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Teaching Your Newborn To Sleep

Dr. Steven Moskowitz speaks about one of the most common topics of newborns, infants and toddlers, and that’s the common challenge of sleep.

The approach to sleep differs with different age groups. First, we’ll talk a little bit about the very young child. I happen to be a big believer in sleep myself, I enjoy that immensely and I feel that it’s an important thing for parents to understand and to help their children with as well. For one thing, to sleep is instinctual but how you fall asleep is learned behavior. We can teach a child to fall asleep being rocked, being fed, being driven around the corner or watching TV. It’s really important and lots of scientific research has shown that the best way for a child to fall asleep is by themselves.

So initially we’ll talk about the young child. Yes, you could start this as young as one month, two months and three months. The idea is really that parents have to be ready for themselves to teach their child to sleep. As I mentioned, sleep is instinctual, but how you fall asleep is learned behavior. One thing that is very important about sleep, is to develop a routine, to establish a routine. A routine can be very simple things, sing a song, say a prayer, read a book. Reading a book is really a great idea. Notice nothing to do with rocking or feeding, that really should not be part of the sleep routine.

So my advice for a young child is say you pick a time, 7 or 8 o’clock is the time that I feel is appropriate for a young child. You pick a time, you feed them say about 7 o’clock and then 7:30 you do your routine. You sing a song, say a prayer or read a book and you lay them in their crib. THey could be drowsy, but their eyes must be open. When you lay them down, they’re gonna fuss, there’s no question that they’re going to fuss, but nothing will happen to them. They’ll be fine, they won’t have stopped breathing, they won’t have any medical issues and they will fuss. I feel that you should let them fuss just for a few minutes. After fussing for a few minutes, you go back into the room to reassure them, but one very important issue is not to pick them up. If you pick them up, you break the cycle of them being able to calm themselves and go to sleep.

The first night you do this, you’re going to wanna shoot me, but the second night you’ll see that it will work better, the third night better, the fourth and fifth night I promise you’ll have a sleeping child. The idea is to allow them to go to sleep. However, if you go in after the first night and they fuss ten or twenty minutes, what happens is you break the cycle and the second night you try to do this, you’ll be extending the time. So one thing that’s very important is to understand that you must make the commitment to go through with allowing them to fuss until they go to sleep. How long the first night? Some children a little shorter, some children a little longer. The key part is that they fall asleep by themselves. The benefit of this is that A, they’ll learn for to put themeselves to sleep. B, when they wake up in the middle of the night, they’ll learn how to put themselves back to sleep. C, during the day when you need them to take a nap, you lay them down to take a nap. And D, you’ll make all your friends jealous because your child will be a great sleeper. Most importantly, the most recent literature and scientific studies show children who sleep do better intellectually, emotionally and developmentally. So it’s really important to get a child to fall asleep by themselves

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