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Bedtime Blues

Bedtime Blues

Sleep deprivation. If you're a parent of a young child, it comes with the territory. And it's an issue that can cause more stress than just about any other part of parenting. Getting your baby to sleep -- so that you can, too -- really depends on one thing: routine. "Establish three or four simple but soothing activities that you do without fail," says Jodi A. Mindell, associate director of the Sleep Disorders Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and author of Sleeping Through the Night: How Infants, Toddlers and Their Parents Can Get Good Night's Sleep (HarperCollins Publishers).

The activities that make up the routine aren't as important as being consistent with them. For example, with a young infant, you might try a bath, a few minutes of massage, followed by breastfeeding or a bottle. If your baby is a little bit older, a bath, followed by a book and a lullaby might become your routine.

Here are some other tips suggested by Dr. Mindell:

  • Put baby in his bassinet or crib while he's still awake This is fundamental to establishing good sleep habits. If you rock or nurse your baby to sleep then eventually he may be able to fall asleep only if he's in your arms. "Put a baby to bed drowsy but awake" is the sleep experts' mantra.

  • Watch the clock Babies thrive on routine, and even though they can't tell time -- exactly -- they do have an internal clock. "Put your baby to sleep at the same time every night and you will help establish good sleeping habits," says Mindell.

  • Keep the room cool Believe it or not, your baby doesn't need a completely cozy bedroom, says Mindell. Dress your baby about the same way you'd dress yourself, keeping in mind that he won't be covered by blankets or a comforter so his t-shirt and pajamas or fleece-y sleeper have to provide adequate warmth. (Thick blankets, plush sheepskin mattress covers, quilts and comforters that can slip up and over a baby's face have been linked with sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and shouldn't be used for babies younger than one year.) There is not one temperature that works for every baby, but if your baby awakens sweaty, or his hands or feet feel cold to the touch when he's asleep, you will need to add or remove layers accordingly.

  • Block out noise Some babies could sleep through a barking dog, a ringing doorbell and the mayhem of older siblings. Others will awaken when a cat walks past the bedroom door. If your baby is a light sleeper, consider installing a "white noise" machine in his room. It doesn't have to be anything fancy, says Mindell, just a fan or a humidifier that makes a droning and constant noise. Mindell doesn't recommend noise machines that turn off after ten minutes because if your baby awakens in the middle of the night and the room is too quiet, he may have trouble falling back to sleep. And guess who will be awakened to come to his rescue?

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About The Author

Nevada-based freelance writer Dana Sullivan is a frequent contributor to Your Baby Today and also writes for Fit Pregnancy and Parenting. She's mom to Liam, 4, and Julia, 2.

The content on these pages is provided as general information only and should not be substituted for the advice of your physician.


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