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Get that Baby to Bed!

Your baby went to sleep without a fuss at 7:30 p.m., allowing you and your partner to actually sit down for dinner together. As you ate, you gloated about your success in getting your child to sleep through the night (finally!). You even got to watch an episode of Weeds. But as you crawl under your own covers a few hours later, the green light on the baby monitor glares at you ominously. You nervously glance at it as you drift off. Moments later -- noooooooo! -- the baby pops awake and starts squeaking like a rusty swing.

Welcome to the next stage of sleeplessness. Even after your baby starts snoozing for long stretches, usually by 6 months or so, at times (okay, most times) he may regress to those early days of caterwauling at 10 p.m. or 1 a.m. or 3:27 a.m. (not that you're watching the clock or anything). And while you have your bedtime routine -- whether it's bath-bottle-book or some version of the cry-it-out method -- down pat, you're hardly in the mood for Goodnight Moon at two in the morning. How, HOW, you wearily ask the gods and the ceiling fan, do we get the baby to go back to bed so we can all get some rest? At long last, we've got the answers.

In a perfect world
Before we go further, let's start with how the experts might answer that question (we know because we asked). First, they suggest, wait a few minutes before responding to your whimpering tot unless he sounds frantic. If he doesn't quiet down, you may then tiptoe to the crib -- babies should never sleep in a swing or bouncy seat, the experts warn -- and, without making eye contact or turning on the lights, check to make sure he's not wet or feverish. Assuming he's not, you can then rub his tummy and whisper a lullaby before sneaking back out. And the golden rule of putting a baby down? Always put your infant back to bed drowsy but awake.

Now, we're sure that somewhere, in some galaxy (though probably one far, far from here), there is some lucky mom for whom this drowsy tuck-in method actually works every time. And we're really, really happy for her (though we're not sure we ever want to meet her). Because for the rest of us, things aren't always so simple. For the rest of us, things are, well, a bit messier.