Sleep and illnesses don’t always mix well when it comes to adults, let alone babies. Babies have limited communication skills and sometimes they just cannot tell you exactly what is wrong or where it hurts. Or what you can to do help. Lots of parents end up feeling somewhat helpless when their babies are ill, and that’s perfectly normal. You want to help them, and keep them safe after all. So it stands to reason that sleep is going to be tricky when your baby is ill. Sometimes they will sleep a lot more than usual, but sometimes they will be unsettled, unable to get to sleep or stay asleep for long. Here are a few tips to help you understand more about baby sleep and illnesses.
Know when to call the doctor
Hopefully your baby is either teething, or has a cold. But do be vigilant, check her temperature regularly and call the doctor if you are ever unsure of symptoms, or need reassurance. Don’t rely on Google to tell you what to do! Use your instincts and seek advice if you think you need it. No doctor will ever turn a parent with a baby away.
A normal body temperature for a healthy baby is between 97 and 100.3 degrees, and if your baby is under three months you should always seek medical attention when it’s high.
If your young baby has a temperature of 100.4 or over call the doctor. If your older baby has a high temperature, observe her closely, and check that she is taking fluids, having wet nappies and appears well and responsive. Again though, if you are worried call the doctor. As a general rule, the American Academy of Paediatrics recommends calling the doctor if your baby is between 3 and 6 months old and has a temperature of 101 an higher with symptoms of loss of appetite, cough, ear-ache, unusual fussiness, vomiting and diarrehea.
Get to know the common symptoms of a cold quickly
It can help if you know when your baby is coming down with a cold, so learn to spot the signs.
- runny nose
- coughing and sneezing
- red eyes
- sore throat
- loss of appetite
- swollen lymph nodes- under the arms, on the neck and at the back of the head
Other signs of an illness
Sometimes baby will sleep a lot more than usual. This is ok, but keep an eye on it and try not to stress over the routine too much. Everything will fall back into place when baby is feeling herself again. If you’re a stickler for routine, or you know that it works sow well for you usually, this can be hard. But remember that when baby is ill, she needs you there with her to support her and gently ease her back to full health. So if extra sleep is on the agenda, assume that it is what her body needs to recover. Let her sleep as much as she needs, check her temperature and other vital signs regularly, and let the fever/ illness run it’s course.
If baby’s sleepiness lasts a lot longer than you would expect (more than 5-7 days) or you are at all concerned, seek medical attention.
Your baby might also be a little (or a lot) cranky when she is ill. This is again very normal, and your baby’s way of telling you that she isn’t feeling well. And just as she sleeps a lot more than usual, she may very well wake a lot morethan usual too. This means that her illness is likely to be challenging for the whole family. Here are some tips for coping:
- Forget your sleep training and focus on your baby’s needs right now. All of that can be resumed when baby is better.
- Call on your partner, family or friends for back up. Caring for a poorly baby is very demanding and requires a lot of patience and stamina at times. Don’t be afraid to ask for help either.
- Take advantage of the times that your baby is asleep- rest yourself, so that you are prepared for the task ahead!
- Remember that colds and minor illnesses will pass quickly, and although it is not nice to see your baby unwell, there is a very good chance she will be up and fighting again very soon!
After the illness
When your baby has been unwell, and you have abandoned the sleep training routine for a few days, it might feel difficult to get back into the swing of things again. Don’t despair! Here are some tips to help you:
- Resume normal service as soon as you feel it is appropriate to do so. And use your instincts. If baby shows signs of being back to normal health, take gentle steps to re-introduce the routine once more.
- Be prepared for a few sleepless nights as your baby recovers, and re-adjusts to her usual routine.
- Try not to create new habits that your baby night come to rely on to get to sleep. If you usually rock her to sleep and that works well for you, then fine. But if this is a new thing, ditch it now.
- Rest. You’ve worked hard and your body is going to feel it. Take some time out if you can.