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Months 3 to 4: Being Your Childs Timekeeper


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Let's consider the ways in which your child has changed. The increased smiles, coos,giggles, laughs, and squeals light up your life. Your child is now a more social creature. She is sleeping better at night, but naps still may be brief and irregular.

Becoming sensitive to her need to sleep and try to distinguish her need to sleep from her wanting to play with you. She would naturally prefer the pleasure of your company than be left alone in a dark, quiet bedroom. Therefore, she will fight off sleep to keep you around.

In addition to your presence providing pleasurable stimulation, your baby's curiosity about all the new and exciting parts of her expanding world will disrupt her sleep. How interesting it must be for an infant to observe the clouds in the sky, the trees moving in the wind, the noise of barking dogs, or the rhythms of adult chatter.

Become sensitive to the difference in quality between brief, interrupted sleep and prolonged, consolidated naps. Your child is becoming less portable. As her biological rhythms evolve for day sleep, your general goal is to synchronize your caretaking activities with her biological needs. This is no different from being sensitive to her need to be fed or changed.

When your baby needs to sleep, try to have her in an environment where she will sleep well. As she continues to grow, you probably will notice that she sleeps poorly outside of her crib.

PRACTICAL POINT: The crying baby may be hungry or just fussy OR the crying baby may be TIRED

I have examined many children who cried with such intensity and persistence that their mother were sure that they were sick. During thier crying or fussing, they may swallow air and become very gassy. It is tempting to assume that their formula doesn't agree with them or that they have an intestinal disease-but only at night? These children were healthy, but tired. Nor only did they cry hard and long when awake, they also cried loud and often during sleep-wake transitions.

Most of these children are tired from not napping well. They are not napping well becuase they're getting too much outside stimulation, too much handling, or too much irregular handling.

What is a good sleep strategy for your child at this age?

As with the easy 6 to 8 week old, plan to put your child somewhere semi-quiet or quiet to nap after she's been awake for about two hours.

Question: After I put my child to sleep after about two hours of wakefulness, how long should she sleep?

Answer: At this point, the naps may be short or long without any particular pattern. This variability occurs becuase that part of the brain which establishes regular naps has not yet fully developed. Watch for signs of tiredness to help you decide whether a particular nap was long enough.

The two-hour limit is an approximation. Often there is a magic moment of tiredness when the baby will go to sleep easily. She is tired then, but not overtired. After you go past two hours, expect fatigue to set in. When the baby is up too long she will tend to become overstimulated, overaroused, irritable, or peevish. Please don't blame changes in weather-it's never too hot or too cold to sleep well.

Many parents misunderstand what overstimulation means. A child becomes overstimulated when the druation of wakeful intervals are too long. Overstimulation does not mean that you are too intense in your playfulness.

Becoming Your Child's Timekeeper

Watch the clock during the day and expect your baby to need to sleep after about two hours of wakefulness. Use whatever soothing methods or wind-down routine works best to comfort and calm your baby. This may include a scheduled feeding, nonnutritive "recreational" nursing, swings, rocking chairs, and pacifiers.

After awhile, you may notice a partial routine or a rough pattern of when your child's day sleep is best. It may then come to pass that based on (a)your child's behavior, (b)the time of day, and (c) the duration fo wakefulness, you reasonably conclude that your child needs to sleep. However, she may want to play with you. Please try to distinguish between your child's needs and your child's wants. have the confidence to be sensitive to her need to sleep and leave her alone a little to let her sleep. How long do you leave her alone? Maybe 5, 10, or 20 minutes.

NO RULES. NO REGULATIONS, NO RIGID SCHEDULES.

Simply test her once in a while to see whether she goes to sleep after 5 to 20 minutes of protest crying. If this approach fails, pick her up, soothe her, comfort her, and either play with her or try again then or later on.

This lack of rigid scheduling is appropriate for children a few months old who are biologically immature but later, inconsistency, will produce unhealthy sleep habits. Be flexible, but also become sensitive to your child's need to sleep.

You are giving her the opportunity to develop self-soothing skills. She is being allowed to learn how to fall asleep unassisted. Some children learn this faster than others, so don't worry if your child seems always to cry up to your designated time. Perhaps she was too young. Try again another time.

Always going to your child when your child needs to sleep robs him of sleep. Never even letting your child cry might reflect a confusion in your mind between the healthy notion of allowing your child to be alone sometimes and your own fear that he will feel abandoned.

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