How to deal with sick children and sleep


I would like to share some wisdom today from Dana Obleman, my mentor and coach, on how to deal with sick children:

Today I wanted to talk a bit about sickness. I noticed on the blog there were several people expressing some concerns around their child being sick. The truth about sickness is, no one sleeps well when they’re ill. Just think back to the last time you had a cold, and even though you feel more fatigued, and your body needs the rest, you definitely do not sleep as well. You’re congested. You’re going to wake up in the night. You’re going to need to blow your nose, and so on. That’s going to happen with your child, as well. I’ve, very rarely, met a child who sleeps perfectly through an illness.

Prepare yourself. There’s going to be some wake ups, absolutely. Should you respond to them? Of course you should. Of course you should. You have a sick child that will need some comfort, will need some attention, you absolutely should go.

What I want to caution you about, and what I noticed a lot of our viewers were doing, in response to sickness, is that people start to make really big significant changes around the way their child sleeps. I’m assuming that you’ve got a child that you did the Sleep Sense program with months ago, and they’ve been a great sleeper ever since. Now they have a cold, and they’re waking in the night, and you’re wondering, “How do I sail through this with relatively little upset”?
A few things you want to try to avoid, and that is feeding again. If you’ve got a healthy, 6 month, 8 month old, 10 month old, who has had several weeks or months of night feeds, if they have a cold, there’s really no need to start feeding again in the night. Sure, you could get them a sip of water. The throat might seem a little dry. You might need to wipe the nose. It’s even fine to give a few cuddles. You want to make sure you put your child back in their sleeping environment. Expect and allow them to continue to use the skills that they have accumulated in the last few months.

Most children will not let you change their strategy. Even if you try to rock her to sleep, she, most likely, will resist it. I’ve had people tell me that their little one pushes away or arches their back toward the crib, or if they’re old enough, even points to the crib and says, “OK, thank you for the cuddle. I’m good now, please put me back.” They’ll resist it. Of course, if your doctor has recommended that you do offer some night feeds, if you child’s had a serious illness, or a very high fever for a number of days, and is concerned that dehydration is setting in, then absolutely, absolutely, you must follow doctor’s orders.

But be careful how you’re doing it, you definitely don’t want to feed back to sleep, especially, if that was your baby’s old favourite way of getting herself to sleep. You don’t want to remind her of those old familiar ways, or you’ll find that after a few nights of doing that, you’re stuck back at square one again. You’re going to have to start all over with her.

Offer to feed, keep her awake through the feed, and then right back to the crib again. If you’re very concerned about your child through the night, what a lot of people do is, they start bringing their baby into bed with them. My advice is that you move to your baby. You bring in a mattress, or air mattress, or whatever you need. Set up a little camp in her room. Keep an eye on her through the night, through the worst of it. Then get yourself back to your own bed as quickly as you can.
That is far less disruptive to your child than calling her into bed with you again, especially if that’s what her old sleep prop was. You don’t want to go down that road again, and reintroduce something that you’ve just worked hard to get rid of. Keep that in mind.

One of the viewers specifically said, “What do I do now that I’ve worked myself back into all these bad habits”? She started feeding in the night when the child was ill. Now, two weeks later, child is healthy, and she’s still waking up five times a night looking to be nursed.
Well, if you feel like you’ve kind of gone back to square one, then you need to start again. If you were doing a Sleep Sense program, you’re going to pick out your book, look up what you did the first time, and do it all over again. You can speed it up a little bit, because you know that your child is perfectly capable of sleeping well and independently, and so do they.

They just need a little reminder on what your expectations are, and they’re going to get right back into line with this. It’s just going to take a few days. It might be a rough night or two as you remind her of her skills, and you go back to expecting things to be as good as they were before the illness. I hope that helps. Thanks for watching. Sleep well.