Q: My son is 10 months old and still sleeps with us. We have tried several times to make him sleep by himself. Does anyone have any advice and how long should we let him cry before we go pick him up? Some say 20 minutes but we have tried that and that doesn't work, it just wakes him up more.
A: Transitioning from a family bed to a crib at 10 months of age is bound to be tricky. Some amazing developmental changes are taking place between 9 and 12 months that help your baby become more independent and to communicate better with you. But until he's gotten used to his new "baby powers," he's likely to be more fussy and clingy -- even at night. Some parents decide to wait out this stage to make the transition to a crib. Others feel it's time to reclaim the bed for "couple time." Both are legitimate decisions, and typically developing babies can handle either one. If you decide to make the transition to a crib, here are some tips:
- Talk to your baby -- often -- about your plans. Read him books about babies who sleep through the night, and show him how impressed you are with those babies. Talk about how happy and rested Mommy and Daddy feel when he sleeps until morning in his own crib. Talk about how daytime is for fun and play, and nighttime is for rest and sleep. Reinforce every little step he takes with praise.
- Consistency is the key. Pick an approach that feels most comfortable for you and your family -- and stick with it. The transition from family bed to crib often takes up to 3 weeks.
- Many approaches work, depending on your family's preferences and baby's temperament. Some babies do better with a parent sitting next to the crib, providing reassurance. Others do better with a "cold turkey" approach. Ask your pediatrician or a child development specialist for guidance in picking the best approach for your baby, if you're unsure.
- Plan for this to be a "big project" in the family, and make sure both parents are on the same page with plans for late-night awakenings. You'll both need support from each other when baby awakens at 4 am!
- Your baby is likely to put up a big protest at first. This is normal and expected. Stay firm and reassuring.
- Remember that this is only one step in the process of encouraging your baby towards independence and self-reliance -- important accomplishments for all of you!
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