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Get that Baby to Bed!

In the real world
Take Nancy Smith, Babytalk's own art director, for example. After dark, her New York City home becomes a sleep merry-go-round, with family members hopping on and off at all hours. Around midnight, her 5-year-old-daughter, Bea, wakes up from a nightmare and climbs into bed with her and her husband, John. Around 2 or 3 a.m., her 11/2-year-old daughter, Frances, begins to wail and also seeks refuge at Nancy's side, forcing John to move to Bea's vacated twin bed. Hearing her dad in the bottom bunk, 7-year-old Roma wakes up and wants in on the action. She heads for the master bed, causing Nancy to attempt to move Frances back to her crib?and so on and so on until it's time to get up.

My own 8-month-old twin boys sleep fine from 7:30 p.m. to 4 a.m., at which point one of them wakes up and starts howling. I shuttle the offending tot into the swing as quickly as possible, so as not to rouse his brother, an effort that often fails. And when it does, I plop the other twin into his vibrating bouncy seat?and everyone sleeps for another two hours or so. Yes, I have heard that the sleep a baby gets in a swing, stroller, or bouncy seat isn't as "quality" as the sleep he gets in his crib, but isn't it better than no sleep at all? And what about me? Don't I deserve to get a little sleep, too?

Reader Cristina Bohning of Parma, Ohio, says "yes!" "As far as I'm concerned, when your baby is not sleeping, anything goes," asserts the mother of 7-month-old Addison and 3-year-old Jack. "Your pediatrician is not the one there at three a.m."

And to that we cry, "Hallelujah!" Because on top of being delirious and exhausted in those predawn hours when our little ones rouse, why should we also feel guilty about how we get them back to sleep? Every baby and every parent is different, so there's no way the standard-issue back-to-sleep techniques we read about in books will work for everyone. And that's a point even the experts will concede. "It's really important to be flexible," says Ann Douglas, the author of several parenting books, including Sleep Solutions for Your Baby, Toddler, and Preschooler. "Nothing about family life is neat and one-size-fits-all. We need to recognize that our kids are going to need a little troubleshooting in the middle of the night."

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