It’s heart breaking to see your baby struggle to sleep when they are poorly. How do you help your baby sleep when they are ill?
Every parent knows that a sick baby is an unhappy baby and an unhappy baby means sleep disruption, which is probably the last thing most families want. If you already have a baby who does not sleep well (or as much as you'd like them to), sickness can have a negative impact on the amount and quality of sleep for all the family. So how do you help your sick baby sleep when they have the sniffles? We've put together some advice on helping your baby to sleep when they are poorly.
Know the symptoms of the common cold
The common cold is so named for a reason - lots of people, babies included, catch them. Sadly, there is no cure but colds usually pass quickly with no lasting effects, so they should not be cause for concern. It's important, however, to know the signs of a cold so that you can gauge when medical attention is needed. It's recommended that babies under the age of three months should see a doctor when they catch a cold but don't be afraid to seek medical advice if you're unsure.
The signs of a cold are usually:
- 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
Relax the sleep schedule
When babies are sick, their sleep schedule will be disrupted and it can be hard to keep your usual sleep routine on track - but don't stress too much about this. Colds and minor illnesses pass quickly - even if it doesn't seem like it at the time- and a small break in your baby’s sleep routine won't hurt. Make the most of the chance to cuddle your longer and let her know that you're there for her when she really needs you.
Call for back up
Caring for a poorly baby 24/7 is no mean feat and chances are you will need some help. There's no shame in this, so if you've been up all night with a sniffly baby who can’t breathe easily lying down, share the care with your partner and don't be afraid to ask a friend or relative to take over for a while. You will need as much energy and strength as possible to provide your baby with the love and care that she needs and that means taking a break now and then.
- Babies breathe through the nose, as this helps them feed effectively. When they have a cold, a blocked nose can cause babies distress. Lots of mums recommended a nasal aspirator to clear the mucus from the nose; you can buy these from the supermarket or pharmacy- and this might help your baby to settle a little more easily at night. Saline drops can also help unblock little noses, or can be used before the nasal aspirator to loosen mucus for suction.
- Another great tip is to set baby's bed to an incline if you can, with their head higher than their feet, as this position will help clear her nose a bit more and thus make breathing - and sleeping - a little easier. Use blocks under the legs of the cot or look for a crib that has an inclined position. Make sure that you are still following all sleep safety advice from The American SIDS Institute
- Keep your baby hydrated. Offer extra breast feeds (make sure you also drink plenty of water) or water if bottle fed, as this can help bring down a fever.
- Medication can help to relieve discomfort and pain associated with a cold but make sure you read the product information carefully and stick to the recommended doses.
- Check your baby's temperature regularly and seek medical attention if it goes over 38 degrees for babies under three months and 39 degrees for older babies. If your baby feels hot and clammy, remove some layers to help bring comfort.
Preventing another cold...
Unfortunately, there is no way to guarantee that your baby will not catch a cold. You might want to avoid friends and family for a day or two if you know they've been unwell but generally there is no way to ensure that germs aren't passed on from somewhere. Make sure that anyone who handles your baby has washed their hands first. At the end of the day, colds help to build up a baby's immune system so the only thing you can do is grit your teeth and get on with it! It’s good to know that, if you breastfeed, this can help to build your baby's immune system.
When to seek medical help
Don't be afraid to seek medical attention if you feel your baby is really struggling, or if the symptoms of her cold persist for longer than normal. Use your instincts and seek advice as soon as you feel it is necessary. Call the Doctor or Emergency Room if:
- Your baby is floppy, unresponsive, or won’t wake
- Has difficulties breathing
- Is having a fit or seizure
- Has a rash that does not fade when you place a drinking glass on it
Colds can be miserable and sleeping through them can be difficult for babies. Take comfort in the fact that they are usually short lived and any disruption to sleep will be temporary. Good luck!