Why staying "consistent" with a sick child sucks, and what to do instead.

Lots that sleep consultants are taught and practice really irk me. I get sweaty and frustrated that "experts" suggest ignoring what your parenting instinct is telling you, and - even more importantly - what your child is telling you.

Number one on this list is how they suggest to treat your child when they are sick... in the name of sleep. "Just pick them up, no eye contact, get to business, put them back to bed, and follow what you did when initially sleep training."

What do I see as wrong with this? When a child is sick they simply ask for what they need - it's the only thing their little bodies and minds know to do! Almost always, a sick child needs more love and attention at all hours to offset the body confusion they are experiencing. Remember, little ones don't understand that these sick sensations are temporary and that they will one day feel better. That's pretty scary!

If your child is sick or if you hear a cry that is not "normal" for your child, do not hold yourself back from responding in a way that you love responding to your child and in a way that your child needs and loves


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Follow what your heart and intuition are telling you that your child needs. Do it. You will not ruin sleep forever by doing so!

Support your child through sickness, emotionally difficult times (yes... this does apply to infants), and times when they simply need you. You will always feel good for responding to them and you will not ruin sleep forever by doing so! Usually, children of all ages will return to their normal habits after the need is gone.

If there are any lingering sleep nuances, you can always address them after your child is feeling better. 

This is what we do when E is sick:

  • always respond to her
  • look her in the eyes and talk to her softly
  • hold her if she wants or if we want (A talking toddler/child will tell you what they want... and what they don't, so listen.)
  • confirm that we'll hold/rub her back/hold her hand as long as she wants and that she can fall asleep in our arms or that I'll return her to bed when she is ready
  • snuggle
  • support her through her cries and confusion (Hand in Hand's Staylistening!)
  • ask her "are you ready to go back to bed? Listen for yes or no or more cries
  • be there and support until she is ready

Communication and support are key.

Look at and talk with your child so she knows you are there supporting her. We encourage parents to respectfully communicate and explain all situations from day one because it's how little ones learn about their environment and eventually adopt the language surrounding them. 

Asking your child if she is ready to go back to bed empowers her, and gifts her an iota of control in what feels like a tailspin. (Who feels in control when sick?)

LOVE your sick child as she needs without fear of "old sleep habits" or other "bad habits." For example, if you were a co-sleeping family that recently changed sleep space, do not fear bring them back to bed if that's what she needs and you want. Following you heart is #1. You can deal with whatever comes after that when it's time... if it ever needs "dealing with."

The sick child is by far a priority over the sleeping child.

Ignore the experts. Listen to you and your child!


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