he can fall asleep on his own, whether at bedtime or after waking up at 2 a.m.
If your baby has been with you since infancy and is securely attached, it’s OK to
start pushing her to sleep for longer periods
around six months of age. Stick to a consistent routine, and stop picking up and feeding the baby during the night. This sends the
message, “It’s bedtime. You’ve been fed. You
have a clean diaper. You’re warm. We’ve had
our stories. We had our kisses. Goodnight.
I’ll see you in the morning.” Richard Ferber,
M.D., pioneered this method called “cry it
out.” This sounds harsh, but babies in that
six-to-12-month range usually get the idea
within a few days.
Older Children: Parents Need to
Make Bedtime Warm and Cozy
When children join their families beyond
infancy, their histories matter. A child may
have experienced being cold, being hungry.
She may have witnessed or been the victim
of abuse or violence, and the primary emotion she associates with nighttime is fear. She
may be used to sleeping in a ward with 30
other children and has never been alone in a
dark room before. Even if a child’s prior circumstances were not that horrendous, she is
still moving to a new and unfamiliar world,
so it’s going to be hard to sleep for a while.
Don’t let older kids cry it out: A parent’s first
and most important goal is to teach the child
that he is safe and you are here when he needs
you. This is absolutely not the time to use cry
it out strategies. This child already knows all
about being alone and crying and having nobody come. What you need to stress to this
child is, “I will make bedtime warm and cozy
and safe for you. No matter what, I [or we]
will be here when you need me.”
Work toward your long-term goals: Think
about where you want your child to sleep and
how you eventually want bedtime to look. If
you don’t want your child in your room or
your bed forever, don’t start there. Because
there aren’t safety issues with co-sleeping
with an older child, many parents think,
“Oh, we’ll have her in our bed for awhile, just
for bonding.” Years later, that child still wants
to be in your bed. So if you’d like your child
to sleep in her room, start there.
Gradually wean yourself from the routine:
I always advise parents with children new to
them to be “as physically and emotionally
present as your child needs you to be, and
then gradually wean yourself out as quickly
as he’ll let you.”
Your child might need your physical pres-
ence as reassurance at first, so you could
move a spare bed or place a mattress on the
floor in the child’s room. When your child
wakes, reassure him, “It’s OK. You’re safe. I’m
here.” The mattress might start right next to
the child’s bed, but, as he begins to count on
you for safety and comfort, you can move it a
few inches away, a few feet, across the room,
then eventually just outside the door.
Don’t listen to the skeptics: I can promise you that you will have people offering
all kinds of advice and saying, “You’re crazy.
You’re spoiling this child. I just let my child
cry it out and after three days she was fine.”
You may have to do some education of family and friends. You can reply with something
like, “Because of this child’s history and early
circumstances, her needs are different and
this is working for us. We hope you can respect that and support us.”
Cry it out strategies are not appropriate for
a child adopted at an older age. What this
child needs to learn is that bedtime is cozy
and safe and that you will always be there
for him, no matter what.