You’ve spent months, maybe even years as a sleep deprived mommy, getting up multiple times a night with your little one before finally deciding to help them learn to put themselves to sleep and back to sleep throughout the night. You do your research and maybe even hire a professional to help you implement a solid sleep coaching plan.
You start coaching and your child is making great progress when, out of nowhere – UGH! – they come down with a cold or a fever or a nasty bout of teething. Your heart sinks, not only because you’re concerned about your child’s health – but also because you’re worried that all of your child’s sleep coaching progress is about to go right down the drain.
So what should you do? Should you power through and keep on coaching or wait until your child is well again to continue with your coaching plan? Here’s my best advice:
If your child is clearly sick and miserable, stop. All bets are off. Push the pause button on sleep training and focus on doing whatever you need to do to keep your child rested so that they can recover as quickly as possible. If you need to go back to laying down with your child, or rocking or feeding or bouncing them to sleep, don’t worry – it’s temporary. You can get back to teaching sleep skills as soon as they’re feeling better again. If you paused but didn’t lose all of your progress, just keep moving forward once they’re well. If you slid all the way back to square one, take a deep breath and start over with your plan. I know it’s discouraging, but in a few days you’ll see progress again, just like you did the first time you tried.
If your child seems relatively ok during the day (maybe they only have a slight cold or a mild case of teething) it’s fine to keep moving forward with your sleep coaching plan, knowing that you can always re-assess if need be. Checking in with your pediatrician can be helpful (they may give you the extra reassurance you need). Consistency is the key to successful sleep training, so if you’re unsure about your ability to be consistent, don’t coach. Waffling back and forth at 2:00 a.m. will only make things harder for your child.
If your child has had a good day and seems fine when you put them down for the night, but you’re not sure about how to handle middle of the night wake ups when it might be more difficult to gauge how they’re feeling, then a compromise makes ultimate sense. Coach bedtime only and do whatever you need to do for the rest of the night to help your child back to sleep (rocking, feeding, etc.). Bedtime is the key time for sleep learning, so just holding on to bedtime progress can keep the momentum going until you can address the middle of the night wake ups with confidence, too.
Alison Bevan- Sleepytime Coach