Have you ever heard the story of Catherine O'Leary's Cow?
Back in 1871, the Chicago Tribune reported that the cause of the great Chicago Fire was a cow, Catherine O’Leary’s cow to be precise, kicking over a lantern in the barn while it was being milked.
Unfortunately, the Tribune admitted later on that it had completely fabricated the story, but that didn’t stop people from blaming Catherine and her cow from being widely blamed for one of the greatest disasters in US history.
We as parents know that frequent hand washing and cleaning heavily used surfaces like doorknobs and light switches can go a long way to preventing the spread of germs, but what do you do when your little one wakes up with a stuffy nose and a cough?
Usually your baby is a great sleeper, but now she has what looks like a cold and consequently isn’t sleeping well. Have no fear! I want to give you some tips for handling sickness so that your baby doesn’t pick up bad habits that will persist long after the germs have gone. Here are a few things to keep in mind. Expect that your sick child is going to have some nighttime wakeups. Anyone who is ill does not sleep as well as they normally do. They may have one, two, five or even more nighttime wake-ups…it’s how you handle those wake-ups will make a big difference.
One of the big mistakes people make is that they start to intervene in their child’s sleep skills. Meaning they go in, they try to rock or they start to feed again. They try to lull baby to sleep in their arms or go back to all their old sleep props. I understand why people do that because you want to comfort your baby when they’re sick. I’m not saying don’t comfort baby…you can absolutely go in. Have a short cuddle, wipe her nose, give her a drink of water, whatever you need to do to offer some comfort, but don’t interfere with her sleep skills.
You’re not going to rock her back to sleep. You’re not going to feed her to sleep. You’re not going to do any of the things that you normally wouldn’t let her do. The only time you would ever go back to a nighttime feed, obviously, is if your doctor or pediatrician suggests it. If she’s had a high fever for several days, she might need some extra fluids through the night.
You want to make sure that those only happen for a few nights. Three is kind of my rule of thumb. If anything happens for more than three nights, then there is the danger that the baby is going to now expect this and start waking up looking for feeds, rocking, etc even once the sickness is gone. Another big mistake people make is that they bring their baby into bed with them. Again, I understand it. My daughter seemed to come home from daycare with a new sickness every other week. I’d get sick, then she’d bring home something new. It was a vicious cycle. I understand where that desire comes from. Again, you want to comfort your sick child. If you’re really concerned about your child in the night, it is much better for you to go to them than to bring them to you.
If you’re really concerned, throw down an air mattress on the floor of baby’s room. Spend a night or two in his room to keep an eye on him. Again, remembering my rule of threes, try not to do it for any longer than three nights or you might find yourself six months later still sleeping beside his bed. If everything falls apart, cut yourself a bit of slack. Sometimes it happens. Know that as soon as your baby is well again, just get right back on track with good sleep skills. Go back to your normal routine and baby will remember those great skills that she used before the sniffles came.
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