Thursday, February 4, 2010

Bedtime, Bedtime: What To Do??

I go back and forth a lot on how to handle bedtime with our daughter.

Up until this point, I’ve been very relaxed with our routine. If she seemed tired, I’d let her sleep. If she woke up and wasn’t happy being in bed, I’d take her out and hold her, feed her, or do whatever else it took to make her happy.

In the last month, she settled into a routine by herself. She took naps about the same time each day and went to bed about the same time each day. However, every once in awhile she’ll wake up a couple hours after going to bed for the night, and will not be content. I can tell that she isn’t hungry, her diaper is fine, and she is obviously still very tired. These are the moments when I’m not sure what to do.

Do I pick her up and hold her, which is what she obviously wants? Do I let her be up with us for awhile, knowing full well that she is still tired? Sometimes I think, “Who cares if she is still tired? She wants to be held. Why not hold her?”

Do I let her stay in bed, cry awhile, and hopefully fall back asleep? Is it good for her to realize she can wake up and put herself back to sleep without relying on me to comfort her?

I realize that she eventually needs to be able to get back to sleep on her own. I’m not sure when is the developmentally appropriate time to let her cry it out.

Almost every person I ask has a different answer. There are people who get their babies on a strict schedule within a month of being born. There are some who say after the first four months that a baby is ready to learn to self-soothe. Still others say that parents should always go to their babies when they cry, because responding to those cries gives children an important sense of security that will benefit them the rest of their lives.

I’ve always leaned towards responding immediately to my daughter’s cues. The reason I do that is because I think it is best for her. When she is overly tired, though, and needs sleep, is sleep what is best for her, or is comfort what is best for her?

I also realize that consistency is important for her. If one night I immediately pick her up when she cries, she’ll expect it. If I make her cry for 45 minutes the next time she cries, that might confuse her.

Are the answers ever obvious when it comes to babies?

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