Once you finally get your baby to sleep, it is time to meet Sam Hill. He will come to your bedroom every night and wake you from blissful slumber. It is a little known fact that babies usually cry out IN THEIR SLEEP once or twice per night. If you were in a deep sleep, every hair will stand at attention as you bolt upright in bed and yell:
“WHAT IN THE SAM HILL WAS THAT?!”
When an older baby is no longer feeding during the night, but he wakes up crying, parents instinctively jump out of bed and rush to the baby to see what might be wrong. This action can cause some problems. First, your nerves are frayed from going from deep slumber to wide awake faster than a bullet leaves a gun. You may need some winding down time before you can fall back to sleep. Second, your baby now wakes up and expects you to pick him up and/or play with him. Finally, your baby learns that if he cries, you will immediately come running to the rescue.
When your baby cries at night, try not to rush out of bed unless it sounds like an emergency. Most likely, your baby will go right back to sleep. Remember, this is referring to babies who are no longer feeding at night. A baby who is six months or older may also awaken because he is teething.
After a while, you will learn to recognize the sound of Sleepcrying, and you will save yourself a lot of sleep if you adopt a wait-and-see attitude.
CRYING IT OUT (Warning: not for wimps!)
Parents usually have a hard time breaking away from their baby and letting him learn how to fall asleep on his own. Sometimes it is harder on us than it is on them. Do you know any adults who are bitter towards their parents for making them “cry it out” for a few nights during infancy?
While you do not want to leave your baby crying for hours, you can simply check on him every five to ten minutes. Do not pick him up! If you are trying to teach him to go to sleep on his own, this action sends conflicting messages. He will then expect you to pick him up every time, which let’s face it, you probably will.
If you are trying the Crying it Out technique, every few minutes or so you can reassure your baby by talking to him and patting his back. Do not feel like a failure when you leave the room and he cries even harder. You have to endure this a few times, so BE STRONG! A few nights without sleep will result in future peace and quiet for the household.
When it is time to transition from a bassinet by your bed to a crib in your baby’s own room, you may have some anxiety over how well he will make the switch. For a few weeks before the actual nighttime transition, put the baby down for naps in the new crib and room. As long as you use room darkening shades and curtains and turn on a humidifier or fan, your baby should get used to a new bed quickly.
During a baby’s first few months, you usually put him down when he is sound asleep. Once he moves to a crib in his own room, however, you should start putting him down when he is just starting to fall asleep, so he can learn to fall asleep on his own. A key to your success will be if you move the same humidifier or fan to the new room. By this time, he will associate that sound with bedtime. Again, make sure the room is completely dark, as streetlights can shine through the SIDES of shades and create distracting shadows on the wall.
Many parents let their children watch a TV show or movie every night before bed. Studies have shown that the light that emanates from a TV keeps children restless and awake. Some better methods for unwinding are: a warm bath (especially with chamomile or lavender scents), nature music, and fresh air.
If you use sounds of nature music to put your children to sleep, make sure you listen to the CD’s first before you actually play them. You might be drifting off to sleep one night to the gentle sound of the rain forest, when suddenly a large tropical bird starts screeching, “CAW! CAW! CAW!” Then the thunder starts booming, and you hear the shriek of spider monkeys. As a general rule, ocean waves are more relaxing than sounds of the jungle.