Solve Your Baby's Sleeping Setbacks

Scared Baby

The Setback: Nighttime fears

Around the time my daughter, Layla, turned 3 1/2, she suddenly began to have a persistent fear of shadows in her room at night. It's probably not a coincidence that her first year of preschool was wrapping up, which meant far less structure than in her previously busy days. Bedtime became a battle as she kicked off her blankets and insisted that someone stay with her until she fell asleep. More often than not, my husband and I wearily gave in. Big mistake. After a few days, "just this once" became a nightly habit. It wasn't until we convinced her that our dog, Jett, would keep her safe by sleeping outside her bedroom that we were able to leave without the tears.

Your Good-Night Solutions

Make her feel safe. "Around age 3 1/2 or 4, many children begin to develop nighttime fears," says Mindell. "They're aware that there are things out there that can hurt them, although they tend to be fantasy things like monsters." Turns out my strategy of putting Jett on watch was on track. "Even a goldfish can help kids feel more secure," says Mindell. A special blanket or stuffed animal may also do the trick.

Keep it calm. Play soft music or nature sounds and use a low-wattage night-light.

Be respectful of their fears. "Many children project their anxieties from the day into the dark, as a monster in the closet or under the bed," says Komisar. Talk about what happened during the day and ask whether anything is bothering them.

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