Comforting a Sick Toddler or Baby and Maintaining a Schedule

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Comforting a Sick Toddler/Baby While Maintaining the Schedule. When your baby or toddler is sick, you can comfort and offer relief and still preserve the schedule you have worked to develop.

Comforting a Sick Toddler/Baby While Maintaining the Schedule. When your baby or toddler is sick, you can comfort and offer relief and still preserve the schedule you have worked to develop.

Your baby will get sick. She will get colds, she might get ear infections, she will get fevers–we all get sick. Many moms aren’t sure how to deal with their Babywise schedule when their baby is sick. Here are my thoughts.

First, let me say that both of my kids don’t really get disrupted when they are sick. There is the occasional nap they wake early from or take a long time to fall asleep. There is also the occasional night where they wake up a lot, but never cry for me (except this summer when Brayden (now 2.5) got some sort of stomach virus and puked in the night). The schedule is very helpful when your child is sick because when you are sick, rest is best. Maintaining that sleep and rest helps baby so much.

How to Comfort a Sick Child and Preserve the Schedule

When my kids are sick, I still try to stick to the schedule as much as possible. Most illnesses don’t really interfere with it. They still want to play. Kids don’t seem to be derailed by illnesses like us adults wish we could be–we still have to do our work and care for our families. We just wish we could call it a day and stay in bed. Kids want to play and don’t really care about rest and sleep. Kids need to sleep, however, especially when they are sick.

If the child was in extreme pain and wouldn’t sleep on their own or wanted to be held, I would do it. I would comfort baby/toddler in almost any way necessary. When we are sick, we want our moms. Even when I was a teenager, I would call to my mom in the night if I was sick. A lot of kids will bounce back to normal after the sickness is over. Others will take some re-training for a few days. But let’s comfort our kids.

When Brayden was about 2, he started having bad dreams on occasion. When he would wake up crying, I would go in his room and hug him and rub his back and cuddle with him until he was calm and in some cases until he was asleep. I think in special cases like fear, sickness, or pain, it is perfectly fine to comfort the child. If they are well trained and capable of sleeping on their own, it should at most take a couple of days after all is said and done to get back on track. Brayden is old enough now that there is no work to get back on track.Comforting a Sick Toddler/Baby While Maintaining the Schedule. When your baby or toddler is sick, you can comfort and offer relief and still preserve the schedule you have worked to develop.

Don’t get discouraged if baby is sick and needing/wanting comfort from you. It is a part of life. You can get back to normal after the sickness passes. You comforting your baby will not mean your baby will stop sleeping well in the future.

In your comforting endeavors, I would watch one thing. I would NEVER take baby to my bed. Start as you mean to go on (read more about the start as you mean to go on concept here). I just don’t even want to start that. I had a friend do that when her baby was a year old because she wanted to sleep. She then had two weeks of her daughter getting up every couple of hours and wanting to get in bed with her. She laughed about it and said she didn’t even get a good nights sleep that night because she was getting kicked by her baby and she was worried about rolling onto her baby. She said she got one night of semi-sleep and sacrificed 14.

So comfort, but be wise in your decisions. I would stay in baby’s room, rock, cuddle, sing, etc. A sick baby often needs mom/dad, and that is okay. Once baby is over the sickness, you might need a few days or even a week to get back on track, but you can get there.

More Sickness Posts on this Blog:

Reader Advice:

  • Lori said…
    My 7 month old recently cut his second tooth. The first was a breeze, but the second, a nightmare. I searched through my Babywise 1 and 2 books and only found very little information about teething. We had a couple rough nights, seriously. It was like the first week home again and after months of enjoying a baby who goes to bed easy and sleeps for 10 hours at least, I was exhausted. The problem was that he was obviously in pain, but wouldn’t let me comfort him. I tried rocking, holding, singing, just about everything (except taking him to my bed of course). Finally I just had to let him cry. After a couple days, he was fine and back to his old self again. Thing is, I just wish the books talked more about this (like what really to expect with teething and tips on handling it after you get so used to a good sleeping baby). The first night that I decided to let him cry, he did so for over an hour. I only went in once to try and soothe him. The day before that though, it seemed like each time I tried to comfort him, he would stop for 5 min and regain his strength for another long stretch of screaming.I’m not really asking for advice, just sharing my experience in case some one else has a similar problem. Here’s hoping for less pain in the next tooth!
    April 7, 2008 6:37 PM
    hunter’smom said…
    Lori, I’m in the exact same situation right now that you described above. Thank you for sharing your experience!
    April 27, 2008 7:27 PM

Comforting a Sick Toddler/Baby While Maintaining the Schedule. When your baby or toddler is sick, you can comfort and offer relief and still preserve the schedule you have worked to develop.


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Valerie, also known as The Babywise Mom, is the mother to four children. She has been blogging on Babywise and general parenting since 2007. She has a degree in technical writing and loves using those skills to help parents be the best parents they can be! Read her book, The Babywise Mom Nap Guide, to get help on sleep from birth through the preschool years. You can also find her writing at, Today Parenting, and Her View From Home. Read more about Valerie and her family on the About page. Follow her on FacebookPinterest, and Instagram for more tips and helps.

Find me on: Web | Twitter | Facebook


  1. Ashley & Rhett
    July 15, 2008 / 3:36 PM

    hi,i have a 3 1/2 month old that has his 1st cold. needless to say – our schedule is COMPLETELY out of whack because he is having a hard time eating in the mornings. my sttn child has also started eating anywhere from 2-4 am probably trying to make up for not eating in the day time. so, we are off on naps, eating, just about everything!! so, what to do?? the doc says his appetite should return by the end of the week. will i have to start this whole babywise system over again??? 🙂 how do i get him back in the swing of things??? 🙂 help!

  2. Lauren
    November 20, 2008 / 5:58 AM

    As is obvious since I’m commenting on a blog after midnight, my 7 month old daughter is cutting her first tooth, although when it will pop through is up for grabs! There has been a white bump there for a while and now I can feel the sharpness of a tooth and there seems to be a little blood blister there which I read is normal. Now there is a second bump beside it, so hopefully we’ll get two done pretty close together!She’s been waking up early from naps the past two days in pain, but I’ve just put her down for a third nap a little earlier than usual, and off to bed earlier as well if need be. She has been doing great with that and night-time sleeping until tonight. She’s basically inconsolable but the best trick we’ve found so far is to actually get her up and try to distract her or just let her wear herself out in my arms. Then she goes back to sleep (much lighter) for an hour or so. Motrin hasn’t proved helpful so my husband is headed to Walgreens now to pick up Orajel and Hylands…During the day we’ve found those mesh “fresh food teethers” work great. She doesn’t eat too many solids yet so I generally just stick an ice cube in it and she goes to town! I’ll let you know how the rest of our teething experience goes and would love any more recommendations from more experienced or fellow in-the-teething-trenches moms!!!!

  3. Plowmanators
    November 24, 2008 / 5:59 PM

    I look forward to hearing from you! If it makes you feel any better, the first time a tooth is cut is usually the worst (at least until a molar comes along)

  4. Jenny
    April 15, 2009 / 4:10 PM

    Lauren,Thanks for the teething comments. I have an 8 month old and I believe she is trying to cut her first tooth. She is running a fever as well. I will have to go out and get the orajel and the fresh food teether. I really wish BabyWise II talked more about teething. I am at a loss except for what other moms say.

  5. LEM
    May 24, 2009 / 5:39 PM

    I am having trouble comforting my 12-month old. He hasn’t been sick in awhile and as of Saturday has a cold. It’s basically just congestion for now. I clear out his nose, use vapor rub, use a humidifier, and tylenol. None of this seems to help him for naps and night. During the day he is as happy as can be but once I put him down for a nap, he cries for 10 min or so, sleeps for 30 and is awake again crying. If I let him be he does this on and off the entire time. If I go in to rock him he stops crying immediately but will not fall asleep. He wants to play. So I put him down and the process starts all over. There have been some middle of the night times when he does fall asleep in my arms but the second I put him down he wakes up screaming. How else can help him if he won’t fall asleep in my arms? Even though he is content it wakes him up even more. Or should I just let him cry on/off?

  6. Plowmanators
    June 24, 2009 / 3:25 AM

    LEM, hopefully his cold is done…but unfortunately, colds last forever so he might not be! Have you tried saline drops? I had never used them until McKenna and they really do help! What you do about the crying is ultimately your call to make. By 12 months they have such distinctive personalities. You just need to decide what is going to be best for him and help him get the most sleep. Hopefully he is at least over the worst of it by now!

  7. rachelhockey
    September 24, 2009 / 12:40 PM

    My little girl is almost 9 months old and has cut her first two teeth in the past week! She has actually been doing very well with both of them, but 2 days ago she developed a high fever – 101.8 under the arm. I called the doctor and they said to just watch her for a day and see how she was. Yesterday the fever was gone in the morning, but by 3:00 had jumped up to 103.4! I took her straight away to the doctor. They feel like a fever this high isn't usually associated with teething. They did a little blood work but can't figure out if there is something else wrong. They told me to watch her again overnight. So we just got her up and her fever is back again at 100.7. I'm not really sure what to do, they said to call if she still has one today, but I think I am going to wait a couple of hours and see how she does. Have you heard of babies having this high of a fever just with teething? I'm hoping you get this comment soon, but it would be good to know for the future anyways. Thanks!

  8. rachelhockey
    September 25, 2009 / 2:00 AM

    update:I brought Adelaide back to the doctor today and her temp went back up to about 104. They ran some tests and she has a urinary tract infection, something we found out could be hereditary. I haven't had any problems, but I found out my mom and her sister have. So it's a good thing we caught it right away! Always go with your gut and call the doctor if you are concerned. So many moms told me they just thought she was teething, but I knew something else was wrong.

  9. Plowmanators
    October 14, 2009 / 8:51 PM

    Thanks Rachelhockey! Thanks for the update. I have heard of a slightly elevated temp with teething (Kaitlyn recently had a fever with her 2 year old molars–a little over 100). But you can always tell if there is something more there. Good job going with your gut 🙂

  10. Nathan Guerra
    December 16, 2009 / 6:19 PM

    hi, my name is lindsay, i have a 10 wk old who has had ear infections and been on antibiotics 3 times now. he just finished the last one 5 days ago and seems healthy except that he's had no appetite for a week now and has gained no weight for two weeks and now my supply is low. we've been back and forth with cio because of his sickness. we'd get a week of it and then he'd get sick again. anyway knowing that he needs more feedings and that he only seems to be able to eat a little at a time without becoming fussy i've been doing a 3 hr routine but offering a feeding before his nap and giving him his nook to go to sleep so it's E A E S E and so on. if i try getting him to nap otherwise he hardly sleeps before he's hungry again and if i let him cry it'd be no sleep. oddly enough with all this going on he slept for 8 hrs two nights in a row now. how long do i let this go on. when can i get back to the program ? like i said he seems healthy now but his weight gain is a concern. previous to the last few weeks his gain was great. thanks for your help

  11. Nathan Guerra
    December 23, 2009 / 2:42 PM

    well we're kind of back to our normal three hour routine with cluster feeds in the evening, but my problem now is that i can't get him to take a full feeding. he only wants to do one side and i know from pumping that i don't have any more than 2 oz. than of course he seems hungry too early but then he'll only take one side again. the doc said he may have reflux so we'll start him on some medicine and see if that helps. i've read that other moms around this age (12 wks)have this problem and that extending the feeding time helped but i'm already having trouble keeping supply up and don't want to eliminate a feeding and also his naps are terrible i don't even know how to work that. we also cannot get him to sleep between 8-11 pm he just cries so i cluster feed but that doesn't help.i don't even know what to specifically ask for help about besides if reflux may be responsible.thanks again for being available to helplindsay

  12. Plowmanators
    January 5, 2010 / 10:24 PM

    Lindsay, Reflux is definitely possible. I also wanted to point out a couple of things. Most women pump less than baby gets out. Also, most babies nurse/eat terribly at that age, and then just jump back on the program. I have never extended feedings at that age, but my kids will go back to eating again.

  13. Stephanie
    February 12, 2010 / 2:14 PM

    My baby is now 6.5 months old and I am desperate for advice. He has yet to sttn (12 hours) and has slept 10 hours only twice. For about 1 month, he would sleep 9 hours but he has had severe double ear infections off and on since 2 months. In between those, he cut 2 teeth and had pneumonia. I feel battered. I sleep trained my first child (now 4) who is an incredible sleeper and I feel I am getting further and futher away from that with my son. I know the older he gets, the harder it will be to break these habits. He will not take a paci. He seems to only get more worked up if I rock him and is aware when I come in and leave the room so it makes gradual CIO even harder. The problem is, he has been dealing with pneumonia symptoms since the end of December and his ears have never cleared up. My pedi said not to let him CIO with his ears (which I wouldn't have anyway) but he is waking twice (around every 4.5-5 hours) and literally the only way to get him back to sleep is to nurse. I think he is just waking so congested and his ears are hurting. We have been through so many antibotics that my pedi now wants to wait until summer to see if they will clear on their own (more months going by). I just have NO CLUE what to do. Any advice would be so appreciated!

  14. Plowmanators
    February 24, 2010 / 6:39 PM

    Stephanie, you might want to try the baby whisperer's pick up/put down method. It is a non-CIO method of self soothing. If I were in your situation, I think I would try that. It sounds like a tiring process, but you are already tired and out of options 🙂 See the PU/PD blog label for a bit more info.

  15. Stephanie
    March 10, 2010 / 7:28 AM

    Thank you SOOO much! We got the all clear on his ears and are on night 4 of CIO! It is getting so much better! I was determined to drop that 10:30-12 feed and not worry as much about the 3:30-4 one seeing as he is breastfed and has been asleep 9-10 hours by then. I am struggling with what to do in the night though. I don't want to get in a habit of changing his diaper but I worry about letting him go knowing his is wet and I do worry he is hungry. I know everyone says he doesn't need the calories at 7 months. It is just hard to hear him cry and not fix it! I guess I just need reassurance. 🙂 Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you do….

  16. Alicia
    January 5, 2011 / 5:53 PM

    Hello! My 9 month old is just on the tail end of a bad cold that he got over the holidays. We were visiting my parents over Christmas and unfortunately he has now gotten into a bad habit of needing a bottle to go down to sleep (for naps and bedtime) as it was the only way to comfort him without disrupting an entire house of people. He eats solids on a schedule but is drinking his bottle is all over the place and like I mentioned usually drinks the majority of his bottle before falling asleep.Up until this point he has gone down for naps, etc great, no crying, just put him down awake and off he goes. I'm just not sure how to break the habit. I don't want him to be hungry but I also don't want him to need to have a bottle as a way to go to sleep. How do I get him to drink his bottle and eat his food in a closer time frame as I'm also worried he is just snacking….Thanks in advance!Alicia

  17. Plowmanators
    January 13, 2011 / 9:36 PM

    Alicia,I would stop giving him the bottle before sleep. You could rock him to sleep or hold him until very drowsy, you could even let him have some water, but I think you will have to do what you can to get him back to eating after he wakes up rather than before.

  18. melissa
    May 23, 2011 / 7:21 PM

    do you have any resources for a 19-month old that is suddenly waking up in the middle of the night for 1/2 hour to 3 hours; resisting naptime; and even resisting going to sleep? I am at wit's end. My two boys (3,19 months) share a room, so this also makes it a challenge. We don't want the younger waking up the older one in the wee morning hours, yet I don't want to get in the habit of having the younger one join us in bed. We live in a small apartment.

  19. Plowmanators
    June 6, 2011 / 9:45 PM

    Melissa,Whatever the reason for the sudden waking, your younger son likely realizes that he can get out of sleep.I would suggest you move the 3 year old to the family room or something like that for a few nights to work with the 19 month old. That way you won't be worried and giving in to his efforts to get out of sleep.But also, whenever a sudden thing happens that seems like the child had a personality swap, I look into sickness and teething. Usually if the child is acting abnormal, it is for good reason.

  20. Joanna Hendrix
    October 4, 2011 / 1:41 PM

    I tried to post yesterday (I am new to blogging, and I think I messed up?!) First, love your blog! It is awesome and so, so helpful! Our 4.5 month old is teething and has a pretty bad head cold. She went from STTN (12 hours) and napping well to not sleeping well at all. We are already well through CIO, she puts herself to sleep just fine. But now with this cold and teething pain we are back to square one it feels like. I want to help her be as comfortable as possible, but I am worried about creating bad habits. Last night I had to feed her in the night because she was up crying for so long from a stuffy nose that she got hungry I think. Also, I normally would just let her CIO mid nap or gong down if need be, but with her congestion she just gets worse if she cries, so I find myself getting her instead. Since she is on such a a great schedule, do you think she will bounce back ok? Will I have a few days of "re-training" once she is well?

  21. Plowmanators
    October 16, 2011 / 2:58 AM

    Joanna, You will most likely have a few days of retraining (some babies don't–they just bounce back), but it won't be as long or hard as the first round 🙂 Hang in there. You are doing the right thing.

  22. Rach
    October 23, 2011 / 2:15 PM

    Hello, as others have said, thanks for your website. It fills in a lot of "holes" in the BW info.My son is almost 9 weeks old. We started BW at 5 weeks, so I'm encouraged that you son got it! Nate has had congestion for several weeks. When we took him for his 2 mth check up the doc thought he has a sinus infection. My husband and I give him a shower, do saline drops, and use a humidifier, but the congestion is hanging on. How do we get it to go away?! I think it's also part of the reason Nate wakes up early from his naps. Any suggestions I haven't tried?Thanks!

  23. Plowmanators
    November 5, 2011 / 1:53 AM

    Rach, Take a look at Baby Vics–I can't remember the exact age on that. It might be six months, but it might be three.A friend of my recently told me babies don't have sinus infections. Her doctor told her that her son had a sinus infection and she was frustrated because she said babies don't even have sinuses to get infected…so look into that. You can also incline the mattress. You can also suck buggers out with the nasal aspirator, but don't use more than once a day.Colds are no fun!

  24. a patriotic expat and her findings
    May 1, 2012 / 8:48 PM

    My 13 month old has been sick for a month. Viral infection, throat infection, upper respiratory viral infection, UTI (for which she was hospitalized for 3 days for a 40+ fever) and now a cold. She's always been an excellent sleeper and independent player but now if I even turn my back to go to another part of the room she screams. I try to stick to the schedule as best I can because abandoning it would only make things worse. But I fear that after a month of comforting her, giving her some leeway since she's sick, and not leaving her as often to CIO or self-soothe (since she is unwell) she is unbearable to be around, fussy, extremely willful and totally unlike my secure baby of one month ago. I'm not sure if I should now enforce more discipline since she's still mid-cold or wait. She screams bloody murder (she didn't even know how to scream until this month) if we try to do independent playtime so we can't use that to help her emotionally. Is my entire year of babywise training out the window?

    • Plowmanators
      May 16, 2012 / 3:54 AM

      No, not out the window. I would wait until she is better before you toughen up because I would guess you would second guess things if she was sick. So once she is feeling better, you can go on to re-training. You will get there again 😉

  25. Natalie
    July 31, 2012 / 4:48 PM

    My son, who is almost 7 months old, is cutting his first tooth and he has his first cold, although I've heard a lot of people say that the cold symptoms can be caused by the teething. He was a steller sleeper – sleeping 11-12 hours at night and taking 3 solid naps a day. For the past two weeks he's really struggled with sleeping – waking up a couple of hours early in the morning and having very fitful naps with lots of crying. He's even woken up occasionally in the middle of the night, which he never does. When he's awake, he's usually pretty happy and doesn't act lethargic or out of sorts. I don't know if its because when he's sitting up the congestion and drainage doesn't bother him as much as it does laying down. I don't know what to do at this point. I'm worried that he's forming new (bad) habits and getting back into the swing of things when this is finally over will be like starting from square one. I really struggle with knowing how to toe the line between being firm with the babywise routine and knowing when I can/should soften up and give him a break because he's not feeling well. Any suggestions?

  26. Christine Bailey
    March 4, 2014 / 9:28 PM

    My LO is 8 weeks old. We just started implementing BW last week. She was doing great, struggling with naps though. We had finally gotten to the point where she would go down fine but would then wake anywhere from 20-45 min into the nap. Sometimes she will put herself back down but then other times she just cries which leads to her being overtired and makes the evening pretty awful. But, she recently came down with a cold and we did pretty good on maintaining the eating schedule until today she is wanting to eat every 2 hours instead of 3 hours. Also, now naps are messed up bc she will not let me put her down and I don't want her to cry it out since she's sick. Am I digging myself into an awful hole?

  27. Anonymous
    November 24, 2016 / 7:29 AM

    I have 4 months she is suffering from cold I and afraid though she is on medicine.Baby cloth diapers review and choosing guide

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