Thursday, April 24, 2008

Sleep Solutions for Kids

I have a ton of sleep questions related to kids and you'll be happy to know, I have a ton of answers too. I interviewed pediatric sleep specialist and neurologist Dr. Sarah Zallek this week. I was flooded with emails about sleep problems and kids, so I am going to tackle the questions one at a time. I plan on posting a new question/answer from Dr. Zallek every Thursday.

Here's the first question from reader Rachel:
"My son is 2 and we just had a baby girl on 2/15. My son was still in the crib when his sister was born -though his big bed was on the other side of the room! Now that Natalie is over a month old, we need Brady to get out of the crib! Last week we tried moving him to the bed and were successful, most of the time. He goes down fine at night, the problem is when he wakes up in the middle of the night. We got into the habit last week - since it was the first week of the move - of letting him sleep with us when he got up in the middle of the night.
I don't want him sleeping with us forever, so when he woke up last night at 12:15, I tried putting him back in bed and he cried hysterically - so loud that he woke his dad up which is nearly impossible! I really don't know of any tricks to get him to go to bed and stay in bed. needless to say with that going on with him and the midnight feedings with the newborn, i need some sleep! help! Thanks, Rachel - Heyworth, IL by the way - i love your blog - good work! :)"

Here is Dr. Zallek's advice:

"This is a very common problem and you’re smart to be addressing it now when it starts. First, be positive. He needs all the support you can give him now that he has competition. He has to share his parents and give up his crib. For the best chance of success, get him to fall asleep in his own bed at the start of each night and each nap. Return him to his own bed if he gets up. At this point, getting him out of your bed and into his own is key.

Make a sticker chart to reward him for each night he falls asleep in his own bed. Let him pick out his special sleep stickers and show him that chart with 3 boxes for stickers on it, and a picture of a small reward (that you know he’ll like) for when he does well for 3 nights. The nights don’t all have to be on a row at first. Keep doing this reward chart for increments of success (3 nights of falling asleep in bed, then 3 nights of falling asleep and staying asleep in bed…) until he does it consistently. If he cries, reassure him until he settles down and have him fall asleep in his own bed. At any point if you return him to your bed, it will take much more effort to undo that “reward” for crying.

This takes a lot of effort and consistency, but the more consistent you are, the better it works. Remember, positive works better than negative. Make his bed the place to fall asleep and not to do anything else (except reading to him at bedtime). He should not play on his bed or have toys at bedtime (other than a snuggly thing if he likes to sleep with one). He should also not be sent to his bed or bedroom for time out if he misbehaves. That should always happen elsewhere so he can develop a happy sleep association with his bed and bedroom."

Thank you Dr. Zallek! I really enjoyed our interview. I have done a lot of research on sleep because my four-year-old has major sleep issues, and Dr. Zallek has a lot of "tricks" and advice you won't necessarily find on the Internet!

-NewsAnchorMom Jen


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