Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Teaching your toddler how to fall asleep

Fifteen to 20% of 1-3 year-old continue to wake up at night and walk around.

The cause, says Stephanie Zandieh, MD, director of Pediatric Sleep Disorders and Apnea Center at Valley Hospital, is inappropriate sleep associations.

What is a sleep association? The conditions that are present each night sleep time and which the child associates with going to sleep.

Sleep associations can be appropriate (such as thumbsucking) or inappropriate (rocking, nursing, and the presence of a parent).

Some tips for creating appropriate associations:

--The more tired your child is, the more he or she will awake during the night. This sounds wrong, but it's not. Keep up with the usual naps and set an early bedtime.

--Give the child a love object, a stuffed toy or blanket. Keep it mostly for bedtime but also include it in positive times, like parental cuddling.

--Keep pre-bed activities simple, such as a warm bath and a story.

--Put the child in the crib awake. The idea is for the child to learn to put him or herself to sleep.

--If the child cries or yells when left in the crib, check on him or her...Either frequently or less frequently--but in very short visits. Just say it's time to sleep, don't get into a big deal about it.

--If the child awakes and yells or cries, check. Most children will sleep through the night if they fall sleep quickly and peacefully at bedtime.

--If you can't stand to leave the room, you can sit there until the child sleeps. Don't get in the bed. Put a chair neat the bed and sit there. After doing this for a while, gradually move the chair toward the door--and finally you're out.

What about "monster spray" (a spray bottle you fill with water for those closet pests) or leaving the door cracked, or a nightlight? Every family has its own variations on a theme.

In one apt we had, my daughter would not stay in her room. Later we learned the place had a ghost (long long story). To this day, she says, "MOM! You made me sleep with that ghost." She's still mad.

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