Helping your child to get back after illness

Has your baby’s routine unraveled after an unexpected illness? Here’s how to re-establish healthy eating and sleeping habits when the coast is clear.

It’s inevitable. You’re bound to face setbacks when your little one gets sick. Whether it’s an ear infection, chesty cough or cold, there’s no doubt your child will need more comfort when she’s not feeling well. The good news is that, overall, if you have established good eating and sleeping habits, a temporary illness doesn’t have to derail all your hard work.

Ditch the mom guilt

When it comes to caring for a sick baby, studies have shown that the more calm and level-headed parents are, the quicker the children bounce back from an illness. Now we know this is easier said than done, as dealing with illness is never easy, but if you have to leave a pile of dirty dishes so you can catch a nap when your little one does, or miss work to stay with your child in hospital, there’s no time or space to beat yourself up about it. As the saying goes, “Happy mom, happy baby.”

Ask for help

If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed and anxious, ask friends and family for help without feeling bad about it. Ask your mom-in-law to cook a few meals for the freezer or order take-always.  The aim should be to take the pressure off during your child’s illness, rather than telling yourself you need to do more. “When my child came down with a bad bout of flu, I prioritized his healing first and told myself that everything else could wait,” “This meant I had to ask for extended deadlines and cancel a few appointments, but it was worth it, because I was able to focus on my son without any nagging thoughts in the back of my mind.”

Be consistent

Although illness always brings a few hurdles, such as suddenly having to rock your child to sleep or hold her for hours in the middle of the night, the priority should be to return to regular habits and environments so the new behaviors’ don’t become entrenched.

In your comforting endeavors, I would watch one thing. I would never take my baby to my bed if I didn’t want to continue this habit later on,” she says. Because although everyone wants to get some sleep while nursing a sick child for a week or so, you don’t want to drag out the co-sleeping habit if it’s not a long-term choice.

Prioritize sleep

Generally, you can trust your baby to tell you how much rest or food she needs during an illness, What To Expect, The First Year. A very sick baby will give up her usual daily pursuits in favor of much-needed rest. However, if your little one is mildly ill or on the way to recovery, she’ll probably be more active and want to play. In either case, it’s a good idea to follow your baby’s lead while still ensuring that she has enough sleep. Go back to basics and stick to the sleep schedule you had before your child got sick, advises Heidi.  This will help her to feel more secure and return to her regular routine.

Don’t rush the routine

Research has shown that in the first few years, while your little one’s immune system is still immature, it’s not unusual for them to have around nine colds a year. So chances are, just when your child is in a great routine, she might catch a cold. If you’ve just started sleep coaching when your child falls ill, then it’s perfectly OK to “pause” wherever you are in the process, Don’t abandon your sleep coaching  simply maintain your chair or hallway position until your child is feeling better. When she’s not well, the most important thing is to respond to her cries immediately in the day or night and make sure she’s comfortable. “If you’ve completed sleep coaching with your child, be prepared that she may need some help getting back on track after being sick,” she says. Although this might feel like a major setback, it shouldn’t take more than a week to get back to where you were before. The key is to stay calm and be consistent.

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