Establishing and Keeping Baby's Sleep Routine

Repaying a Sleep Debt

Like a gallon of milk past its expiration date, has your good sleeper gone bad? A sleep debt -- caused by a later summertime bedtime or the phaseout of a regular nap -- might be to blame for your child's bedtime battles, says Marc Weissbluth, MD, a renowned Chicago pediatrician and author of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child (Vermilion). "Losing 10 or 15 minutes of sleep a day has a cumulative effect: It might take a month or two before you see it; it sneaks up on you." Weissbluth offers these simple tips for repaying a sleep debt -- and getting your good sleeper back.

Put your child to bed earlier. If your toddler has just dropped his morning nap, making his bedtime an hour earlier might partially solve the problem. "Temporarily, bedtime might have to be super-early to help the child get back in the groove."

Establish naps. If your 15-month-old fluctuates between one and two naps a day, work on getting her solidly on one midday nap. "Once the nap is established, it'll enable your child to stay up a little later at night."

Look at your child, not at the clock. "Parents need to look carefully at a child's behavior at 4 or 5 p.m., asking themselves, 'Is my child adaptable, sweet, calm, engaging, pleasant to be around -- or fractious, easily frustrated, whiny, and short-tempered?'" If he's the latter, then you can conclude that he needs to go to bed earlier.

Baby's Silliest Sleep Objects

Forget a blankie? Here are some real-life "loveys" from tots around the country.

"One of my old jammy shirts is what allows my 3-year-old, Isabelle, to sleep through the night without me next to her."
Emily, Newton, Connecticut

"My youngest son, Joey, who is 4, sleeps with a big, green, soft, round pillow from Wal-Mart. We went shopping together for a 'sleeping pal' that Joey thought would make him feel safe from the things that were causing him nightmares, and the pillow was his choice."
Annie, Morris, Illinois

"Daniel, my 3-year-old son, loves to sleep with a white bodysuit that he's had since birth. He rubs the snaps on the bottom and calls the bodysuit his 'button.' It's falling apart, but he can't live without it!"
Megan, Sparta, New Jersey

"When she sleeps, our future basketball fan, 21-month-old Chiara, loves to bite down on the folded corner of any freshly laundered white towel. She's the spitting image of Jerry Tarkanian of UNLV fame, especially by morning when it's soaked through!"
Stephanie, San Francisco, California

Sarah Bowen Shea, a mother of three, is a writer based in Portland, Oregon.

Originally published in American Baby magazine, October 2006.

The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.

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