Helping a baby make it through the night

PARENT Q & A

January 09, 2000|By Dr. T. Berry Brazelton | Dr. T. Berry Brazelton,NEW YORK TIMES SPECIAL FEATURES

Q: My daughter is 8 months old and still does not sleep through the night. She goes to bed at 8 p.m. and awakens at 12 a.m. and 4 a.m. If I give her a bottle, she will go right back to sleep, but I know that this is not the way to get her to sleep through the night. She has never liked a pacifier or sucked her thumb.

I tried the Ferber method, but she cried so hard it made her sick.

I am a single mom, so I don't have any help during the night. I'm exhausted and very frustrated.

A: As a single parent, separating from your daughter at night must be hard for you. But if she is to learn to sleep through, you will have to help her find some way of comforting herself back to sleep.

All children come up from deep sleep to light sleep every four hours at night and may cry out. If they are to sleep through, they must learn to get themselves back to sleep. I, too, can't stand to let babies "cry it out." I can't see how your daughter would learn anything that way. Instead, you can stand by her and teach her to comfort herself.

Don't feed her or even take her out of her crib. Just soothe and stroke her. Tell her that she can get herself back to sleep. If she has a "lovey" -- a blanket or a favorite toy -- help her find that for comfort.

Then, gradually wean yourself out of the process. After a period of going to her each time she awakens, begin to stay out of her room and call to her. She will eventually accept your voice for your presence.

Next, let her try her own resources. Wait at least 15 minutes before going to her the first time and any subsequent times.

The process may be long and painful, but it will work.

Q: My 26-month-old son is very sweet and friendly, but he has a problem with biting. He was kicked out of one day-care center for biting and is doing the same thing at the new one. He seems to bite most often when nothing much is going on -- not to resolve conflicts.

I tried offering stickers, candy and praise for no-bite days, but that didn't help. Now, when he bites, the day-care staffers call my husband or me and we go there and put a dab of hot sauce on his tongue.

Are we doing the right thing? It seems mean, but I have to get him to stop.

A: Most toddlers bite. In their minds, a bite is not very different from a kiss. It's their way of trying to get another child's attention or trying to resolve their own excitement. Each time everyone gets so excited about the biting, it reinforces the behavior for your son.

Punishment -- such as the hot sauce -- isn't likely to help. I have found that a quiet but firm approach is the best. Tell him: "No one likes when you bite, and if you keep it up you will lose all your friends."

Meanwhile, try to find another 2-year-old who is a biter, and let your son play with him or her. They will learn a lot from each other: "Hey, that hurts! Why did you do it?"

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