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How to Help a Sick Baby Sleep

When a baby has a cold, it can mean long, sleepless nights for everyone. And, often, this lack of sleep becomes part of a vicious cycle: baby gets sick and doesn’t sleep well and, as a result, doesn’t get the critical shut eye they need to kick their congestion, fever and general icks. Because of this, illnesses wear on longer than they should, and sleep continues to be a battle night after night -- and that means you’re getting less shut-eye, too.

By making efforts to help your baby rest, you’ll help them get better faster while curbing some of their crankiness and discomfort. Here are some tips and tricks to consider when your sick baby won’t sleep. Talk to your child’s health care professional if you have any concerns or questions.

Clear Your Baby’s Congestion

While many over-the-counter options aren’t recommended for babies and young children, there are many natural nasal sprays and rubs that can help clear congestion. Stuffy noses and coughs often make it tough for babies to get a good night’s sleep. Not only are they uncomfortable but, if a congested baby needs a pacifier to sleep, stuffiness makes that much more difficult. When babies can’t breathe through their nose, it’s almost impossible for them to keep a pacifier in place, which can add to the fussiness and trouble falling and staying asleep. If you’re unsure where to begin, you can start with a baby massage to soothe them and break up congestion.

Prioritize Feeding A Sick Baby

A baby not eating, especially when they’re sick, can be difficult for parents. You want to do what’s best for them and ensuring they have the proper nutrients to kick their cold is important. However, it’s common for a baby refusing to eat during the day to become cranky at night. Evening crankiness is often associated with thirst or hunger. Normally that’s easy for moms and dads to manage but, when your baby has a fever, sore throat, or congestion, eating and drinking may be trickier. Common ailments like colds, strep throat and even ear infections can leave baby with little or no appetite or general irritability around eating -- and that means, by the end of the day, your child could be very hungry and very cranky as a result. If you’re wondering what to feed a sick baby, try additional breast milk or formula until your child’s appetite is back to normal.

Maintain Your Baby’s Bedtime Routine

A sick baby sleeping a lot is not a cause for concern- they’re fighting the infection. It may seem counterintuitive to wake up your child to maintain their sleep routine, but it’s true: Babies who have a consistent napping schedule tend to be better evening sleepers than babies who don’t. Even if your baby is sick and fussy come nap time, try your best to help them get at least some sleep. By maintaining some normalcy in their schedule and ensuring they're well-rested come bedtime, you’ll set yourself and your little one up for a better night's sleep, even when they aren’t feeling well.

One final piece of advice?

Don’t forget to take care of you. If you’re completely sleep deprived, comforting, caring and soothing a sick baby will be that much more challenging than if your brain is firing on all cylinders. While it may be difficult, do your best to sleep when baby is sleeping and, if possible, ask a spouse, grandparent, aunt or uncle, or babysitter to stop by and keep an eye on things while you grab some much needed ZZZs. You may feel guilty and you still may feel exhausted post-rest, but even a few hours can help you feel sharper and take better care of your little patient.

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