Sleep training for infants, toddlers
By Dana D. Crater, M.D.
Is your older infant or toddler waking you in the night? You are not alone. Let’s tackle this problem so you can get the full-night sleep you deserve but seems near impossible.
The first rule is that a baby needs to learn to fall asleep in her crib without any assistance from you. If she is used to falling asleep in your arms, when she has natural short awakenings in the night, she won’t know how to fall back asleep without being held.
So naturally, she cries out for you. Instead, imagine a world in which she wakes, looks around, and gently falls back to sleep. It is a real possibility, I promise.
For naps and bedtime, use the same calming routine. Make sure your child does not fall asleep in your arms. When he is drowsy but not asleep, that is the time to put him in the crib and leave the room. It’s fine to have board books, pacifiers, or a few safe toys in the crib to help the transition.
For the first few nights, your child may cry. She may cry for 30 – 60 minutes. Believe it or not, this is okay. It won’t last. The stronger you can be during this time, the quicker the path is to a good night’s sleep! A baby usually protests the longest the first night, less the next night or two. If you remained strong (this is hard to do, I know!) and didn’t reward the crying by going in to pick her up, by the third or fourth night, the crying is down to five minutes or none at all.
A baby’s brain needs sleep for proper development, and a parent’s brain needs sleep to keep our sanity, right? Time for baby sleep boot camp. You can do this.
Dana D. Crater, M.D.., FAAP, is a pediatrician with Physicians’ Primary Care of Southwest Florida) with offices throughout Lee County. www.ppcswfl.com