The Setback: A sick child
Avery Brandon, of New York City, was proud to report that her daughter Skyler was clocking almost 12 hours of sleep at 4 months. So Brandon was taken aback a few months later when Skyler started waking several times a night. Although she'd finally settle down after nursing, even that was no help by the third or fourth time. After a few nights of this, they saw the doctor. "Her eye was a little gooey and she just wasn't herself," says Brandon. Her pediatrician diagnosed pinkeye and gave Skyler drops. By the next night, there was already some improvement. "We white-knuckled it every time she cried -- and she would stop in a few minutes. After 11 hours, I had to wake her to nurse so I could go to work," reports Brandon.
Your Good-Night Solutions
Be patient. The experts agree that sleep rules pretty much go out the window when you're dealing with a sick child. "Anything that comforts your child is going to work, whether that's nursing, giving her eye drops, or putting a wedge under the mattress to ease an ear infection," says sleep specialist Michael Breus, PhD.
But set some boundaries. "It's much better for you to go to your child than vice versa," Mindell says. That's especially true if you're allowing him to come into your bed. "Once you get them in your room, it's almost impossible to get them back to theirs," she warns. Set up an air mattress in his room so you're nearby if he needs you in the night.
Get back to business ASAP. Once your child is better, return to her regular sleep schedule. "It's hard to break a habit of being held to sleep if it goes on for more than a few days, so give her the extra attention she needs when she's sick, then slowly back off," says Marc Weissbluth, MD, a pediatric sleep expert and author of Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Twins.