Winter ills and chills and your baby's sleep
As winter approaches some of us have probably already experienced some winter ills and chills, cold and flu season means runny noses, coughs, ear infections and disrupted sleep!
What can you do about your babies sleep if they do get sick?
The good news is just because your baby is sick, they haven't forgotten how to sleep. if they previously had really great self settling skills and healthy consistent sleep habits, then don't panic, you might get through winter pretty easily.
If your baby has a runny nose, they sometimes also have a blocked nose, and this might mean if they are usually a dummy sucker or a finger sucker they might struggle to do this to fall asleep.
Be patient with them, pop that dummy back in, or rub their back and soothe them while they try to fall off to sleep in their usual way. Try not to panic if they are taking a little longer than usual, give them the extra time since they are not well.
If they have a cough, this might not only stop them from settling easily, it might also wake them up frequently through the night. Each time they wake up, there sleep is becoming more and more fragmented and they are getting increasingly tired, which why a small cough at 9pm results in an easy re-settle but by 3am we are all at the end of our patients and baby is now very tired and might even start to get upset with trying to get back to sleep.
If you need to help your baby get back to sleep while sick (remember this is not always the case as many children despite a minor winter cough or cold will continue to self settle) try not to completely result back to settling at the top of what we call the hierarchy of soothing.
Our first response is to often drop straight to the bottom and start to hold and feed and bounce and rock to sleep..... even if this isn't what our baby needs.
Often we will get away with just slowly making our way back down the hierarchy, maybe your voice and proximity is enough if you are nice and patient, or do you need to use some touch? Back rub, tummy rub, hand on baby?
If this isn't working, then try some external support such as patting, or even patting the mattress.
Then the final two layers are the holding, feeding, bouncing and rocking until drowsy or asleep.
The idea behind not immediately dropping to the bottom is that if you only drop half way down, and it works, you only have to climb half way back up and you are back at self settling!
What about more serious illness?
If your child is more seriously ill this winter, like an ear infection, vomiting, high fevers and you want to sleep with them to ensure they are ok. I recommend you drag a mattress into their room, rather than bringing them into your bed. This means that you are 100% there for them, all the benefits of co-sleeping still exist, but you can easily leave again once they are well. Their sleep environment has stayed the same, and you can leave once they are no longer sick, and start to work up that hierarchy again if need be.
Remember sick children need sleep to heal, so nice early bed times, keep your bed time routines consistent and give them plenty of time to wind down and for any medicines to kick in.