What should I do if my baby vomits while she’s learning to self-soothe?
It can be very scary and upsetting when your little one throws up at any time. It can be especially upsetting at bedtime when everyone is trying to settle down. If your little one gets so upset while she’s learning to self-soothe that she gags or vomits, then there are a few things you can do, including making some changes at bedtime.
Before you make any major changes at bedtime, though, be sure to talk to your child’s health care provider if you are concerned your little one is sick with something like a virus or that she has gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD, or reflux), or is vomiting for some other medical reason. If your little one is sick, something your child’s health care provider can help you with, then be sure to treat her symptoms to help her to feel better. While you are consulting with the pediatrician and helping your child to feel more physically comfortable, you may wish to take a step back from sleep training until you get that part settled. This can mean different things for different families – some may wish to temporarily stop altogether and others may just want to settle things by taking a step back to a point in sleep training where it is easier (calmer) for the little one at bedtime.
Once you are confident that your little one is not gagging and/or throwing up at bedtime because she is sick or for a specific medical reason, then be careful about giving it (the gagging and/or vomiting) too much attention when it happens. Some little ones quickly learn to vomit whenever they are upset (not fun for anyone in the family!). This can happen during the day or at bedtime. One way to approach this is to provide as little attention to her as possible while making sure she is safe and quickly cleaning her up after she vomits. You can also place an extra layer of sheets on mattress so you can quickly take off the top layer at bedtime if necessary, then sticking with whichever method of sleep training makes sense for your family.
In the meantime, during the day, you can work with your baby on making the crib a fun place so she doesn’t get so upset at bedtime. Several times a day, spend 5 minutes or so playing in and around the crib. You can do things like hide a favorite toy in the crib, play peek-a-boo through the bars, sing fun songs, or do anything else she seems to like.
If working through gagging or vomiting at bedtime during sleep training (whichever method you choose) does not seem to be working for you and your family, talking to a pediatric sleep specialist in your area may help. Ask your health care provider for a list of local names and a referral if necessary. A specialist can help tailor the sleep training plan to your child’s and family’s needs.
About Dr. Erin Leichman