The average baby can get anywhere from 6 to 10 bugs in their first year and they’ll average about nine each year after that. Washing hands regularly is the best way to prevent illness, but regardless of what you do – getting sick is inevitable. You certainly know first-hand how difficult it can be to sleep well when you’re ill, just when you need rest most. It’s even more challenging for a baby or small child who may not be able to express his discomfort or have the coping capabilities you’ve learned over time. Soothe your little sweet pea into healing slumber using these tips for helping children sleep when they’re sick!
Start bedtime early. Not only should you plan for an earlier bedtime to ensure your child is getting the extra rest he needs, you should also plan for a longer bedtime routine. A good rule of thumb is to start an hour earlier than usual, but play it by ear based on your child’s age and how sick she’s feeling.
Use medications prudently. Reaching for over-the-counter drugs to suppress symptoms may be your first recourse of action when you’re ill, but it’s not always an effective or safe option for a small child. In fact, cough and cold medicines are not recommended for children under age 4 unless it’s prescribed by your pediatrician. Still, if your child is achy or feverish, you may want to administer some age appropriate pain reliever/fever reducer. If so, do it well in advance of bedtime to ensure it’s kicked in by the time her head hits the pillow.
Make a cup of tea. For toddlers and older children, have some tea with a bit of honey. The warm liquid is soothing, the honey can help with coughs and sore throats, and some herbs have even more beneficial effects. (For example, ginger is good for nausea.) Try our DIY sleepy time tea recipes for toddlers and adjust as you see fit.
Give your child a warm bath. Not only is a warm bath another natural sleep inducer, it also eases aches and pains and the steam can help clear congestion. If you can, fill the tub using the shower and keep the bathroom door closed to create extra steam.
Try a chest (or full body) massage. A gentle massage is another natural sleep inducer and can also help ease those aches. For a child with a stuffy nose or cough, dilute 10 drops of eucalyptus essential oil in half a cup of extra virgin olive oil for a chest massage oil that can help loosen crud and clear breathing passages. Keep massages short, so your child doesn’t get cold. And, pay close attention to how your child reacts – some might find it uncomfortable.
Create a healing space. Make the bedroom and bed fit the needs of your child’s illness. If it’s a respiratory ailment, your child might benefit from a cool mist humidifier and elevating the head of the crib or bed. If your child is very small or very sick, you may want to consider setting up a bed next to your own or vice versa. Some children might want special blankies or additional bedding to create an extra fluffy nest. Combine practical necessities with TLC touches to make the sleeping space a haven for healing.
Clear the nose. You maybe already have been all day, but just once more before bed, clear your child’s nose either with a bulb or by blowing (depending on your child’s age). For an older child with a stuffy nose, you could try breathe right nose strips for children. Anything that helps your little one breathe easier.
Prepare for night-waking. General restlessness from discomfort and nightmares are both common during illness. Sleeping in the same room with your child may help put her at ease or at least put you at arm’s reach for helping soothe her back to sleep. If you’re sleeping in separate rooms, use a baby monitor (even if your child isn’t a baby) to ensure you wake up when he does. And, keep everything you might need – medicine, tissues, etc – easily accessible.
What are your tips for helping children sleep when they’re sick? Let us know in the comments, so other parents can learn from your experience!
Note: The advice on this blog is provided for informational purposes only. It is general information that may not apply to your child and is not a substitute for your own doctor’s medical care or advice.