How To Manage Sleep When Your Baby Is Sick

Some babies are lucky enough to avoid getting sick in the first few months after birth. Inevitably though, at some point, your baby will be exposed to a virus or bacteria that will make them sick, and unfortunately, it will be the first of many illnesses!

It really is the worst when your baby gets sick!  Not only do you spend time worrying if they are okay and wondering when you should be seeking medical attention, but also being sick can really affect babies’ sleep.  Just like when adults are feeling poorly, their symptoms wake them more frequently. A decent night’s sleep for the whole family can start to feel like a distant memory.

What is the best way to manage those nighttime wake-ups effectively without feeling like you are going back to square one? Here are our top three tips for how to manage sleep when your baby is sick:

1. If you think they need you, go to them!

The first and most important thing to remember when your baby is sick is if they wake up from sleep it is likely because they need you. They may have a stuffy nose, be too hot, too cold, thirsty, in pain, or are finding it more difficult than normal to breathe.  Go to them! Pick them up, cuddle them, and comfort them. Try to alleviate any symptoms they might have, for example, feed them to keep them hydrated, give saline drops to liquefy mucus, use a nasal aspirator, and administer medicine as directed by their healthcare provider.

At the time, it might feel like the frequent wakeups will never end and that they will just keep waking up like this forever, but remember, it will pass. Your child needs extra love and comfort and it is important to be there for them so you can monitor how they are doing and when to seek medical attention.

2. Camp out in their room.

If your baby is sick to the point that you feel like you want to stay close by and they are sleeping in a different room to you, camp out in their room! Yes, this might seem a bit extreme but in the long run, it is easier to keep to a routine with them in their own bed and you on the floor rather than shifting their entire sleeping space. Given the choice, camp out in their room instead of bringing them into yours.

3. Put baby back into their crib awake.

If your baby is older than 3 months and you had previously been working on avoiding sleep props such as feeding, rocking, or bouncing to sleep, after addressing your baby’s needs, try to put them back in their crib awake.  This can really help to keep them on track with sleep. Give them extra feeds, cuddles, and love but try to let them close their eyes independently in their crib. 

Anything else?

Many parents find that the moisture of a cool-mist humidifier in their baby’s bedroom can help loosen up mucus, and relieve nasal congestion and sinus irritation. 

And remember, the illness will pass.  If you had a beautiful sleeper before, you will be able to guide them back into their regular routine.  If your baby was struggling with sleep before getting sick, when they are better, reach out to your local Mama Coach for support. 


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The Mama Coach is a global team of Registered Nurses and Nurse Practitioners.

Our mission is to guide families through every stage of their parenting journey by providing evidence-informed education infused with non-judgmental support, compassion, and empathy.

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