Parents can struggle with their children’s sleep due to bouts of typical sicknesses that young children will have. Common illnesses in childhood are coughs, colds, ear and chest infections, chicken pox…the list goes on. All sickness can impact on good sleep and during the sickness period parents can expect a sleepless child and sleepless nights. However, all things being equal, if you respond correctly during the sick stage then as soon as your child recovers, then their healthy sleep habits will return….provided you haven’t ingrained some poor associations on the way.
Depending on the level of sickness always seek advice from your GP or health visitor, trust your instincts and meet your child’s every need.
Have a response plan for times of sickness.
- Avoid re-introducing the original crutches if you have worked hard to eliminate rocking, co sleeping, overnight bottles.
- Of course hold your child, but try not to do this all the way to sleep
- Keep your child hydrated with sippy cups/beakers of water
- Avoid changing the sleeping location-camp out in your child’s bedroom if they are too sick to be left alone.
- If your child needs pain management for teething/sickness consult your GP
- Camp out with them. It would be better to stay in their bedroom on the floor than change their sleeping location
- Be mindful that new sleep associations can be formed within 1-3 days
- As soon as your child is on the mend, try to resume normal sleep practises
- If they are still a bit needy, then work of phasing yourself out of their sleep process over the course of a few days, don’t be left with a sleepless child, long after illness has gone away
- Understand that you will lose out on sleep yourself during this time-it is our journey as parents!
Lucy Wolfe, CGSC, MAPSC, is a paediatric sleep consultant and mum of four young children. She runs a private sleep consulting practice where she provides knowledge, expertise and valuable support to families across the country. See www.sleepmatters.ie <http://www.sleepmatters.ie>, t: 087 2683584 or e: email@example.com