Babies, The Care and Handling of (cont.)

"There's really no such thing as a "typical" age at which children reliably sleep through the night. It varies a great deal from child to child."


MEMBER QUESTION:
Where do you fall on the "let 'em scream" vs. "always pick them up" continuum, when it comes to sleep training?

DOUGLAS:
I tend to be very responsive to the needs of young babies. I'll give you an example from my own recent adult life, which is the closest example that I can give to another adult to try to draw a parallel that will make sense to us at this stage of our lives: Last year my mother died, and I found there were a number of nights when I was unable to sleep and feeling lonely, sad, and extremely restless and upset. If I had turned to my husband, woken him up and had him to say to me in a harsh voice, 'It's in middle of the night, go to sleep, I don't want to see you until the morning,' or something equally unsympathetic he would have found most of his things on the front lawn in the morning. I needed someone who understood when I was sad in the middle of the night I needed comfort and reassurance.

I believe our babies deserve the same kind of responsiveness from us in the middle of the night, so that when they cry they have a genuine need. It's our job as parents to try to figure out what it is that they need and to help to meet that need. That said, I do believe there are times when babies are simply overtired and that the best favor we can do is to try to help our babies get the sleep they so desperately crave. So if you have met all your babies other needs and you suspect your baby simply needs to cry five87yg minutes to settle into a deeper sleep I don't think that is being harsh or unkind.

I think this is one of the most difficult parts of parenting a newborn, and it's one of those issues we have to sort out for ourselves by letting our own parenting radar guide us. One thing I would stress: You should never buy into any sort of formula that goes against your parenting instincts. If you decide to try a sleep training program that has you, your baby, and partner in tears, chances are it's not working for your family and you may want to modify the program or abandon it.

Most families find babies do learn to sleep through the night with a little gentle coaxing from their parent. What we don't want is for this to become a major battleground. Life's too short for that.


MEMBER QUESTION:
My 6-month-old insists on sleeping on his tummy. I can put him down on his back and he will roll himself onto his stomach. Any barriers, such as a rolled up blanket, no longer work because he is so active in his sleep. Should I be concerned about SIDS?

DOUGLAS:
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, once babies can safely roll themselves from their back to stomach you no longer have to worry about putting them on their back as a sleeping position. Of course you're still going to start your baby out on his or her back when you lay your baby down at bedtime. If your baby rolls over in the middle of the night you don't have to panic, because your baby is fully capable of rolling back over onto his or her back once again.

The concern with younger babies is they aren't necessarily capable of rolling in both directions. They can get stranded on their stomach, which can lead to pooling of stale air around the nose and mouth area, something that has been possibly linked to an increased SIDS risk. Therefore, you would want to do what you have been doing up until now -- namely, putting your baby to bed on his back.

For more information on this very important issue you will want to read the SIDS guidelines on the American Academy of Pediatricians web site: www.aap.org.

"If you end up with a colicky baby, you, as generations of parents before you, will find the patience and creative resources necessary to weather this particular challenge."

MEMBER QUESTION:
You have a wide variety of kids, age wise. What's your opinion on babies' personalities, as far as gauging their future demeanor? Are fussy, grumpy babies primed to be surly kids and teens? Are quiet, clingy babies introverted later in life? Do happy, burbling smilers become gregarious easygoing people? Just curious.

DOUGLAS:
First of all, I will have to ask WebMD to forever bury this link so my kids will never find it!

This is a totally unscientific answer, but I can tell you our one child who was a colicky baby went on to become a very persistent toddler, a somewhat difficult preschooler, and is now a challenging teenager. So I think this child has carried a bit of that "colicky" temperament with him through life. My other kids, who have been a bit more happy-go-lucky, have also retained a great deal of that inborn personality, in my opinion.

I also believe, however, that we parents have an opportunity to bring out the best or worst in our kids. I'm sure that when we were nervous first-time parents we probably drove our firstborn child around the bend with unnecessary trips to the doctor to check out every possible ailment.

I think over time I have relaxed considerably as a parent and I have certainly learned how to deal with my children's various temperaments. My wacky sense of humor has become one of my most valuable parenting assets, even though my children consider it to be an instrument of torture.


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