The sun rises and sets each day, winter invariably gives way to spring, and every April, Uncle Sam comes a-knockin'. Unfortunately, your child's sleep habits aren't likely to follow such a predictable pattern. One day your angel is dreaming through the night, then for the next two weeks she's bawling like crazy at 2 a.m. "Sleep isn't linear -- there will always be some ups and downs," notes Erica Komisar, a psychotherapist in New York City. "The trick is figuring out how to quickly get back on track."
There are dozens of reasons why sleep habits can veer from perfect to problematic. "It could be something obvious, like a virus or a vacation, or it might be nothing in particular," says Jodi A. Mindell, PhD, sleep expert and author of Sleeping Through the Night. Her advice: give your child the benefit of the doubt for two nights in a row. "It could be that she really is scared, or hungry, or cold. But by the third night, it's time to take action," says Mindell.
We talked to experts about their ground rules for a good night's sleep (see box on page 30 for more details), as well as their action plans for handling common sleep disruptions. Read on for their best tips to ensure baby gets her zzz's.