How to help your child fall asleep
By Dana D. Crater, M.D.
One of the most important things you can teach your child is how to put themselves to sleep independently. The best time to start is infancy, but it’s never too late.
As early as 1 – 2 months of age, your infant should be put down in their crib at the first signs of drowsiness, both for naps and at bedtime, to see if they can self-soothe themselves to sleep. If they typically fall asleep in your arms while feeding, then move feeding time to an earlier time. The optimal time to put him down is when he is starting to become drowsy, but not over-tired.
Some may fuss or cry, some may coo and lie awake before falling asleep. If you have put them down before they are overtired, they will eventually fall asleep. For younger infants who are waking for a feeding, feed them, and then use the same method for putting them back to sleep.
When a toddler or older child is repeatedly calling out for you after being tucked in, try the “thumbs-up” method. Tell her you will be just outside the room, and that neither of you are allowed to speak but that you will give each other a thumbs-up every few minutes until she falls asleep. At first, stand just outside the door and peek in every minute or two for the thumbs-up.
She will become more relaxed knowing you are there. Then you can space out the thumbs-up to every 3 – 5 minutes, then every 10. At some point, she will fall asleep while waiting for you.
You may also promise a small reward, to be given to the child who successfully conquers a bedtime goal such as falling asleep without getting out of bed. This, plus the thumbs-up reassurance can be enough to motivate a child to stay in bed. Dana D. Crater, M.D., is a pediatrician in the Fort Myers Pediatrics office of Physicians’ Primary Care of Southwest Florida at 9350 Camelot Drive, 239-481-5437.