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  • Danielle Elwell

Your Guide to Sleep and Sickness


It’s that time of year again! All sorts of bugs are spreading around and with kids it seems inevitable they will always pick something up. A common questions I get is “how do you handle sleep when your child is sick?” Do you let them sleep as long as they want? Cap naps? Don’t cap naps? Feed through the night? Rock to sleep or stay the course? Whew! So many questions! But don’t worry, I‘ve got your answers right here:


Stick with your normal nap and bedtime routines.

A familiar routine brings comfort to your child because they know what to expect. Maintaining these will routines cue their body for sleep so they are better able to fall into sleep.


Allow for some extra sleep.

The body needs extra rest when sick, but we still don't want day sleep to interfere with night sleep because night is their most restorative sleep. This could mean allowing your child to sleep in longer in the morning, sleep a little longer for naps, or go to bed earlier at night. However, we still want to make sure your child is staying hydrated and getting in the right amount of calories. You may need to cap naps or add in a night feed to maintain their nutritional needs.


Speak to your pediatrician.

Your pediatrician knows your child best, so speak to them about how to treat symptoms. If daytime feeds are off or your child is losing fluids, you may need to add in a night feed. Your pediatrician will be able to guide you in the best approach for treating your child's sickness and handling adequate feedings throughout the day and night.


You may or may not need to offer extra support.

We all know what it’s like to be sick, it throws everything off and kids are no different. Your child may or may not need extra help falling and/or staying asleep. Some kids do just fine without any extra help, but if you see your little one struggling, it is absolutely okay to step in and offer some help. This could look like rocking, feeding, extra back rubs - whatever it takes to help them get some sleep. Your child needs sleep to help the body heal; you’ll get back on track once they are feeling better.


Always place your child in their own sleep space.

Just like their routines are familiar, so is their sleep space. It’s tempting to want to bring your child to your own bed when they are not well, but the familiarity of their own bed will be much more beneficial to their sleep needs. Instead, move into their room if needed. Set up a mattress on the floor or do timed checks throughout the night to monitor them from their own space.


Once your child is feeling well enough, get back to normal sleep habits.

You may have given extra support while your child was sick and that’s okay! But, once they’re feeling better, we want to get back to normal sleep habits. You may need to implement a mini version of the original sleep training method you used to remind them of the expectations. Keep in mind, they already posses the skills to sleep, so you are not re-teaching the skill. You are simply reminding them of the boundaries and expectations that come with independent sleep.


Are you struggling with getting back on track after sickness? I’d love to help! Please reach out here.