As if it doesn’t take so much time and courage to finally get a sleep training plan going, it seems that so often something like illness threatens to put a wrench in your plans! Since it seems to take so much motivation to start sleep training in the first place, illness often stops the process short, and parents struggle to resume training again. Here I’ll discuss how to maintain whatever progress has been made in terms of a child’s sleep, and when it’s safe to resume the sleep training process.
First of all, evaluate where you are in the sleep training process. If it’s in the middle of the first night of training when you discover your son has a fever, I would suggest abandoning all sleep training plans until your child is totally healthy. If, however, you are to the point in sleep training where your child has made substantial progress, then it would make sense to attend to your child as much as and often as is needed, but continue to focus on them falling asleep unassisted whenever possible.
When your baby is ill, whether or not they are sleep trained, it’s vital to attend to every need they have associated with the illness. If the pediatrician approves fever-reducing medicine, use that to comfort your child. If your child has a fever and is dehydrated, address that with a feeding (while making sure to try to keep baby awake while being fed). Whatever your child needs, fulfill that need! Just remember to try to avoid facilitating your child falling asleep. That needs to be done totally unassisted. Remember that illness usually does not mean a child suddenly needs help in falling asleep, and that falling asleep unassisted is not a skill a child loses when they become ill. Love them and care for them and be extremely attentive, but try to avoid being present with them as they fall asleep. That is a sure fire way to maintain whatever progress your child has made in their sleep training journey.
Instead of bringing your sick child into your bed (and thus helping them fall asleep), keep them in their crib in their room, and simply share the room with them. Sleep on an air mattress, bed or couch, and be right there in case they need you all night long (and even for naps, if you wish). But, once again, try not to be physically present with them as they go from being awake to asleep. Watch them on the monitor to make sure they are safe, and as soon as their eyes close and they fall asleep, go in and sleep near them so that you are there for whatever they may need as they wake through the night.
You’ll know it’s safe to resume your sleep training plans when your child is 100% healthy (no fever, vomiting or other signs of illness) for at least 24 hours. It is also highly advisable that you take your child into the pediatrician to verify that they’re totally healthy before jumping back into any serious sleep training.