It is important for you to find ways to reassure your child as he adjusts to the new routine. If he's like most babies, he will cry at first to let you know he's unhappy with the change. You need a way to show that you are still there for him, while giving him the chance to get himself to sleep. Here is one strategy that many parents have used with success (a more detailed description can be found in the book Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems, by Richard Ferber):
• If your baby cries, wait five minutes before you go into his room to comfort him.
• When you do go in, keep the lights dim, talk in low tones, and gently rub his back for a minute or two to reassure him that you're there (but not for so long that he falls asleep); then say "goodnight" again and leave.
• If he continues to cry, wait for seven or eight minutes before going in again to soothe him as before.
• Continue the pattern, building up to 10- to 15-minute intervals, until he does fall asleep on his own.
If you are firm, comforting, and consistent, your baby probably will understand after two or three nights that you expect him to fall asleep by himself and that you are still there to soothe him when he needs you.
It can be difficult to listen to your child cry as he adjusts to the new routine. It might help you if you keep a record of his progress. Use a clock to help you track the time. Make a note of how long it takes before he falls asleep the first night, the second night, and so on. Seeing progress can help you remain firm during this transition—and most parents see progress right away.
The first night is usually the most difficult. Some parents report that the crying and comforting cycle lasts for as long as an hour and a half. The second night is usually much easier, and by the third night many children fall asleep with only a minimum of fussing. Keep in mind that your goal is to teach your child a new skill—getting himself to sleep at night—that will make life easier for both of you throughout his childhood.
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