With it being the dreaded cold and flu season, let’s talk about SICKNESS + SLEEP!
It’s likely during their first few cold and flu seasons that your little one will have several run-ins with illness as their immune systems build. In early childhood, it is common for children to get sick 8-12 times a year! While this is normal, it can leave parents frustrated, not knowing what to do to be able to give their children comfort and assistance without completely derailing any and all sleep progress you have made with them! I’ve created an acronym to help you remember three key things to implement when your child gets sick: E.A.R. Let’s break it down!
- E- Evaluate: Evaluate how sick your child is. What are we working with? Is it a runny nose? Tummy bug? Slight cough? Flu? High fever? The severity of the illness will determine how much help and intervention you’ll want to offer. We have to remember two objectives: 1. Comfort and monitor during their illness, and help them get sleep on a short term basis and 2. Stray as little from typical sleep habits as possible. Notice I say, “as possible.” Depending on the severity of the illness, you may stray COMPLETELY away from typical habits, and that’s okay. We just want to make sure we aren’t jumping to over-the-top intervention if it’s not needed. If your child has a runny nose, for example, maybe a NoseFrida and some extra cuddles during the bedtime routine are in the cards, but you might face unnecessary setbacks if you start rocking or feeding them to sleep again.
- A- Accommodate: Tweak your typical routine to help your child feel better and get sleep. If your child does need extra help with sleep, DO NOT STRESS! Do what you have to do and what you feel is best for you and your child. It is crucial for them to get enough sleep to heal and feel better, regardless of how that is achieved. If you are dealing with a tummy bug and have to bring back night-feedings for comfort and hydration, they can night-wean again once they are well. If your baby needs to be rocked to sleep while they fight a high fever, by all means do it! Maybe your child is fussy and needs you to sit in the room with them to fall asleep, and that is fine too. If your child needs continual monitoring, it is preferable that you find a way to sleep in their room for continuity of sleep environment vs. having them in your room, but again, do what you have to do! Your child might need extra sleep and longer naps for their body to recover, so don’t sweat it if they’re sleeping a little more than normal either.
- R-Recover: Finally, once they have recovered, it is time to recover sleep-wise and get straight back to good habits! If they have reverted back to night-feedings or needing some sort of assistance during wakings, try to get back to your regular sleep schedule and expectations within a few days. Get back to basics, however you sleep trained originally, and follow this until you are back at your normal sleep habits. The longer you wait to do this, the longer it will take for your child to adjust their expectations and start getting good sleep again, which is hard for everyone! Remember, sleep is important for staying well and getting well, so it is in their best interest to not have continually interrupted sleep!
I know as a mama to two boys (who have been sick SO many times in the 5 months since Nash has been born, ugh) how difficult it is to navigate sleep during illness. But, remembering these three key things will hopefully help you to ride out any cold, virus or bug that heads your way and get you back to good sleep once your family is healthy!