Illness and teething can be so disruptive for a little one’s sleep and as we move into the start of the flu season (because there are NO colds during the summer, of course …) let’s get prepared to minimise the damage!
Interestingly, lots of parents tell me that their little angel’s sleep problems cropped up after a bug or the cutting of a pesky canine. But why? Even the most amazing sleeper will need more reassurance and attention if they’re ill or in pain and so when they’re under the weather we’ll quickly go from being really clear about sleep boundaries to suddenly introducing night-time cuddles or rocking off to sleep in a way we wouldn’t usually if our child were well. The result is that, without us realising, we’re either muddying the water through intermittent responses or introducing new sleep associations which a child needs to be weaned off once they’re well or no longer in pain. For some children, they can get themselves back on schedule as soon as they’re well or the tooth is through. For others, that change in routine is enough to throw them off course and they’ll need you to be clear with your boundaries and what you expect of them to get them back on track.
So here are my top-tips to staying in control of their sleep while still being a loving, attentive parent:
- Stick to whatever sleep routine you usually follow as much as you can and encourage sleep – it’s essential for healing and wellbeing.
- Alleviate pain or discomfort using a method you’re comfortable with and offer lots of loving reassurance – but be careful not to overcompensate and get in the way of your little one getting the rest that they need.
- A child with a bug may need medication, reassurance or a bathroom trip but the thing he needs above all else is sleep. He doesn’t need to come into your bed, to sit up watching TV with you in the evening or to have the ipad in the middle of the night.
- Teething can be worse at night due to pressure building up on the gums – dummies can actually make this worse (the sucking action adds to this pressure) so offer something cold for your baby to chew on at night and think of getting rid of that dummy.
- If you’re in the middle of sleep training and illness/teething strikes be wary of undoing all of your hardwork. Put the plan on hold but not in the bin, follow the tips above and keep moving forward as soon as the bug or pain has passed.
- Overall: know that this will pass and your little one will be back on fighting form in a few days.
Has your child gone off track after a bug? Is teething making your nights worse than ever? Get in touch for a free sleep evaluation with me – I’d love to help!