Photo Credit: HarperCollins
I'm the mom of an 11-month-old who doesn't sleep though the night and a 5-year-old who usually ends up in bed between my husband and me, so to say I could use some advice on sleep solutions is a bit of an understatement.
To the rescue (I hope): the latest offering from The Happiest Baby on the Block author, Dr. Harvey Karp -- The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep. The book, which goes on sale tomorrow, promises "simple solutions for kids from birth to five years," and since that pretty much covers my situation, I was eager to read it.
Parents who are already familiar with Dr. Karp's previous books and DVDs will find some familiar advice here, like using the "5 S's" (swaddling, side/stomach, shushing, swinging, sucking) to help calm your baby, but there's more. Here are some of the sleep-well tips in The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep:
Use white noise. I have a white noise machine right by my baby's crib, but rarely used it. Dr. Karp, however, is a huge fan. "White noise works miracles with fussy babies and is an amazingly powerful cue to boost baby sleep," he writes. Since reading the book, I've started using the white noise machine at nap time and night-time, and while it hasn't proved to be the equivalent of baby Ambien, I do think it's helping.
Try the wake-and-sleep technique. It sounds crazy (and Dr. Karp admits it), but if your baby falls asleep while rocking or nursing -- and I'm guilty of the latter -- you should gently jiggle him awake a tiny bit before putting him in his crib. (Yes, we said it sounds crazy.) "These few seconds of drowsy waking are essential for teaching your baby how to self-soothe," he writes. I admit it: I haven't been able to bring myself to do this step yet.
Introduce a lovey. "From 3 to 6 months, the only safe lovey is a pacifier and white noise... After 6 months, you can introduce a handkerchief-sized silky blanket or a hand-sized cuddly stuffed animal," Dr. Karp writes. My baby still uses his paci, and I've started giving him a soft little blanket square to snuggle with -- I just can't say it's been elevated to lovey status yet!
Develop a great bedtime routine. A bedtime routine is hardly a new concept, but for toddlers, Dr. Karp recommends a "prebed" routine that helps set the stage for sleep up to a full hour before the actual "bedtime routine" starts. This includes dimming the lights in the house, turning off the TV, playing quietly and putting on white noise in the background.
Use the "twinkle interruptus" technique. This is based on a tool Dr. Karp calls "patience-stretching," where you make your tot wait for something she wants for a few seconds. Practice it during the day; then, at night, put on the white noise machine, and when you're in the middle of a song or story -- whatever it is that your toddler wants before finally shutting her eyes -- say "Wait! Wait! I forgot to [fill in the blank]." Tell her you'll be right back and leave the room for 5 seconds. When you come back, whisper, "Good waiting!" After a few minutes, repeat the process, staying out of the room for 15 seconds. If your tot tolerated it well, repeat the same actions the next night, but stay outside of the room for 30 seconds and a full minute, respectively. This concept can help your tot learn to fall asleep on her own, instead of putting Mom or Dad on a constant story/song loop until she drifts off.
What I love about The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep is that Dr. Karp doen't scold parents (like me) who have ingrained bad sleep habits in their kids. Cuddling your baby to sleep? He gets it! ("There's nothing more beautiful than rocking your sleeping precious in your arms!" he writes.) Instead of finger-wagging, there's understanding -- and advice. I'll keep reading.
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