Please note javascript is required for full website functionality.

Good Night’s Sleep with Snotty Kids

17 May, 2021

Good Night’s Sleep with Snotty Kids

As our little ones develop, so too do their immune systems. Immature immune systems means frequently getting sick. In the first few years, it's common to have 8 - 10 colds a year (Colds in children 2005). It can start to feel like groundhog day!

It's more than just a running nose. It's the accompanying headaches, fatigue, swollen glands and potentially even a fever too.

Kids can be cranky and can't sleep. They might wake up frequently and find it hard to resettle.

The good news is that it'll usually last a week - or sometimes two.

This too shall pass!

Find Relief

Firstly, prevention is better than a cure. You knew that, but were too tired and busy to think about it until now. You can use a snotty nose to set good routines for prevention in the future. A silver lining!

Keep the immune system strong and healthy with:

  • Healthy & varied food
  • Hydration
  • Adequate sleep
  • Gentle exercise
  • Stress reduction
  • Probiotics

When unwell, we need more fluids. Your Mr Grown Up independent eater, might start to want breast milk more and eat less food. This is completely normal. Follow your child's need.

Baby asleep on the breast
Asleep on the breast

Baby Massage for Runny Nose

You can use two techniques:

  • Sweeping strokes
  • Gentle vibration by jiggling one or two fingers

Perform these two techniques over the sinuses and lymphatic system:

  • From the bridge of the nose out towards the ears
  • Under the eyebrows, under the bony ridge
  • Over the forehead
  • Along the side of the neck and across the collarbone

Go with the flow. Toddlers are on the move. Adapt and do what you can in whatever order works for you.

Get Help

If you need more assistance, get help! Speak with your maternal health nurse, paediatrician or GP, particularly if you are worried it's more than just a sniffle.

Get relief from headaches and tension with a paediatric chiropractor who will use gentle massage and cranial techniques.

Boost the immune function with a herbal remedy.

Whatever it is, find a solution that works best for your family.


As you know, lying down can worsen sinus pain. Imagine how that feels to a little one who has never experienced that before and doesn't understand what's going on. It would be unsettling - no wonder they struggle to sleep!

Younger Babies

If your little one is small enough to be in a bassinet, you might be able to slightly raise the top end. Place a very small book underneath the legs of the bassinet at top end. This creates a very slight downward angle. Make sure to keep this very small - around 10 degrees only.

Yes I know 10 degrees feels like nothing but it's for safety reasons.

During the day, use upright moving naps - such as in the car, pram or carrier. Don't worry about creating "bad habits" - sleep is vital for recovery. When feeling better, you can phase out naps on the move.


If your child is older than 12-24 months, and can move themselves freely, you can use a small flat pillow or a folded up towel under their head.

Before the age of 12-24 months, there shouldn't be anything placed in bed with them.

Sleep Routine

We all want a little extra attention and comfort when sick. Rock, bum tap, hum, co-sleep. Do what you need to do. You won't "spoil" your child's sleep.

You can maintain other aspects of your usual routine like having a bath before bed. A warm bath also has the added bonus of being relaxing, promoting sleep and releasing blocked noses. 

If your normal routine is boob, bath, sing and sleep, then you can keep boob, bath and sing to maintain consistency. Consistency is key with sleep after all!

Sleep Training & Sick Kids

If you are sleep training, give it a break while your child is unwell. It's not a time that they'll be receptive to learning. Plus everyone will be more grumpy than usual - not something you need when sleep training.

If you've done sleep training in the past, then you'll be able to gently return to old routines and habits once your child feels better. If they are of a similar age to when you originally trained, you might be able to use the same technique. If they are a bit older, and clevier, then you might need to try something new.

Baby asleep in pram
Baby asleep in pram

Plenty of Sleep

Some parents will limit naps and wake their kids up. Making sure the final nap doesn't go too long or too late being a very common one. Should you still do this when your kid is sick?

The usual "rules" go out the window with an unwell bubba.

If you'd normally wake your child after two hours, you might allow three hours. They need the extra sleep to recover. There's no need to worry about not being tired enough for bed at night.

Co-Sleeping with Sick Kids

Your little one will likely want you close by - or call on you frequently. You might get more sleep to set up shop in their room. Bring in a spare mattress on the floor next to their cot / bed.

Bedsharing is another great idea. If your baby is really young, you might use a co-sleeping bassinet. Bringing the side down will mean you'll be face to face with your gorgeous little one, but they have their own space to sleep in.

Some parents get nervous about bedsharing. Check out how to safely bedshare here.

Keep the Mouth Clear

If your child uses a dummy to fall asleep, they may struggle with a blocked nose. They'll gasp for air through their mouth and drop their dummy.

This can be really disruptive for some bubs.

You may need to start finding other ways to get to sleep and this may mean helping your child transition between each sleep cycle. Remember that this is a short period and they'll likely soon be able to use their dummy again.

Be Prepared

Have everything ready before going to bed. Whatever you might use, whether it's essential oils or painkillers, keep it in the kids room ready for the 3am wake up. Keep it on a shelf or somewhere not easily accessible by your sick or other kids.

Things to include:

  • Thermometer
  • Syringe
  • Herbal or medical painkillers
  • Pen & paper
  • For older babies, drink bottle
  • Chest rub

If using herbal or medical painkillers, be sure to include a pen & paper to record medication given including amount and time. Otherwise download a tracking app that syncs between devices, like Huckleberry. That way if you take the first half of the night and your partner the second half, you won't accidently double dose.

Protect Yourself

When your little one is unwell and you have sleepless nights, your immune system will take a hit. Make sure that you look after yourself as well as your child.

Eat healthy & varied meals. Your kids are watching (and learning) from what you eat so this is always important. Maintain hydration. Take your immune boosting supplements.

Prioritise early nights and rest where you can. Take time to slow down at work and leave the dishes pile up. They aren't going anywhere!

Do some gentle exercise and meditation if you have the energy for it.

Your bubs will be on the mend soon. You will get through this! This too shall pass!

Appointments available in Moonee Ponds or online.

About the Author

Dr Cassie Atkinson-Quinton - Chiropractor, Sleep Coach, Postpartum Doula (in-training), Perinatal Yoga & Pilates Instructor

There's a lot of change that happens for both parents and babies in the first few months after birth. There's tremendous growth and development for the bubba. Parents need to learn new (or remember and relearn with subsequent kids) how to look after a child. Mother's bodies are healing from pregnancy & birth and the new challenges of breastfeeding.

This is a passion area for Cassie. She helps support her clients through this transition with Chiropractic, Yoga & Pilates, Sleep Coaching and Doula support services.

Similar articles you'll enjoy:

  • Colds in children. (2005). Paediatrics & child health10(8), 493–495.