My great sleeper is ill – now what?

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At this time of year, the seasons change and the mornings have become colder – and sometimes the sniffles rapidly catch up with us. It starts with a snotty nose, which quickly changes into a cough and then a fever. Suddenly, your little human is not feeling well and your great sleeper quickly turns into a not-so-great sleeper – what do you do?

The first thing you should do is assess is how bad it is. This is not easy as your baby won’t be able to tell you. Ask yourself how your child was during the day and just before bedtime. Is it just a snotty nose or do they also have a fever? Keep in mind that if you remain unsure, it is always best to take your little one to the doctor to make sure.

If your child generally falls asleep easily at bedtime on their own, the chances are good they will be able to continue on this trend even if they are sick. More often than not, bedtime during illness is not the problem as we give them the appropriate medication just before they go to bed, so they will continue to fall asleep on their own. The problem rather comes during the night. Sleeping has been going so well, but suddenly you are unsure about what to do when your child wakes at night. Few questions you might be asking yourself: How long will this last? Should I respond? Should I wait? Can I give water or milk? Should my baby sleep with me?

If your baby is sick, and if they have a fever and you hear them during the night, go and check. Respond immediately – there is no need to wait as the medication might have worn off. Do they need more medicine? Give a sip of water when congested and even give extra cuddles and love and put them back in their cot.

If you’re not comfortable with your baby or child sleeping alone when sick, either due to vomiting or extreme fever, I’d strongly suggest keeping your child in the familiar sleeping space. You can put an extra mattress in their room (if there is no bed) and sleep there with your child, rather than placing your child in your bed with you.

“If your baby is sick, if they have fever and you hear them during the night, go and check. Respond immediately – there is no need to wait as the medication might have worn off.”

Giving a milk feed is often a very common go-to when our babies are sick. There are a few things to keep in mind if your baby, who has been sleeping through the night without any feeds, wakes due to illness:

  • If your doctor or nurse recommended night feeds to keep your child hydrated or for any other reason, you will reintroduce a feed or two. If not, feeds should not be your first choice when trying to soothe a sick baby. With some illnesses these night feeds could worsen the symptoms, such as diarrhoea. But if all else fails it can be helpful, and during these times is not something to worry about.
  • The most important thing to keep in mind with nightly feeds is that you need to keep your baby awake during the feed.
  • Keep the sleeping space quiet, dark and non-stimulating.

As adults, we also don’t sleep well when we’re feeling under the weather, but when we rest, we feel better and we recover sooner. It is the same with our children. They do need to rest to make them feel better. Do not panic when your sick baby or child wants to sleep a little more than usual during the day. A baby who is used to their routine will probably want to sleep more to feel better.

More often than not, if you keep to their bedtime routine of falling asleep on their own, they will start sleeping better once their symptoms have disappeared and you have the all-clear from the doctor. At this stage, you continue to give lots of love, but start to slowly give your little one the opportunity to fall asleep by themselves during the night, each night letting go a little more, until you are where you want to be.

Having a sick child is very stressful for a parent and we do want to be there to help them and give love and cuddles. If your child is better, but you’re not getting your groove back, please do not hesitate to contact your nearest Good Night consultant for guidance.

 By Salome Botes, Good Night sleep consultant

Also read:

5 steps to good sleep hygiene
What to do when your baby doesn’t want to sleep?