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Read all about the adventures of the Tsao Family during the summer of 2012

Friday, March 24, 2006

 

Dad Writes: How to get your infant to sleep through the night

This is a guest blog post by my husband Mike. Mike originally wrote this for a company email list, in response to a co-worker who is having a hard time getting his 8.5 month old to sleep through the night. Mike emailed me a copy of his response and I was quite impressed. I don't always give him the credit he deserves, but he's a wonderful dad who is very hands-on. I can't take any credit for getting Thomas to sleep through the night; Mike was in charge and he did a great job. If it had been up to me, I'd still be nursing Thomas every two hours all night long and complaining about how little sleep I get.

How to get your infant to sleep through the night

Dear sleepless parent,

I would like to look at this sentence:

Unfortunately she's quite mobile now, and when we come back in 10 minutes she's usually on all fours crawling around crying or sitting and crying.

She's your child so I'm sure she's very smart, and she's learned to rely on the "and when we come back in 10 minutes" part of this routine. I think this is encouraging her sleeplessness.

Try changing 10 minutes to 6 hours. After a week I bet she'll sleep through the night. That week will be difficult and heartbreaking for all of you, but remember the following:

- She is safe in her crib.

- You both love her, and she loves you, and teaching her to sleep like a big girl is a loving thing to do.

- She won't hurt herself by crying for two hours straight.

- She knows what's best for herself. She's young, but she's an intelligent, normal kid, and eventually she'll figure out that when you put her in her crib at night, that means it's time to sleep.

We did this for my son Thomas when he was about 11 months old. Thomas had gotten into the habit of waking up a couple hours after we put him to sleep and wanting to nurse until he fell asleep again. We couldn't get him to sleep unless he was nursing as he drifted off. Two hours later the same cycle repeated.

We had let this continue for a couple months prior, figuring he'd grow out of it, but it actually got more and more regular (why is that surprising? It shouldn't have been; we unwittingly trained him to do it.)

One night last November we decided that this was the end of it. We weaned him and adjusted his sleep schedule from that point on, simply by putting him to bed at 7:00 p.m., leaving the room promptly, checking him once to make sure he was still alive around midnight, and coming in to get him at 6:00 a.m. The first two nights were hard; Thomas cried for a long time, and we felt like horrible, horrible, mean parents. But the third night he slept all the way through -- 11 hours! Except for nights when he's teething and understandably cranky, he's been a great sleeper in the nearly five months since then. (And so have we.) He still seems to love us, and I've noticed since about mid-February that he's smiling as he snuggles into his favorite blanket in his crib every night.

Other things that might help or just be coincidental:

- We have one blanket and one stuffed animal in Thomas's crib. It's always the same blanket and animal (actually we have two identical blankets so we can wash one). The reasoning is that it's comforting for him to see the same things every night, yet it's also boring enough that he won't try to sit up and play with the new Toy of the Week.

- Every night at 6:15 is Bath Time. I yell out "What time is it?" My daughter Emily responds "Bath!," and they both run to the tub. They soak for a good half hour, then I put on their pajamas, the three of us sing songs in Thomas's dark room, and then Thomas goes into his crib. (Emily is 2 1/2 years old and gets to stay up a little later.) It's like clockwork, every night, almost down to the minute. Amazingly, if I lose track of time, then around 6:20, Thomas toddles over to me and says, "Baf?"

Kids will adjust to anything you want them to adjust to. You just need to decide what you want, and then be ruthlessly consistent about it.

***
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