My parenting books say to put my baby down in their crib when they are "drowsy but still awake," but whenever I try, he just cries. What am I doing wrong?
A A baby's comfort being laid down for sleep (or anytime!) depends on many factors—their temperament, developmental readiness and how relaxed they are when you extend your arms toward the mattress. And no two babies have the same mix of these factors at any given moment, which is why what sounds simple in a book may feel like it doesn't fit your baby. Knowing when your baby is ready, by age and developmental stage, can help you have realistic expectations of when to start "drowsy but awake" bedtimes. Using other contact comfort to help him transition into the crib, like patting, shushing and laying your hand on his belly, are good places to start.
- Brown Cannon III
I've heard mixed messages about "cry it out" and other sleep training strategies. Is CIO a good idea or can it be traumatizing?
A Technically speaking, the "cry it out" approach directs parents to put their baby down, walk out of the room and not come back until morning no matter how long or how hard a baby cries. I would say, from 10+ years of working with families, that if any sleep coaching strategy doesn't feel like a good fit for you, your parenting values or your child's age, stage and temperament, don't use it! You're unlikely to stick with it and being authentic to who you are as a parent is more important. There are effective sleep coaching strategies other than CIO, so take comfort knowing you have options if it's not the right choice for your family.
Q Help! I'm so exhausted. My one year old wakes five times a night and will only go back to sleep if I breastfeed her, otherwise she'll wail like a banshee. How do I wean her off the expectation of mommy milk at night?
A This is such a common experience and challenge for families with one year olds! All humans wake up at night and we adults have favorite ways to get back to sleep, like turning over the pillow or rolling onto a side. Babies often haven't developed these tricks to go back to sleep on their own and, depending on age, it's very normal to still depend on a caregiver to help them do it. With clearance from your pediatrician, you can feel confident that it's appropriate to gently teach your one year old some new ways to soothe back to sleep. For babies that are very breast-focused, it is helpful, when possible, to have the non-breastfeeding parent respond to night waking and use other comfort, like holding and rocking, to help them go back to sleep. This can take practice! Have a plan for how you will respond to your baby in the night and try it consistently for at least three to five nights before deciding if it's working or not.
Our eight year old goes to bed in her own room but won't stay there throughout the night. Should we allow her to come sleep with us or encourage her to go back to her own bed?
A Where and how you sleep as a family is a personal decision based on many factors, including cultural traditions or norms, the size and arrangement of your home, personal preference and what your child needs in their current developmental stage. Sleep coaching should be in service of all those factors as well as healthy, safe sleep habits. Ask yourself, "Is my daughter waking well rested? Is she alert and ready to learn at school?" Similarly,"Is she able to manage the excitement and challenges of her day well?" And don't forget to ask yourself (and your partner) how your sleeping arrangement does or doesn't work for you! These answers will tell if you need to make some changes to where and how she sleeps at night.
Email us your questions: firstname.lastname@example.org