A friend told me that her two-year old woke up crying four times last night. Finally, she was so exhausted, she put him in her bed and he fell asleep promptly with no more night-awakenings. Sound familiar?
Well, consider this. A typical sleep cycle alternates between light and deep phases. During the times of “light sleep” it is easy to wake up. Infants and toddlers wake up during these times because they are cold or hungry or wet or teething etc. Most adults go through the light phase too, but our bodies put ourselves back to sleep.
The sooner you teach your infant how to put themselves back to sleep i.e. “self-soothe” during those light phases, the happier you will be.
You may have heard about the “Ferber method” which recommends letting your child cry it out, until they fall asleep in their bed. I have an easier way. You just have to teach your baby to be a good sleeper from the early months of life. Following is a timeline, which may help you establish good sleeping habits.
0-2 months: Place baby’s crib/bassinett next to your bed. Most often, she will fall asleep while you are feeding her. Put her down on her back to sleep (not her tummy).
2-4 months: Start putting the baby in her crib while drowsy (but not fully asleep). Hold and comfort when needed.
4-6 months: Move crib into her own room. Put her in the crib first and pat on her chest until she gets drowsy and goes to sleep. Pat her again (but try not to pick her up) when she awakens.
6-8 months: When she wakes up at night, wait five to ten minutes before you go in to see her. Then pat her without picking her up and say “time for sleep.”
8-12 months: As she get older, keep increasing the time it takes for you to go into her room to comfort her. Try to avoid picking her up.
Remember, the guidelines above are just that. They are, by no means, set in stone. Your family structure, your values, and your cultural background are huge factors in deciding your child’s sleeping habits and arrangements. Most importantly, remember that sleep is important aspect of your child’s growth and development.
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