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Setting the Mood to Get Your Baby to Sleep

Q-tip

If your baby's bedroom is far from your own (or from other rooms where you spend time after he falls asleep), you'll find it worthwhile to invest in a baby monitor. If he does start to cry, and especially if he cries hard, you'll want to know it.

Babyproofing

Never put your crib next to a window. The cords of blinds, shades, and drapes pose a strangling hazard for babies. For the same reason, remove any crib mobiles as soon as your baby can sit up.

All your efforts to soothe your baby through a calming bedtime ritual will be sabotaged if your baby's corner or bedroom and crib are not conducive to sleep. From about three months on, your baby will probably sleep better in a room of his own. What will disturb his sleep is not the sounds that you make that accidentally wake him up, but rather the sounds that he makes that wake you up. Every time your baby shifts his body in the crib, you may jump. With every cough, whimper, or sigh, you may want to run over to the crib to make sure he's all right. This quick response is what will no doubt wake him.

If you plan on eventually moving your baby into his own room, do it earlier rather than later. Your baby will more easily adapt to the change now, when his memory is short, than he will later, when he will regard the move as abandonment.

If space considerations make a room of your baby's own impossible, then at least consider dividing the room in some way. Sturdy full-size bookcases, a screen, or a drape can give you a sense of privacy while you share the same room. Or you might use a similar divider to partition off space in another room. For example, if you enjoy spending most of your time with your partner in your bedroom at night, whether you're reading, watching TV, or making love, you might want to put the crib in the living room rather than in the bedroom.

As for the crib, make sure you buy one with adjustable mattress supports. These supports allow you to lower the mattress as your baby grows in both size and ability. The highest level, as long as it's at least four inches below the guard rail, is fine for the first few months. It will put less strain on your back and make it easier to put your sleeping baby in the crib without waking him. As soon as your baby can sit up, however, you must lower the mattress so that he can't accidentally spill over the edge. Your crib posts will probably be one of the first things your baby uses to support himself as he pulls himself up to standing, so be sure to lower the mattress to a level where the guard rail is as high as his shoulders when he is standing.

Make sure the room isn't too hot or too cold. A surrounding temperature in the low to mid-70s is comfy for your baby. But you don't need to heat the entire room (or house) to that temperature. Each blanket and quilt on your baby raises the surrounding temperature by about two or three degrees.

Silent Night?

For most babies, the right atmosphere for sleep requires relative (but not necessarily complete) darkness. Window blinds or shades will help keep out moonlight, streetlights, and the morning sun. If your child dislikes complete darkness, a night light will help. (It can also help you avoid bumping into the furniture and waking your baby when you check on him in the night.)

Your baby does not need total silence in order to sleep. Indeed, you're doing him a disservice if you attempt to muffle all noises. Such extreme measures condition your baby to wake at the least disturbance. Certainly, if your baby wakes at most sounds, then it makes sense to try to quiet things down a bit. But don't assume your baby needs complete quiet to sleep before seeing any evidence of it.

In fact, a steady, predictable hum of background noise, such as a dishwasher, a distant TV, a fan or an air conditioner, a white-noise machine, or a tape of intra-uterine sounds and/or music, may help your child sleep more restfully than complete silence will. (Perhaps such sounds remind your baby of the sounds he heard from inside your belly before he was born.)

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Bringing Up Baby © 1997 by Kevin Osborn. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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