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10 Tips to Help You Your Sick Baby Sleep

Has your little one caught their first cold? Follow these 10 tips for how to get your sick baby to sleep so they can rest and get better ASAP!

Mother trying to help get a sick baby to sleep

As the weather gets colder and we start to spend more time inside with each other (and our germs!), your baby is bound to catch a bug or two.

Getting sick helps your baby build up their natural immune system, but it’s absolutely no fun. And believe me, your baby will find a way to voice their displeasure!

When your baby is sick—especially when they have a fever or congestion— their sleep schedule will be disrupted. A lack of sleep means is baby is overtired and grumpy, and that’s on top of already feeling yucky.

You’re probably wondering how to get an overtired, sick baby to sleep.

I know how hard it can be!

Thankfully, there are a few sick baby remedies and tips you can use to help improve your baby’s sleep when they’re sick.

We all know that when your baby isn’t sleeping well, no one else in the house is either. So let’s get your little one sleeping and on the mend!

Sick baby has a fever

Do Babies Sleep More When Sick?

Yes, sick babies sleep more when they aren’t feeling well. Just like adults need extra rest when we aren’t feeling well, babies need extra sleep and rest in order to heal from their sickness.

Go ahead and let your baby sleep as much as they need to when they aren’t feeling well. You can get back to nap schedules and wake windows after your baby is feeling better.

sick baby sleeping

Should I Let My Sick Baby Sleep All Day?

My daughter was about 9 months old when she caught her first cold. I remember debating if I should wake her up from her first nap to preserve her wake windows and bedtime.

Honestly, throw all the sleep rules out when your baby is sick.

Let them sleep as much as they want to when they are sick and don’t be surprised if they sleep much longer stretches than usual.

Don’t worry about waking your baby up from a nap. They may need extra sleep during the day and will still likely sleep well at night.

Sleep is healing and will help your baby feel better!

10 Tips for Getting Your Sick Baby to Sleep

Even though it can be tricky to figure out how to get a sick baby to sleep, it’s not impossible. These are 10 of my go-to methods for helping a sick baby get the rest they need!

humidifier to help sick baby sleep

1. Use a Humidifier

One of my nursery must-haves is a good humidifier. The first time your baby gets a stuffy nose, you’ll be so glad you have one on hand!

When your baby has a sore throat or congestion, a humidifier helps by adding moisture to the air in their room. It makes it easier to breathe, and helps loosen up mucus build-up in their nose and sinuses.

We put our humidifier to frequent use during our daughter’s first year of life. Some nights, it seemed like the only thing that could make a difference in her getting longer stretches of sleep.

2. Breastfeed When Possible

Breast milk is one of the best ways for your baby to receive important antibodies that can fight off infection and illness. If you’re able, make sure your baby is getting plenty of breast milk while they’re sick.

If you’re also sick as the breastfeeding mother, keep breastfeeding your baby regardless. They’ll only stand to benefit from the antibodies and hydration. Make sure you’re getting yourself extra fluids to keep your milk production up!

Breastfeeding while sick isn’t just beneficial from a nutrition standpoint. The action of breastfeeding or drinking from a bottle can sometimes help to clear your baby’s nasal passages if they’re congested.

mom using a syringe bulb to clear sick baby

3. Use a Snot-Sucker

One thing that might help make breastfeeding a little bit easier when your little one is sick is a snot sucker.

When your baby’s nose is completely stuffed up, sucking for a long period can sometimes build uncomfortable pressure in their sinuses and ear canals.

If your baby is breaking away from the breast frequently and crying, they’re probably experiencing some discomfort from congestion and sinus pressure.

Try using a snot sucker to alleviate some congestion and make feeding time more comfortable for both of you.

4. Keep Your Baby Hydrated

Your baby can become easily dehydrated when they have a fever or are losing a lot of fluids from shedding mucus, diarrhea, or vomiting.

It’s incredibly important for your baby’s healing and comfort that they stay hydrated, so keep up with breastfeeding and/or bottle feeding. You might find that frequent breaks and cluster feeding is the easiest way to get your baby the ounces they need.

If your baby is younger than 6 months old, they should be hydrating strictly with breast milk or formula—it’s not time for water yet! In fact, before your baby turns one, water should only be offered in small amounts during solid food mealtimes.

baby holding sippy cup smiling

5. Use Medications When Appropriate

Sometimes the only thing that can alleviate your baby’s discomfort from a sore throat or fever is medication.

Work closely with your pediatrician to determine the best type of medicine and appropriate dosage for your child’s age and weight. Failure to consult with your baby’s doctor may result in unintended overdoses.

6. Understand That Wake Times May be Limited

I know you’ve probably been doing so much work to keep up a sleep schedule and adhere to age-appropriate wake windows. Those wake windows are super helpful when your little one is healthy and doing well!

The thing about being sick is that your baby’s body needs more rest to fight off the infection. They are going to naturally feel more tired, and it’s okay to let your baby lean in to that sleepiness.

Don’t purposefully keep your baby awake if they start to show sleepy cues before their wake window is over. If you see signs that your baby is ready to fall asleep, let them.

Mom holding hand of sleeping sick baby

7. Let Your Baby Sleep

When your baby is sick, their sleep schedule will probably be all over the map. They might sleep for an hour longer than usual at nap time, or they may only be able to sleep 20 minutes at a time due to discomfort.

Whatever the case may be, let it all happen. Don’t wake your baby up if they’re sleeping for longer than usual just so you can keep them on track for their next nap.

Take the sleep when you can get it, and trust that your baby needs the rest regardless of when it happens.

Now is not the time to be super strict about the schedule or getting your baby to fall asleep independently.

8. Throw the Rules Out the Window!

Think about how you feel when you’re sick. Chances are good that all you want to do is cuddle up and have someone take care of you. Your baby feels the same!

If it seems like your sick baby just wants to be held, that’s fine. Hold them. Give them all the comfort and cuddles they need.

When your little one isn’t feeling well, they’re not going to be able to fall asleep independently as easily as they might when they’re healthy.

It’s okay for you hold your baby and even let them sleep in your arms. Just make sure you’re awake, alert, and can ensure your baby’s sleep safety.

Try to avoid doing any sort of sleep training while your baby is sick, especially any method that involves letting your baby cry. Prolonged crying can exacerbate congestion and sore throat symptoms.

mom holding sleeping baby

9. Prioritize Safe Sleep

You’ve likely heard advice that sleeping with an elevated head helps ease congestion while sleeping. This is true for adults and older children, but it’s not a safe practice for babies.

The best sleeping position for a baby with a stuffy nose is still on their back, in a crib free from sleep hazards.

Your baby will probably experience more night-wakings while they’re sick. You can use that time to hold them slightly upright to help their nasal passages drain for a bit before you put them back down for sleep.

10. Get Back on Track Once Baby is Feeling Better

Like so many other bumps in the road, this too shall pass. With some time and care, your baby will fight off their illness and you’ll have a chance to get back on track.

Once your baby is feeling better, you can jump back in to fostering independent sleep for your little one.

If your baby was sick for a long period of time, there may be some co-dependent sleep habits that have developed and that’s okay!

With a little re-introduction to sleep training, getting back on a schedule, and consistency on your part, you guys will get back to where you were before the germs set in.

Amy Motroni