We know it is so hard to see your precious baby struggling with illness or discomfort of any type and we often get questions about how to approach sleep during these times. We have created a guide in this week’s blog post outlining 6 Strategies for Sleep and Sickness for the next time you find yourself with a sick baby (which we hope is not anytime soon!) or if you are currently working through this in your home now.
Try these Tricks
After being parents for nearly six years now, we do have a few tricks we have seen to be helpful in providing some relief. If your little one is congested or frequently coughing it can be really helpful to try running a hot shower before bedtime and spending 5-10 minutes in the bathroom to use the steam to help open things up a little bit. A humidifier is another great option for similar effect while they sleep. If it is a croup type cough the cold brisk air can really help your little one get a break in the breathing struggles. A nose sucker can also be really helpful for that congestion that clogs up their tiny little noses.
We asked for some additional tips from our community and they had some great suggestions to share with everyone! One idea was to layer bed sheets and mattress protectors so if your little one is sick in bed it is easy to quickly strip the sheets and get back to snuggling or sleeping with as little disruption as possible and without compromising comfort! Another great tip was to massage your little one’s sinus to help relieve some pressure!
Skip the Sleep Stress
We know how much pressure there is around sleep on a good day, let alone when things get disrupted by illness. Stressing about sleep will not make things any better in this type of situation. It is very normal that your child will need extra sleep while they're sick to help their bodies recover. We often see some babies (or even toddlers) need more frequent naps, will take extra long naps or will sleep longer through the night. On the other hand, it is also very normal if it seems like they're sleeping less. You may also find that your baby needs a lot more support to fall asleep or stay asleep, and this is totally okay! Often things will naturally get back on track once your baby is feeling better, and even if they need a little help getting back on track, don't worry about it while your baby is sick. Having a sick baby or toddler is already so hard for so many reasons, we really want you to avoid making it harder for yourself by adding another layer by worrying about sleep. You are an amazing parent and if things do not naturally go back to normal, you can guide them back on track when they are feeling like themselves again but it is not worth worrying about something that we do not even know for sure will be an issue!
Consider Co-Sleeping Arrangements
If you are not already room sharing or bedsharing, you may want to temporarily shuffle your sleeping arrangements. We always recommend and advocate that parents are educated on safe bedsharing even if they never intend to share a sleep surface with their child and this is part of the reason why. If we have a safe bedsharing option available or quickly available to set up, it is much safer than trying to soothe a baby in a rocking chair or on the sofa for hours when they are not feeling well. Especially if you are also ill (we hope not!) and you are also feeling less than 100%, it is just too much of a risk that we fall asleep in that unsafe arrangement. Having a safe bedsharing option as a back up can be SO helpful on these nights when your baby just needs you that much more. You can also consider just having them in your room in their own space, or setting up a temporary bed for yourself in their room to increase connection, proximity and accessibility! We find this makes it easier to quickly recognize and tend to any bouts of vomiting or difficulties breathing, and we sleep more peacefully knowing we're there for our babies. We also find that sick babies are much more likley to sleep when they know we're right there too.
Call in Backup
We always encourage families to ask for help because we truly were not meant to do this alone and there is SO much pressure placed on moms these days. So when your little one is sick we recommend it even more! Can you have someone grab your groceries or walk your dog or drop off a meal so you have that much more capacity to love on and care for your sweet sick babe? Can someone come and hold them for a contact nap if they need to be upright more often right now so you can steal a nap or get outside for a walk to clear your mind? Can your partner take them the first few hours so you can get to bed early and trade off after a few uninterrupted hours? Please never hesitate to ask for help! We need to take care of ourselves to care for them to the best of our ability!
Embrace Increased Connection
Babies and toddlers are so dependent on us as their caregivers and obviously when they are not feeling well those needs of comfort, connection and closeness are likely to increase. Baby wearing is a great way to give you just a little bit of hands free time or the ability to move around and still provide so much comfort and connection for your child. You may also just have to drown out that nagging voice in your head to do the dishes or tidy the house because sometimes they just need us to drop absolutely everything and connect with them when they are in pain or fighting off a bug. Remember this is temporary and everything else will be waiting for you when you are all feeling back to normal! We know these days can feel extra long but they will pass!
Advocate for Your Child
The final of our six strategies is to advocate for your child if needed. Of course often our little ones are just fighting a bug or virus that just needs time, love and maybe some medication as per recommendations from your doctor. That being said, if you feel like something more is going on, please trust that gut feeling and advocate for more for your child. If the congestion is never ending, can you advocate to dig deeper into food intolerances? If the snoring doesn’t come and go as a cold passes, can you advocate for further investigation? Ask for second opinions, take them back if things get worse, explore support from different services (osteo, naturopath, pediatric dentist, ect) if you feel like there is something chronic occurring or if you feel like there is more to story in this moment. Our babies and toddlers cannot advocate for themselves and they are counting on us to advocate for them to be sure they receive adequate attention, care and intervention every time they are experiencing illness, pain or chronic concerns.
So there you have it! Six Strategies for Sickness and Sleep. We sincerely hope you do not have to reference this blog often, but do hope that it is helpful when you do. Don't forget to take care of yourselves while your little one is sick, and remember they're so lucky to have you. We hope your babies feel better soon!