21 Tips For When Your Sick Baby Won’t Sleep

If your sick baby won’t sleep, my proven tips can help. Baby’s sleep is essential for their immune system and to help them recover. 

When your child is sick, they need to be cuddled and comforted. They need to know you are there. 

It is not the time to try “Cry it Out” or self-soothing. If you are in the middle of sleep training, stop. Pick up where you left off when your baby is feeling better. 

I know it is discouraging when you finally feel like they’re in a good sleep routine, and then they get sick. It feels like two steps forward and one step back. Constantly. 

As a baby and toddler mom, I completely understand how you feel. And your feelings of frustration or helplessness are valid. 

Just remember, this will pass.

My son had a severe allergic reaction that landed him in the hospital for four days, and trying to survive that on very little sleep was challenging, but I learned a few things that I will pass on to you.

Let’s look at how to help your sick baby sleep over the next few days and hopefully find some time for you to rest. 

sick baby won't sleep lying on teddy bear with fever
Baby With Fever Cuddling With Toy Bear

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1. Hold Your Baby

If you’ve put in a lot of work sleep training your baby, you may worry that holding them while they’re sick will undo your progress toward getting them to sleep independently through the night.

Honestly, it might.

But re-sleep training your baby when they are feeling better will be easier and take less time to get back on track after being sick.

Imagine you are sick and ready to dive into your bed of pillows and blankets, turn on some TV, and snuggle up for the day.

You get to your room and see a flat, empty bed. How on earth are you supposed to get cozy in that environment?! That is the same problem your baby is facing. The most comfortable place where they feel safest is in your arms.  

Pro Tip: Hold your baby’s head slightly upright to help with nasal congestion if they have a stuffy nose.

2. Wear Your Baby

I love baby-wearing. I always wore both babies–even when they weren’t sick! 

Soft cloth wraps and slings allow your baby to snuggle in close and get the comfort they need while allowing you to get things done around the house, or even grab a quick bite to eat (nothing hot that could spill!). 

Pro Tip: If they have a fever, you can try skin-to-skin baby-wearing and letting your body heat help them regulate their temperature. 

3. Let Your Baby Nap Often

Getting enough sleep throughout the day is the best way to help a sick baby sleep through the night. 

It’s a common misconception that keeping babies awake during the day will help them sleep better at night. An overtired baby is already difficult to get to sleep, and trying to keep them awake will only worsen things. 

Even if your baby was up all night, it’s crucial to help them get as much sleep as possible during the day. Remember, sleep begets sleep.

4. Give Longer Naps

Remember, sleep = sleep.

Sick babies might need to take longer naps throughout the day.  When your child is sick, let them sleep as long as they want, which might be 3-hour naps or longer.

They might also have shorter wake windows than usual. For example, if your child was down to 1 nap a day, you might need to go back and try to do two naps or more.

Ensure your baby has enough wake time to stay full and hydrated.

5. Sleep In Shifts

The best-case scenario is if you have a partner or second caregiver for the baby. Decide on a minimum and maximum sleep time for each person to function and stay awake with the baby.

To ensure proper baby care, create a schedule that allows one caregiver to attend to the baby while the other caregiver gets some rest. 

My husband and I followed a routine where we alternated our caregiving responsibilities in 4-hour shifts. Here’s an example schedule we used: 

  • 8:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.: I rested while my husband attended to the baby.
  • 12:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m.: My husband got some rest while I attended to the baby.
  • 4:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m.: I rested while my husband attended to the baby.
  • 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.: My husband got some rest while I attended to the baby 
  • 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.: I rested while my husband attended to the baby 
  • 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.: My husband got some rest while I attended to the baby 

In 24 hours, we each got 12 hours of rest split into manageable 4-hour chunks.

This exact schedule might not work for you or your lifestyle, so be creative in the plan that you come up with. Some alternative ideas might be:

  • You are up all night (8 hours), and your partner is up all day (16 hours).
  • If one of you is working, ask a friend or family member to help. Even a few hours of sleep during their off hours is better than nothing.

Your baby’s sleep starts with your sleep. Remember that!

6. Use a Bouncer or Swing

You can put your baby in a bouncer seat, swing, or anything else that props them up if they don’t want to be held (my son didn’t when he was very sick). 

Once your baby is comfortable, they will probably fall asleep quickly. When they’re asleep, move them to their crib. Remember that even if you successfully move your baby back to their crib, they will likely sleep in much shorter chunks than usual. 

Safety Alert: If your baby isn’t in a flat, empty crib on their back, they aren’t in a safe sleep position.

7. Go For a Long Walk or Car Ride

If your child sleeps well in their car seat or the stroller, take them for a walk or a drive to get some sleep. 

My son loves his stroller, so I would bring it inside when he was sick, sit on the couch, and push it back and forth to get him to sleep. Once they are asleep, head home and transfer to their crib.

8. Give a Bath

Bathing your child can relax, relieve their sore bodies, and help reduce fever. Use lukewarm water between 90-95 degrees if your child has a fever.

After the bath, use lotion on their skin and give them a mini baby massage to soothe and relax them.

9. Maintain a Consistent Room Temperature

Overheating is a serious concern for babies, especially with a fever. Avoid turning up the heat or blasting the air conditioner. Keep their environment the same as usual.

10. Dress in Layers

It’s tempting to bundle up your baby when sick (who doesn’t want to be snuggled up with a million blankets when they don’t feel well??). The problem is that adults can take off layers to adjust their body temperature, and babies can’t. 

Avoid overheating by wearing breathable cotton layers, similar to what they typically wear. A few heavier and lighter-weight sleep sacks or swaddles are handy when your little one is sick.

Sick baby sleeping. 21 Tricks to get your sick baby to sleep.
21 Tricks To Get Your Sick Baby To Sleep

11. Keep Your Baby Hydrated

Your sick child might express little interest in solid food.

Focus on their intake of formula and breast milk. This might mean adding extra fluids with more bottles or feedings daily and at night.

It might take a few days once your baby is better to drop the night feedings again, but this should happen naturally over 3-5 days.

If you have weaned your child from breastfeeding but have a stash of breast milk in the freezer, this is the perfect time to use it. Breastmilk is packed full of nutrients to boost your baby’s immune system.

Safety Tip: Keep track of your child’s wet diapers when sick, especially if they have a fever. Infants under a year old should have at least six wet diapers daily (about every four hours). Older babies and toddlers should have a wet diaper every 8 hours. Call your pediatrician if your child isn’t having enough wet diapers, as this is a sign of dehydration

12. Offer Foods They Can’t Refuse

If your baby is eating solid foods, try offering their favorites (even if that means only eating bananas and puffs!). Any food is better than no food when they are sick. Psst. Did you know Pedialyte makes freeze pops? My kids go crazy for these when they are sick. The cold soothes their throat, they love the flavors, and I know they are getting some sugar, liquids, and electrolytes. A full belly= better sleep.

Pedialyte Freeze Pops

A Must For My Sick Kids

13. Keep Your Routine

A bedtime routine helps babies sleep better and longer, especially when sick. Whatever your routine is will signal your baby that sleep is coming, and they will go down easier.

Keeping your routine throughout the illness will also make it easier for your child to return to their usual sleep habits when feeling better.

If you don’t have a bedtime or naptime routine, you should start once your child feels better.

14. Keep Your Baby In Their Bassinet or Crib

Babies sleep best in a familiar environment, so keeping your baby in their bed can get you more sleep when your little one is sick.

You might be nervous about leaving a sick baby in their room, so you might be tempted to pull them into bed. This is not safe.

The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) advocates the ABCs of sleep: Alone, on their Back, in an empty Crib.

Using the ABCs of sleep reduces the risk of SIDS or sudden infant death syndrome.

If you are worried about leaving your baby alone when sick, you can move them into your room in a portable crib or playard.


My favorite option is for me to move into my child’s room on a mattress for a few days. 

By sleeping in my baby’s room, I can monitor him the whole night, take his temperature as needed, and easily roll over to rub his back or give him a short cuddle.

Safety Tip: You might read to elevate your baby’s bed to help with congestion and drainage. This isn’t safe.

15. Clear Congestion

Use saline drops and suction to remove the boogers from their nasal passages. Your sick baby will sleep better because they can breathe. 

It will also help your baby take a bottle or breast because it is easier to breathe.

Moms widely recommend the Nose Frida. I agree. It is the best thing I have found for stuffy noses. Way better than the bulbs.

Frida Baby Nasal Aspirator

It comes With Saline Spray

Electric NoseFrida

If manual suction grosses you out ?

16. Give Tylenol or Motrin as Directed by Your Pediatrician

Since babies change so quickly, getting the correct dose for your baby’s weight is essential. Do not give your baby any over-the-counter medicines when sick without consulting your pediatrician. 

If your child has a fever or inflammation, these medicines will hopefully offer some pain relief to allow them to sleep.

17. Use a Cool-Mist Humidifier

Use a cool-mist humidifier in the baby’s room to add moisture to the air.

Cool-mist humidifiers make breathing more comfortable for babies. It is also soothing for your baby’s nose, which might be dry or cracked from congestion.

You can buy a cool-mist humidifier on Amazon and most home improvement stores.

Safety Tip: Cool-mist humidifiers are recommended for nurseries because regular humidifiers have a heating element that could burn the baby if it comes in contact with it.

Cool Mist Humidifier

Honeywell Brand

18. Use Steam From The Shower

Steam up your bathroom by letting hot water run in the shower for a few minutes with the door closed. 

Take the baby to the bathroom for a few minutes to breathe the steam. The relief is similar to a cool-mist humidifier but more concentrated. 

19. Go Outside (Even in The Cold)

Make sure your child is dressed appropriately for the weather. 

During the day, go outside in the sun. At night, go out (limit to a minute or two if cold) and breathe in the crisp fresh air.

20. Rock Them and Sing

Give your baby the comfort of rocking back and forth with you and listening to your voice as you sing a soft lullaby or play some quiet music.

21. Take Away The Pacifier

Gasp! I said it ?.

I only suggest this if your baby is congested. If they are congested, they won’t be able to suck on their binky and breathe through their nose. 

Take it from me. This frustrates the baby and causes them to wake prematurely when they unknowingly go to suck and can’t breathe. 

If your baby is glued to their pacifier, wait until they are seconds away from falling asleep (the eyes are just closing), and then take the pacifier out. They will fall asleep without it and won’t be as startled when they wake up. 

What to do if your sick baby won't sleep. Mom-tested. Mommy Maker Teacher. Mom holding crying baby taking his temperature with her hand.
What To Do If Your Sick Baby Won’t Sleep

Babies Get Sick—A Lot 

Did you know babies under two get sick on average eight to ten times a year?! 

This time can seem like an endless string of sleepless nights, but with a plan, you and your baby can get some sleep during these extended periods.

Is It A Sleep Regression or Sickness?

It might be hard to tell if your little one is getting sick again (especially if they were just sick!) or going through a sleep regression. 

Here’s how to tell the difference.

Sleep Regressions

Sleep regressions are short periods (usually a couple of weeks) when a baby’s sleep habits change, and they have trouble sleeping during naps or at night. 

Sleep regressions are common, starting around four months old, and can happen every few months throughout the first two years of life. 

Some signs of a sleep regression are: 

  • Having trouble falling asleep 
  • Having trouble staying asleep 
  • Refusing to take naps 
  • Crying and crankiness throughout the day and night 

A few reasons why babies go through sleep regressions are: 

  • Teething 
  • Developmental changes (like starting to sit, crawl, or walk) 
  • Cognitive changes (like talking or learning a new skill) 
  • Changes in routine (like traveling or starting daycare)

If your baby is perfectly healthy and showing no signs of sickness but suddenly won’t sleep, they are probably going through a sleep regression. 

Common Illnesses In Babies

These are the most common illnesses in babies:

  • Ear infections
  • Viral infections
  • Flu during flu season (always get your flu shot!)
  • Common colds
  • Stomach bugs.

The most common early signs of illness in babies are:

  • Stuffy nose or runny nose
  • Low-grade fevers
  • High fever
  • Lack of sleep

If your baby isn’t sleeping well suddenly, check for these or any other symptoms your baby is experiencing.

Since babies can’t talk, you must speak to your child’s doctor to determine whether your baby needs to be evaluated when they aren’t feeling well. I made good friends with the nurse line at my pediatrician’s office so that I could call and explain the symptoms my son was having. They would ask me questions, including how the baby was sleeping, and then give me instructions on what to do next.

Getting Back To Your Sleep Routine

Once your child is 100% feeling better. You get the green light from your healthcare provider. You can go back to your regular sleep routine and sleep training. Keep these things in mind:

  • If your baby was a good sleeper before getting sick, they will return to sleeping well again in 3-5 days (maybe 5-7 if you added night feeds and need to wean again).
  • Each night will get a little bit better!
  • There is a good chance you have to use the sleep training process you used when you originally trained for a few days to get back to normal.
  • If you added back night feeds, you can drop them however you did the first time you weaned
    Example: If you went cold turkey, you should be fine to do the same once your baby is feeling better. If you took a gradual approach the first time and want to do that again, dropping those feedings might take an extra few days.
  • If your child was not a good sleeper or was not old enough for sleep training (most sleep training should happen around six months), they should at least return to their previous sleep patterns. 

This Too Shall Pass

It can be super tiring. You need to be there for your little one through the crying, crankiness, and (what feels like) endless night wakings. You might be afraid that your baby’s sound sleep habits will be ruined when they are sick or that they will develop new sleep associations.

The truth is: they might ?. But young babies recover from illnesses quickly and will return to being great little sleepers in no time.

It might not feel like it right now, but by next week, your little one will be back to their old sleep habits, and so will you.

Jacqui headshot



I am the founder of Mommy Maker Teacher and a mom of two toddlers. With a degree in education, 12+ years of experience as a K-12 teacher and curriculum developer, and courses in childhood psychology and language acquisition, I share research-backed parenting tips and advice. I provide helpful content for moms on all stages of motherhood—from trying to conceive and pregnancy to postpartum, breastfeeding, and parenting.