Why is it So Hard For a Sick Baby to Sleep?

Last Updated: 
April 4, 2023
 | 
4
 minutes read
Written by
Mandy Treeby
Chief Baby Sleep Consultant
Medically reviewed by
Elissa Gross, DO
Board Certified Pediatrician & Lactation Consultant

As a parent, watching your little one suffer from illness can be heartbreaking, especially when it affects their sleep. When a baby is unwell, they often have trouble sleeping, leading to even more discomfort and frustration for both the baby and the caregiver. However, there are things you can do to help your sick baby sleep better. This article covers tips and support to help your baby sleep when they are sick.

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How to Get a Sick Baby to Sleep

When your baby is unwell, getting them to sleep can be challenging. It is important to remember that this is temporary and as hard as it is in the moment, it will pass.

Here are some strategies that may help from Mandy Treeby , Pediatric Sleep Coach and Co-Founder of the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers, so you can support your sick baby to get the sleep they need to recover:

1. Keep Wake Windows Short – Offer More Sleep

Your baby will need extra sleep to get back on the road to recovery. This means throwing out any sleep schedule you may have and instead, shortening wake windows. This is essential when your baby is unwell by limiting the time your baby is awake between naps and overnight sleep gives them more opportunity to rest but with ample time to feed and hydrate. Shorter wake windows can help prevent your baby from becoming overtired, which can make it more difficult for them to fall asleep and stay asleep.

2. Keep Your Baby Comfortable

Keeping your baby comfortable is key to helping them sleep when they're sick. This means ensuring that they are dressed appropriately for the temperature, that their bedding is comfortable and clean, and that their sleeping environment is free from distractions or noise.

3. Keep Your Baby Hydrated

Dehydration can make your baby feel worse and disrupt their sleep, so it's important to keep them well hydrated when they're unwell. Signs of dehydration in babies include dry mouth, sunken eyes, not making tears, decreased urine output, sunken soft spot on their head, the number of wet diapers and lethargy. Make sure your baby is getting enough fluids, whether it's breast milk, formula, or water if they are old enough.

4. Do Not Elevate the Crib

Despite advice that elevating the crib can help with congestion, it is best to avoid this approach. Elevating the crib can be dangerous for babies, it is not supported by the AAP as it can increase the risk of suffocation or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Instead, consider using a humidifier or saline drops to help relieve congestion.

5. Baby wear

If your baby is struggling with congestion or just wants to be ‘with you’ it can help to use a sling or baby carrier and wear your baby for some of the day.

6. Visit the Doctor if Needed

It’s always better to check – trust your instincts. If your baby hasn’t slept for 24 hours or has difficulty breathing put a call in to your pediatrician.

Helping Your Sick Baby Sleep

Once you've got your baby settled in bed, there are things you can do to help them fall asleep and stay asleep:

Follow your bedtime routine: Even if your baby is unwell, sticking to a consistent bedtime routine can help signal to their body that it's time to sleep.

Offer extra comfort: Comforting your baby with soothing words, gentle touches, and cuddles can help them feel secure and calm.

Use brown noise: Brown noise can help drown out other noises and create a peaceful environment for your baby to sleep in.

Be flexible: If your baby is having trouble sleeping, it's okay to adjust their routine or try something different to help them get the rest they need.

How to Cope with Sleep when Your Baby is Sick

When your baby is sick, it's natural to worry, try to remember:

You are who they want: As tough as this time is, you are the right person for the job – Mom and/or Dad – you are who they need and your support is just the assurance they need!

To take care of yourself: Make sure you're getting enough sleep, eating well, and taking breaks when you need them. A well-rested caregiver is better equipped to handle the challenges of caring for a sick baby.

To reach out for support: Don't hesitate to ask for help from family, friends, or your pediatrician if you're feeling overwhelmed.

To focus on the bigger picture: While it's important to prioritize your baby's sleep, remember that their overall health is what's most important. If they're getting the care and treatment they need, their sleep patterns will improve in time.

Should my sick baby sleep in my room so I can be nearby?

It works best to keep them in their familiar sleep space and with the comforts they are used to – so if you feel the need to be nearby and to be able to listen to your baby, instead of bringing them to your room consider sleeping on a mattress in their room. This keeps you close, but doesn’t disrupt their safe sleep space!

Will by baby sleep more then they are sick?

Just like adults, it is common for your baby to need more sleep to help the body work hard to get well again. But if you’re concerned that your baby is too sleepy, be sure to reach out to your pediatrician.

Should I let my baby sleep if they have a fever?

If your baby is older than 3-months then it is fine to let them sleep with a fever, just be sure to check on them often (every hour, max two) to make sure they are comfortable and breathing normally.

If your baby is younger than 3-months and has a fever over 100.4°F, call your pediatrician immediately.

Can I sleep train my baby when they are sick?

No, if you were sleep training and then your baby got sick or your just about to start sleep training, wait until your baby is fully recovered. And don’t forget if you need support with sleep training, or help to get sleep back on track after your baby has been sick, download the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers app to help you!

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Few Parents Know, falling Asleep is a learned skill. Just like rolling, crawling, walking and talking – babies need help to master sleep.

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The Smart Sleep Coach app equips you with the tools and knowledge to get more Zzzz’s, turning you and your baby into a dream team. Start seeing results from day one.

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Studies show new parents can lose as much as two hours of sleep every night after their baby comes!

“Thanks to the Smart Sleep Schedule, I’ve been able to follow my baby’s natural rhythm, and stick to the wake windows. This makes a huge difference in her ability to nap longer.”

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Studies show new parents can lose as much as two hours of sleep every night after their baby comes!

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Thanks to the Smart Sleep Schedule, I’ve been able to follow my baby’s natural rhythm, and stick to the wake windows. This makes a huge difference in her ability to nap longer.

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FAQs:

Comfort measures such as a warm bath, gentle rocking, or a lullaby may help your baby feel more relaxed and comfortable. It may also be helpful to keep the baby's sleeping area cool, as high temperatures can exacerbate symptoms and make sleep more difficult. If these measures do not prove effective, it may be best to consult with your pediatrician for further guidance.

• Keep the baby's nasal passages clear. You can do this by using a bulb syringe or a nasal aspirator to suction out excess mucus. • Run a cool-mist humidifier in the baby's room can help keep the air moist and ease congestion. • Provide extra comfort measures such as snuggles, soft music, or a bedtime story can also help soothe the baby and promote sleep. • Monitor your baby's symptoms and consult with your pediatrician if they worsen or persist.

No, your baby is crying because they need you. Be sure to attend to your sick baby’s needs and comfort them as much as possible

Being sick usually means discomfort and your baby may struggle to fall asleep and stay asleep. It’s important to help them get the sleep they need to recover – so comfort and support them as much as they need!

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How We Wrote This Article

The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.

Sources

https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/sleep-deprivation/health-effects

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/sleep/Pages/getting-your-baby-to-sleep.aspx

https://www.babysleepscience.com/single-post/managing-sleep-when-your-baby-or-toddler-is-sick

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