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Baby Sleep Solutions: The Power of Observation

Updated on November 1, 2008

A good routine can be invaluable to you and your baby. An important skill in developing your baby's routine - figuring out when to transition to naptime or bedtime, in particular - is observation.

This seems fairly obvious, but I will admit there are times when I didn't use my powers of observation to full advantage. We all know the telltale "tired" signs - rubbing the eyes, general fussiness, lingering in your lap, or even laying on the floor. But there are things that are specific to each child too.

My youngest gets her "dadoo" (a cloth diaper/burp rag) and starts sucking her thumb when she's ready for a nap. Even when she's still playing hard, if dadoo shows up, I know we're entering the nap zone.

Early on, I didn't know her sleep cues well enough to act on them quickly. On the flip side, when I did know them sometimes I'd jump on them too soon. Both of these scenarios became a problem when I realized that kids do get second winds.

If you act on cues too soon, they may cry and wake themselves up, bypassing any chance for a good nap. Or, if you watch their sleep cues too long, you'll be ready for naptime while your child has already gotten that second wind and moved back into playtime.

So what to do? Take some time to figure out your child's sleep cues. Pay attention to cues that might be specific to your child. Once you've found them, test the limits. Try putting your child down for a nap at first sign of the sleep cue. If that doesn't work, give your child a few minutes before acting the next time.

Take advantages of sleep cues at bedtime too. Begin your bedtime rituals either when you see those cues or in such a way that will bring those cues on. Sometimes just sitting down with a book will get your child to slow down long enough to realize that they are tired. Then when you see those telltale signs you'll know you're headed for success. On the other hand, if none of them show up? Perhaps you need to adjust your tactics or give your baby a little more time before settling down.

Adjust things until you find what works best most of the time. Keep in mind - nothing will ever work all of the time! Don't stress if you get things wrong at first, and DEFINITELY don't stress when things change, because they always do!

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