Sickness in babies and their sleeping pattern is a matter of concern for most parents. You, as an adult, will find it difficult to sleep peacefully when you fall sick. This could be because of various factors like a blocked nose, body pain, headache, or cough. The same applies to babies as well.
Will Your Baby Sleep More When Sick?
The general notion is that babies also sleep less when they fall sick. But this is not the case in reality. Babies who are sick sleep more, but their sleep pattern is interrupted as a result of their sickness. This gives a general feeling that babies sleep less when they are sick.
How to get a sick baby to sleep?
- Do not let the baby “cry it out“: When your sick baby cries at night, go to them immediately and console them. You should never let a sick baby cry for long as it can interrupt their sleeping pattern. Crying is an indication that the baby needs your presence. Hence, you should hold the baby and comfort him till he goes to sleep.
- Give proper medication: If the baby’s paediatrician has prescribed a pain killer or antibiotic, you should give that to the baby. Most babies fall asleep once the medicine starts working. But make sure that the medicine is always within the prescribed dosage as overdose can make the baby drowsy and sicker. For nose block you can use over the counter nasal drops or spray, after consulting the baby’s paediatrician. Nasal syringe can be used to clear the baby’s nostrils.
For slightly older babies, you can encourage steam inhalation. If it is difficult to make the baby sit in front of the steamer, then you can fill hot water in the bathtub and hold the baby close to it. The steamy condition inside the bathroom might provide relief to the baby.
- Keep them hydrated: It is very important that the baby stay hydrated when they are sick. This is particularly so when the baby is suffering from loose motion or fever. Fluid also helps in thinning the mucus and helps the baby to breath easily.
Give plenty of fluid depending on the age of the baby. Breastmilk is the best fluid that you can give at this time. Give small quantity at regular interval so that the baby stay hydrated throughout. If the baby has cough, you can give warm water to sip.
- Breastfeed the baby: Breastfeeding is a means of comforting the baby when he is sick. Even if you are weaning the baby or have stopped feeding him at night, you can breastfeed him when he is sick. This helps the baby to sleep peacefully.
- Provide a comfortable environment: If your baby is feeling cold, then switch off the air conditioner and wrap him in a blanket. If the baby coughs a lot because of dryness, you can switch on the humidifier. Snuggle the baby and comfort him. Newborn babies can be wrapped in a swaddle to create a comfortable environment. For slightly older babies you can give them a soft toy or a muslin cloth with your smell on to self-soothe. This helps the baby to doze off fast. The general tips on how to make baby sleep through the night are the same as we wrote before.
There are contradictory views whether massage can help baby to sleep while he is sick. Oil massage should be avoided at all cost as it involves straining the body more. You can give gentle, soothing massage to calm the baby down. Do not remove the clothes while massaging lest the baby feels cold. But if the baby starts crying while giving massage, then you should stop immediately as the baby may not be comfortable with it.
Should I Let My Sick Baby Sleep All Day?
Sleeping is the best way for babies to recuperate during a sickness. It helps their tiny bodies to fight infection and spring back to normal. Thus, you should allow your baby to sleep as and when he needs. This can mean going to bed early, waking up late and sleeping more during daytime.
But if the baby sleeps for more than 2 ½ – 3 hours, it is best to wake them up for a feed. Along with sleep, the baby also needs proper nourishment to fight back infection.
Sleeping more during the initial days of falling sick is quite normal. But if the baby looks too tired and if the sleep pattern does not change even after 5 days, then it is best to consult your doctor. The doctor will be able to diagnose and figure out whether there is any other reason for the long hours of sleep.
If the baby falls sick in the middle of sleep training, it is best to put a pause to it. Babies health and comfort should be your primary concern. You can restart the sleep training once the baby springs back to normal. Similarly, do not give much importance to sleep routine at least till the baby recuperate completely.
Will Baby Sleep Through High Fever?
Fever is a means by which the immune system of the body protects it against certain infection. It is a defense mechanism of the body to ward off infections.
If the baby has a high fever there is only very little chance that the baby will sleep peacefully the whole night. The high temperature coupled together with the body ache can make the baby cranky and restless the whole night.
To make the baby comfortable and sleep peacefully, you can do the following
- Dress comfortably: Do not overdress the baby thinking that he/she will feel cold. If the room temperature is normal, it is best to dress the baby in light clothes. Normal cotton clothes are best during fever. You should not go the old way and force a sweat.
- Give plenty of fluid: Keeping the baby hydrated is crucial during high fever as there can be lose of fluid from the body. If you are breastfeeding the baby, you can continue to do so as breast milk is the best medicine during fever. For slightly older babies, you can provide oral dehydration solution after consulting the baby’s pediatrician.
- Use fever-reliever as needed: If your baby develops fever just before his normal bedtime, you can give a fever-reliever. You can check with your pediatrician about the medicine and the right quantity. Providing a fever-reliever just before bedtime helps the baby to sleep peacefully.
- Bring down the temperature: You can give a sponge bath to bring down the body temperature. Some even suggest giving a bath in lukewarm water to reduce the temperature. If nothing is possible, you can at least place a strip of wet cloth on the baby’s forehead to bring down the temperature.
Co-sleeping with a Sick Baby
There are always contradictory views about co-sleeping with a baby. Few advocates that co-sleeping is dangerous for the baby as it can result in suffocation and smothering. Whereas few others are of the opinion that co-sleeping is healthy for the overall development of the baby.
When a baby is sick, what he/she wants the most is a comfort zone. That comfort zone is more likely to be the parents. Thus, when a sick baby co-sleep with the parent it creates a comfortable and safe feeling for the baby. As a result, the baby can sleep peacefully.
Through co-sleeping you can monitor every movement of the baby. If the baby develops a blocked nose or is not able to breathe properly, then you can make that out immediately and help the baby out. If the baby is sleeping in a different room, then you may not know when he/she is in danger.
Sometimes the baby might throw up at the middle of the night and choke. If he/she sleeps in a different room, you may not know what is happening with the baby.
Over and above all, some sick babies might need the comfort food – breastmilk – all throughout the night. If the baby is sharing the bed with you, it will be easy for you to feed the baby and get yourself some rest.
What to do When Your Sick Baby Won’t Sleep Unless Held?
This is one question that perplexes most parents regarding baby sleep. Just like co-sleeping there are contradictory views about holding a baby while sick.
As much as possible, try to soothe and calm down the baby without holding her. If the baby is suffering from congested nose or ear infection, then you can keep her head in an elevated position by placing a soft pillow or a rolled-up towel under the head. This helps the mucus to drain in the right direction and help the baby to breath easily. You can also use nasal drops to decongest her nose.
But even after soothing, if the baby continues to cry, then you can hold her in your hands. All that you want at this time is for the baby to feel comfortable and sleep peacefully.
Always keep in mind that having a sick baby around is not an easy task. You need a lot of patience and spend sleepless nights till the baby recuperate. Try to encourage the baby to sleep as much as possible so that he recuperates fast.