Please watch my video below on illness affecting your child’s sleep.
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To ask a question about your child’s sleep, just leave it in the ‘Comments’ section below! I’ll choose one and create a new video answer each week!View the Video Transcript
Hi! I’m Dana Obleman, creator of The Sleep Sense Program. If you’d rather read than watch, I’ve transcribed the text of this video below.
This week’s question comes from Mindy:
“My child has just recently gotten over the flu and an ear infection. Since then, he will not sleep through the night. This has been going on for about a month now. He seems like he is waking up every hour. What should I do?”
That is a good question Mindy. As I was reading through and looking at some of the comments, I saw quite a few people writing in with the exact same question. I am going to assume that your child was a good sleeper before the illness much like many of the other questions I saw. The child was sleeping through the night, got sick for a week or two and now things have really fallen off the tracks.
The good news is if you had a child, who was sleeping well through the night and had his or her own skills for sleeping then getting him back on the right track isn’t going to be as hard as you think because that knowledge is already there.
One of the things that people do when a child is sick is they will often bring their baby to bed with them and I understand the concerns especially in this cold and flu season that we’re having right now, which leaves you anxious about a sick child and how he or she is going to cope through the night. My advice is always that it is much better if you move to your child’s room rather than moving your child to yours.
A night or two in your child’s room is going to be a bit disruptive to your sleep but when the illness has subsided then you can go back to your bed and nothing much has changed. If you start bringing a baby into bed with you, it only takes a couple of nights and the baby might decide, “Wow! This is pretty awesome; I actually like sleeping in this bed so I’m going to start demanding that this happen every night.”
Even when the illness is over and the child is feeling well again, there still might be that demand to come to bed with you. What should have been just a few nights is now a month or more of a child either starting the night in your bed or coming to your bed halfway through the night.
Move to your child’s room rather than move your child to yours. Try to have consistency even around illnesses. I hear the same thing about teething. With teething, all you can do is provide a little bit of pain medication such as, Baby Advil or discuss with your doctor some options for monitoring the pain. However, if you start changing the way you respond to your child with every sickness or with every bout of teething then you are potentially running the risk of having to do this every month or every other month; you can quickly undo all the hard work you have put in to establish good sleep habits.
Many children will resist that you mess around with their sleep skills. They might accept some comfort meaning you could go in, have a cuddle, wipe noses, give a drink of water, or whatever the case, then put the child back in their crib, and most babies will accept that. They will be happy with the cuddle but then they will be looking for their own bed again to go to sleep. Increasing your comfort level is fine but definitely, do not wait 5 or 10 minutes and see if it is just going to pass.
If you know your child is sick, you can almost guarantee that there is going to be night awakenings. Even as adults when we are ill, there are usually quite a few more night awakenings and sleep is just harder. Anticipate some wake-ups, know that it is going to be a rougher night than normal, go in and offer a comfort but do not do anything drastic unless your doctor has suggested that you feed in the night. If your child is running a high fever, they will often suggest some fluids in the night.
I’d prefer you go to water first rather than an actual feed just because again, a couple of nights of night feeding and you could find yourself in this vicious cycle and a month or two later, you are still up for night feedings.
However, if that has been suggested then you should do it. Just be cautious that a couple of nights do not turn in to too many and ruin everything. If anything goes past three nights, the third night can be a trendsetter and then the child is waking up every other night looking for the same thing.
Here are a few things to keep in mind about sickness. Once the illness is over and the child is well again, do not worry if you had to backslide a little or things have not progressed the way you wanted. You can just start over and get your child back on track with falling asleep independently at bedtime and encouraging him to sleep through the night and not coming to your bed or whatever the case maybe. It might take a night or two of retraining but the foundation is already there and his sleep skills are already established, it’s just a gentle reminder that, “Okay, you are feeling better now and it is time to go back to this way.” It does not usually take more than a couple of nights.
I hope that gives you some guidance Mindy. Thanks for your question and sleep well!
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