major improvements by 5 months, please know “The ABC’s of Sleep” class will be there for you. You do not have to struggle forever!

hey there!

I'm Cara.

I’m a mom of four, neonatal nurse, and wife of a pediatrician. My passion is teaching parents how to help their babies sleep with the science of a nurse and the heart of a mama so they can reclaim the joy of parenthood.

I'm Cara.

I’m a mom of four, neonatal nurse, and wife of a pediatrician. My passion is teaching parents how to help their babies sleep with the science of a nurse and the heart of a mama so they can reclaim the joy of parenthood.