Dr. Sarah Mitchell
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8 Ways To Help Your Baby Sleep When Sick

It is natural to want to do everything possible to help your baby sleep when sick.  

But in the back of your mind, you may be wondering if you are doing the right thing, or maybe creating bad sleep habits?

The question I would ask you is, “What kind of sleep training have you already done?”  And by sleep training I mean, what techniques have you implemented to have your baby falling asleep in her crib from awake without assistance.  Basically is your child completely self-soothing independently? You can read more about sleep training here.

If you have put much time and effort into getting your child to fall asleep on her own without sleep crutches such as nursing, sucking from a bottle, or rocking, then you might indeed have anxiety about taking steps backwards in the sleep department.

I tell my clients  “We help kids who can’t help themselves”.  If your child has a runny nose, congestion or a cough her sleep will be disrupted and you need to help her out.

When your child is sick, your body will instruct her to sleep more to help her fight bacteria and viruses.

For parents, it does not seem that way because the child’s sleep will be more interrupted than usual.

Hacking coughs, sniffling noses, general malaise will make it harder for your child to settle into sleep.

Things you can do to help your baby sleep when sick:

Don’t let her cry  She’s uncomfortable and needs help.  Offer reassurance and cuddles.

  • You may be worried all your sleep training work will go out the window.
  • Try not to stress, s has learned the self-soothing skills and they will return once she’s feeling better and the distractions of being sick have passed.

Offer lots of fluids.

  • Depending on your child’s age and situation, this may be breastmilk or water.

If your child is not eating much during the day, offer more feeds at night

  • Even if your child hasn’t had night feeds for months
  • Goal is to keep her hydrated

Maintain your boundaries.

  • If you have done much work with sleep training I suggest keeping her in her room when offering reassurance.
  • Should you bring her to bed with you?
  • I would try and avoid bringing her into the golden bedroom as it will be more work to get her out of your bed once the illness has passed
  • If you’re feeling concerned, can you set up a mattress or sleep area for yourself next to her crib or bed to be close by

If your child has a cold and nasal congestion

  • Breastfeeding will help clear the nasal passages
  • Use “snot sucker” to get the boogers out such as Nose Freida
  • I thought these were so gross, until they delivered results and then I was sold, can be somewhat addictive
  • If she needs a cuddle in the night, sit her upright or slightly inclined to help the nasal passages drain

If your child has a cough

  • Use a cold air humidifier to cool the air
  • Consider running hot water in the tub with the door closed to steam up the bathroom
  • In the winter, open a window to let the cold air in, but bundle her up


  • If there is inflammation such as with the croup, consider anti-inflammatories such as Advil
  • If there is pain, consider painkillers such as Tylenol.
  • Your child has the stomach flu, investigate Pedialyte
  • Always talk to your pharmacist or pediatrician about delivering medications

Wash your hands frequently

  • Prevent the spread of illness
  • Prevent the introduction of new illness to your little one when her immune system is fighting

I always say to my clients “We help kids who can’t help themselves.”  This is a good guideline to help you analyze the situation.

Lastly, remember that sleep really is a journey.  Bad nights will naturally come and go.

If you’ve been thinking about sleep training, I can teach you everything you need to know about setting your child up for successful sleep.


Online Sleep Class for ages 4-24 months: Tell Me More

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