Getting sleep back on track after illness

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When your baby or toddler is sick, sometimes you need to deviate from your normal routine to help your little one feel comfortable (to learn how to manage during illness, see this blog). Although slipping into survival mode is usually ok, deviating from your child’s normal sleep habits will often lead to new sleep associations. This blog will help you get your child's sleep back on track.

The Science Behind Illnesses and Sleep

Children under two will experience an average of six respiratory illnesses each year. Babies and toddlers in daycare experience higher rates of illness and may seem to be perpetually sick.

Even a mild illness can cause frequent night waking due to congestion, coughing, and sore throat. A child who was sleeping independently before illness may have difficulty falling asleep at bedtime and during night waking due to discomfort. During this difficult time, you may need to spend additional time with your little one holding, rocking, or even offering extra feedings to get through the night. While comforting your child during this time is absolutely appropriate, your child may re-develop a sleep association as a result of your extra comforts. As a reminder, a sleep association is simply the series of experiences or tools that your baby needs to fall asleep. A sleep association could be your child’s crib, rocking, bouncing, feeding, going for a walk in a carrier or stroller, a pacifier, or any combination of those or other things. You will need to teach your child to fall asleep independently after s/he is well again in order to reduce frequent night waking when s/he feels better.


Need More Help?

We offer several options for optimizing your child's sleep:

SLEEP TRAINING CLASS (for well babies 6-15 months)

PHONE CONSULTATIONS (with one of our sleep experts)

THE SECRET TO NAPS (downloadable e-book)


How do you get your child's sleep back on track after illness?

The best way to get back on track depends on how your child's sleep was before s/he got sick and also how you responded to your child while s/he was unwell. Each section below covers how to get back on track for different situations in detail, but here's a simple framework for getting back on track:

Step 1: Rebalance your child's calorie intake if you ended up offering more night feedings while away.

Step 2: Put your child down awake at bedtime and nap time using your preferred sleep training method (our class offers four different options).

Step 1: Rebalance your child's calorie intake if you ended up offering more night feedings when your child was sick