What To Do With Sick Children


I very often get this question from parents: What do I do if my child is ill? With the flu season approaching it’s a good idea to address this.

Just think back to the last time you had a cold: Even though you felt more fatigued, and your body needed the rest, you definitely did not sleep as well. Typically, a cold sufferer is congested, and wakes during the night to blow their nose, clear their throat or drink some water. Your children are no different. I’ve, very rarely, met a child who sleeps perfectly through an illness. The ugly truth is that no-one sleeps well when they’re ill, and very few children sleep soundly when they are sick.

Prepare yourself. There are definitely going to be some wake ups that you should respond to. You have a sick child that will need some comfort and attention, and it is important that you support your child through this uncomfortable stage.

However, it is important to maintain the normal sleep routine as far as possible. It is easy to fall into an emotional trap. Many parents, at the onset of child illness, commence with night-time feeding. However, if you’ve got a healthy, 6 month, 8 month old, or 10 month old, who has had several weeks or months peaceful sleep, there’s no sensible reason to start night-time feeding if they are ill. You could offer your child a sip of water as the throat might seem a little dry. You might need to wipe the nose. It’s even fine to give a few cuddles. However, you want to make sure you put your child back in their usual sleeping environment.

Expect and allow them to continue to use the skills that they have accumulated in the last few months of using the Good Night programme. Most children will not let you change their strategy. Even if you try to rock your ill child to sleep, the child will most likely resist it. Parents have experienced their little ones pushing them away or arching their back toward the crib. Older children might even point to their cribs, or say “no” to the cuddling. If your doctor has recommended that you offer some night feeds to aid the healing process of a serious illness, or if the child has had a very high fever for a few days and night-time feeds will curb the dehydration, then it is essential to follow doctor’s orders.

Always remain mindful of how you are implementing your actions, however, as you definitely don’t want to let your child fall asleep while feeding or by using it as a prop when the child is ill. The goal should be to maintain the healthy sleep habits that were learned by you and your child, while providing the nurturing and support to the ill child.

Offer to feed, keep her awake through the feed, and then place her right back in the crib again. When people are very concerned about their sick babies, they often put the baby in bed with them. However, it is more sensible to move a mattress to your baby’s room. Set up camp, and keep an eye on the sick child without changing her immediate sleep environment. Once you’re convinced she’ll manage on her own, get yourself back to your own bed as quickly as you can. While this might initially be more effort, the long term benefits are priceless. It is far less disruptive to move into your child’s room to watch over her, than taking her into bed with you. Keep the long term reward of sweet sleep in mind, and continue to nurture and support the sick child to wellness, so that the sleep cycle is maintained.

Article Credit: Dana Obleman