|Nite Nite - Sleep Tight|
Newborns may genuinely need a close warm loved one to help them make the transition to sleep.
But many parents neglect to allow their own habits to change as their babies develop. They continue to hold their babies as they fall asleep, never even giving them a chance to begin to learn how to sleep on their own.
If you’re holding, rocking, or feeding a baby while he falls asleep, the baby—guaranteed—will wake up again later that night after you sneak away. He will need you to come back and resume holding, rocking, or whatever to ease him back to sleep.
The concept here is “independent sleep associations,” referring to the kinds of things we’re used to having around as cues to help us fall asleep. It would be very hard for most of us to fall asleep without a pillow—because we’re used to having a pillow when we fall asleep. And if someone were to steal your pillow in the middle of the night, you can bet you’d wake up quick.
If your baby depends on you as a sleep association, she will not stay asleep if you leave the room. You’ve got to camp out all night. Maybe that’s what you want to do.
But if you’d like to have your own nighttime for yourself and your spouse, you cannot be a sleep association for your baby.
I’ll make it simple with some good rules of thumb: by two months of age, you should sometimes be putting your baby down when awake; by four months of age, you should usually be putting your baby down awake; by six months of age, always put your baby down while awake. If you never try, it will never work. It does not get easier to start working on these independent sleep associations as babies get older.
So what do you do when your baby isn’t falling asleep on her own? Follow the plan, and keep it simple. Put your baby down with confidence and no apologies. Say “Good night, honey, I will see you tomorrow.” Then leave.
Do not go and check every few minutes—that teaches your baby that hysterics will bring mommy in running. The lesson here is: it is night, you are in your bed. It is time for sleep. This is the way it is. Now, you cannot make a child sleep—but you can control your own reactions.
When Junior learns that this is the way it is, the crying stops, and the sleeping begins. Keep in mind that the older your baby is when you start this, the more stubborn she will be, and the longer she will cry.
There are genuinely times when tough love is needed.