Sick Baby: Don’t Let It Get You Off Track

Sickness Happens

No matter how careful we are, no matter how much hand washing and “cover your cough”-ing we do, sooner or later someone gets sick. Let me just come out and say a sick baby is NO FUN. Thankfully, since you have been getting more sleep, your parental immune system is probably stronger in fighting infection and keeping you healthier.

However, even if you manage not to get sick, your child might not be so lucky. With their relatively new immune systems they might be the one to get that nasty cold that’s going around.  

While I understand the urge to let your routine slip in an effort to keep your sick baby closer to you, I have been around long enough to know that when you are teaching independent sleep skills consistency is key – even in the face of a minor illness.

One of the most disheartening situations I see is parents getting sidetracked by a minor illness – just when they were making progress. While I advise my clients to begin the program when there are at least two solid weeks they can devote to the training, as we all know, you can’t schedule an illness, and there is never a “good time” to get sick.

So, after enduring months of sleeplessness, the family finally commits to getting serious about establishing a schedule and routine, and baby is getting used to it. Everyone in the family is getting longer periods of sleep and the champagne is on ice, ready for the celebratory toast…

…and baby gets a cold. Or an ear infection. Or a bout of diarrhea. Or one of the myriad illnesses that babies are prone to.

There goes all that hard work, right? Wrong!

I know many parents feel discouraged when they encounter this bump in the road, and I understand completely. But don’t despair. It doesn’t have to be that way. If you are willing to follow a few recommendations, a minor illness doesn’t have to throw you entirely off course. Its my hope that the following suggestions will help you stay motivated and encourage you to persevere.

First, do your best to resist the temptation to bring baby into your bed.

Look, I know that is easier said then done, but not if you think about the conflicting message you are sending.  If you change the rules every time there is a little bump is the road it makes it very difficult for a child to learn the expectations that you have.  If you’re really concerned and want to be in the same room through the night, I suggest you bring an inflatable mattress or a camping pad into baby’s room and sleep on the floor.

Keeping baby in their own room with familiar sleeping conditions is ultimately less disruptive to the process than moving baby into your room. Plus, you won’t run the risk of them now requesting to sleep in your bed.

Second, do not give in to the temptation to offer any of the sleep props you may have recently taken away.

I know it’s tough. Naturally as a parent you want to offer any comfort you can while your baby is feeling miserable. The reality is it’s best not to reintroduce the very things they were dependent on prior to learning their new independent sleep skills. Not only is it confusing to your sick baby, it is often even more difficult to break the association between prop and sleep the second time around.

Don’t get me wrong, love on your sick baby.

I am not saying you can’t or shouldn’t offer more night time comfort to your baby while they are sick. In fact, I think you should. I encourage you to check in on your child more often, take care of any needs they have – give an extra cuddle or spend more time rocking them. It gives them – and you – additional comfort, and that is important for both of you.

What I am saying is you need to be vigilant.

Be sure to put them back into their own bed just before they fall asleep. Otherwise, you run the risk of them developing the association between falling asleep and a rocking session or a cuddle, and then you’re back to square one.   Now this doesn’t usually happen in one session, but one easily turns to two and then three and then you have spiraled back down a path where you really don’t want to be.

Be forewarned, you may notice a slight regression once baby’s illness has passed, but not to worry. With your help, baby has learned some important sleep skills at this point and will probably only need a slight reminder of how things go before they are back into their routine and sleeping soundly through the night.

My best advice is to get back into the program, stick your bedtime routine, and you – and baby – will see the same wonderful results in no time.

Thinking ok, sounds great, but we’re not even sleeping through the night when we don’t have a sick baby.  Download my tips to get you started down the path of sleep!  

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