Sickness and sleep

Feeling poorly can really affect our sleep- and babies and children are no exception to this. I get a lot of questions about what to do about sleep when sickness is thrown into the mix so here are some of my most helpful tips:


It’s best to support the whole families’ immune system with general good health practice- eating well, sleeping well, getting regular fresh air and vitamin supplements.

“The government recommends all children aged 6 months to 5 years are given vitamin supplements containing vitamins A, C and D every day.

Babies who are having more than 500ml (about a pint) of infant formula a day should not be given vitamin supplements. This is because formula is fortified with vitamins A, C and D and other nutrients.

Babies who are being breastfed should be given a daily vitamin D supplement from birth, whether or not you're taking a supplement containing vitamin D yourself.”


When we are feeling poorly, we need rest! It can be really temping to get your little one straight back into their childcare or school but we need to give their bodies time to bounce back. So just an extra day of rest can really help them with recovery. It’s extra hard when you’ve made social plans but if they’re still feeling unwell the extra stimulation may be detrimental to their recovery.


It sounds obvious but if your little one has a blocked nose, cough, fever or other symptoms, their sleep will likely be disturbed. Accept this and support them as much as they need.

Changing sleep needs

Your little one may need extra sleep or you may find they sleep a lot less when they’re unwell. You know them best so go with the flow if they need some extra sleep to help them recover.

Extra feeds/ drinks

If you have a sore throat, you’ll often drink more and wake up feeling thirstier. Similarly, if your little one has a blocked nose, they’ll tend to breathe through their mouth more so my wake with a dry mouth. If they have a fever and have been sweating, they’re also more likely to be more thirsty than usual. Don’t worry about taking a step back with sleep- any extra night feeds are likely temporary.

Changes in appetite

It’s very common for little ones (and adults!) to go off food when unwell. Try not to panic about this and continue to offer extra milk feeds (or their usual drinks if they are no longer taking feeds). Be aware of their wet and soiled nappy output- please contact your doctor or other health professional if you are concerned. Once they’re eating as usual, it’s a great sign that they’re past the worst of their illness. Offer them their favourite foods at this time and try to give lots of nutrient dense foods.


It’s likely that your little one may want more contact with you for extra support and reassurance. Try to go with the flow and get as much support as you can for yourself too.


Please always follow the instructions of your doctor for any medicines prescribed for your little one. Painkillers, such as liquid paracetamol, can be helpful but we don’t want to overuse them so only use them when you need them. Use on the advice of your doctor or pharmacist and always follow the instructions provided.

Baby massage

Some gentle baby massage sequences on the face and chest can work amazingly to help loosen any congestion.

Don’t lose sleep over sleep!

It can be really frustrating to be brought down by illness, especially if you have been making great progress with sleep training. But try not to worry about it- you can get back on track once your little one is well again.

If you are at all concerned about your child then always seek advice from your doctor, pharmacist or seek emergency medical support.

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