Quite often my clients would ask me, what do I do when my child is sick? Do I still sleep train her? Should I start my sleep plan when my child is unwell?
Well the short answer to that is No. You don’t start the sleep training when your child is sick. Wait until your child is reasonably healthy then you can start the sleep training. Why do I say that you asked? Well, for one thing – you know your child will be more clingy and cranky when she’s unwell. So why changed her sleep habit when she’s unwell and cranky? It will make it doubly hard for you to distinguish her cries as you won’t be certain whether her cry is related to her illness or is it just a cry of struggling with the new routine.
So what if your child is sick and you are to the point in sleep training where she has made substantial progress?
Then I would say to you just simply continue with your sleep training but do attend to your child as needed and at the same time focus on them falling asleep without your help. I remembered when my kids were sick, even after they have learned to self settle, they would be crankier than usual which is perfectly normal (who wouldn’t be when they are sick?). I would still give them the exact same routine, give them cuddles and kisses to soothe the pain away, and of course medications prescribed by the pediatrician to comfort my sick child. Whatever they needed, I would fulfill it. However one thing would always remain unchanged, I didn’t help them fall asleep. They would still go to bed after their bedtime routine/nap time routine and self settle on their own.
Just remember that just because they are sick it does not mean that they would suddenly need your help to fall asleep. The self settling skills that they have learned will not simply vanish into thin air simply because they caught a nasty bug. So love them, care for them and nurture them back to health but please remember not to help them fall asleep, that’s not your job anymore.
You can choose to sleep in the room they are in if they are sick so you can monitor them closely and attend to their needs readily. But please do not bring your sick child to bed with you. This will be sure to undo all the sleep training progress you have made. Once your child is all good and healthy again, you will know it’s safe to resume your sleep program. Always check with your doctor if you are unsure about your child’s health condition.