I’m currently sitting at home with a sick little man who has been struggling to fall asleep and stay asleep because of a horrible barking cough. We have been awake since 5:30 this morning, not because we wanted to be, but because his cough just wouldn’t allow him to return to sleep. Heading into winter months is the time when lots of illnesses make the run around; so I’m here share my thoughts on handling sleep and illnesses.

A lot of parents worry that sleep will veer off track if they respond to their little one’s illnesses with rocking, patting, or cuddling before bedtime or in the nighttime hours when their little ones can’t seem to sleep properly. I’m here to tell you not to fear responding to your little one. When they are sick, it is important to do what you can to help them get the rest they need, as sleep is a great illness fighter.

Your little one will need you more than usual when they are sick and it is important that you are there for them without reservation or worry about the days after the illness has abated. The only suggestions I would make is to try not to nurse or bottle-feed to the point of sleep or bring your baby into your bed. These are the types of sleep associations that are harder and take longer, to break. If your child needs you a lot during the night, consider sleeping in their bedroom on a separate bed, instead of bringing them into your bed.

If you do need to cuddle, rock or pat your little one to help soothe them while they are sick, the best thing you can do is stop it before they actually fall asleep. Pop them back into the crib drowsy so they can do the final stages of falling asleep. This will help prevent a new sleep association from forming.

Schedules can fall by the wayside a bit when your little one is sick. This is okay. My little one hasn’t napped for quite some time, but today he is definitely having one!  Follow your little one’s lead and if you need to put them to nap earlier or let them sleep longer, do so. Earlier bedtimes will also be important to help them fight their illness.

Fevers can alter sleep patterns for your little one as it often causes lighter sleep and more frequent wakings. You can expect that your little one might wake more when they have illnesses like ear infections.  Once the fever goes away, they will sleep normally again.

Most illnesses have a period of time where you are very sick (acute phase) and then you start to improve gradually over a few days. This is especially so with things like colds. When your baby is over the acute phase you can start to go back to having them sleep independently again. If needed you can withdraw your attention slowly. Children who were independently sleepers pre-illness will only take a couple of days to get back to being independent sleepers again.

I hope your little ones stay healthy through the coming months, but if they do happen to catch something, you now know how best to handle it. Sending healthy vibes your way!


It is hard to handle sleep the same way when your little one is sick, but here are my top tips for doing the best that you can sleep wise.


If you’d love some help and support with your little one’s sleep please do not hesitate to reach out.  I offer packages to suit everybody’s needs and budget.  

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