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Read some of our great articles on a range of parenting topics from sleeping to teething. We publish new blog posts regularly and feature a number of baby sleep experts and their top tips

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Helping baby to sleep when poorly

Every parent knows that a sniffly baby is an unhappy baby. And an unhappy baby often means some level of disruption in sleep, which is probably the last thing most families want. And if your baby already does not sleep so well (or as much as you'd like them to sleep) then this can have a negative impact on the amount and quality of sleep for all. Colds and babies are no fun at all. So how to help babies sleep with the sniffles? We've put together some advice on helping baby to sleep when poorly.


Know your common cold symptoms

The common cold is called the common cold for  a reason- lots of people (babies included) catch them. There is, unfortunately, no cure but they usually pass quickly and with no lasting effects so should not be cause for too much concern. It's important, however, to know the signs of a cold so that you are able to gauge when medical attention is needed. It's recommended that babies under the age of three months should see a doctor when they catch a cold, but don't be afraid to seek medical advice if you're unsure.

The signs of a cold are usually:

  • runny nose
  • fever
  • coughing and sneezing
  • red eyes
  • sore throat
  • loss of appetite
  • irritability
  • swollen lymph nodes- under the arms, on the neck and at the back of the head

Relax the sleep schedule 

When babies are poorly they have no idea that you want them to be able to sleep on schedule. In fact, many babies have no idea about this when they're not poorly, but when they are full of cold and sniffles, it can be hard to get the normal routine running to plan. But don't stress about this. Colds and minor illnesses pass quickly- even if it doesn't seem like it at the time- and a small break in the routine won't hurt while you care for the little one. Make the most of the chance to cuddle your baby a little longer and let her know that you're there for her when she really needs you.

Call for back up

Caring for a poorly baby 24/7 is no mean feat and chances are you will need some help. There's no shame in this. If you've been up all night with a sniffly baby who cannot breathe easily lying down then don't be afraid to ask your partner or friend to take over after a while. You will need as much energy and strength as possible to provide your baby with the love and care that she needs, and that means taking a break now and then.

Practical tips 

  • Babies breathe through their noses as this helps them to feed effectively. When they have  a cold, the stuffiness that comes with that can hinder the breathing and cause babies distress. Lots of mums recommended a nasal aspirator to clear the mucus from the nose and you can buy these quite easily from the supermarket or pharmacy- they might just allow baby to settle a little more easily at night, so its definitely worth a try. Saline drops can also help to unblock little noses, or can be used before the nasal aspirator to loosen mucus for suction.
  • Another great tip is to set baby's bed to an incline if you can, as being a little more upright will help to clear her nose a bit more and thus make breathing- and sleeping- a little easier. Use a pillow or rolled up blanket/ towel under the mattress and make sure that all bedding is tucked in securely.
  • Keep baby hydrated. Offer extra breast feeds or water if bottle fed as this can help bring down a fever.
  • Medication can help to relieve discomfort and pain associated with a cold, but make sure you read the product information carefully and stick to the recommended doses.
  • Check baby's temperature regularly and seek medical attention if it goes over 38 degrees for babies under 3 months, and 39 degrees for older babies. If baby feels hot and clammy, remove some layers to help bring comfort.

Preventing another cold...

Unfortunately there is no way to guarantee your baby will not catch a cold. You might want to avoid friends and family for a day or two if you know they've been unwell, but generally there is no way to ensure the germs aren't passed on from somewhere. If you breastfeed, this can help to build baby's immune system and make sure that anyone who handles baby has washed their hands first. At the end of the day colds help to build up a baby's immune system too so the only thing you can do is grit your teeth and get on with it!

Don't be afraid to seek medical attention if you feel your baby is really struggling, or if the symptoms of her cold persist for longer than normal. Use your instincts and seek advice as soon as you feel it is necessary.

Colds can be miserable, and sleeping through them can be difficult for babies. And while they're both unavoidable and impossible to cure it can seem never ending some nights. Take comfort in the fact that they are usually short lived and any disruption to sleep will be temporary. Good luck!


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