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Healthy Sleep How-To

Destination: Dreamland

That was all good in theory, but we were dealing with Lucas here. Unfazed, West provided a road map:

  • GIVE HIM A ROOM OF HIS OWN. Because 4-year-old Eliza tended to wake up when Lucas did, and Lucas sometimes woke up when Eliza went to bed, West asked whether it would be possible for them to sleep in different rooms. We'd been planning to separate the kids anyway, but we hadn't gotten around to it. So until we could get Eliza's new room painted and set up, we moved her twin bed into our room. (If we hadn't had an extra bedroom, West would've had us move Eliza out temporarily, until Lucas was consistently snoozing through the night, and then teach her good "sleep manners," i.e., no talking to or playing with the baby.) We also equipped Lucas's room with roomdarkening shades and a white-noise machine.

  • INTRODUCE HIM TO ONE TRUE LOVEY. West explained that Lucas probably hadn't latched onto a security object himself because he always had Mommy to hang on to. To play matchmaker, I was to have the intended object of affection on hand while nursing -- something soft and safe, like a square cut from a flannel blanket -- and encourage him to squeeze it instead of me. (Babies over 1 can take a small stuffed animal to bed.) His dad and the sitter needed to do the same during bottles.

  • ADOPT A CONSISTENT ROUTINE. That's what would cue his brain that it's time to go to bed. The key was to do the activities in the same order before each nap and bedtime. I asked about playing music (I almost always turned on a Norah Jones CD for us). In general, West doesn't advocate using music; some kids get so used to it that they aren't able to sleep without it. But I liked it as a bedtime signal (and found it relaxing, too), so we compromised and agreed to let it play through only once -- and only before bed. Most important of all: I couldn't let him fall asleep while nursing, West said. If he started to drift off, it was time to put him down.

I know plenty of parents have had success with letting their babies cry it out at night, but I just didn't have the stomach for it.

Coping with the tears

Naturally, none of this was going to happen without a good fight from Lucas. I know plenty of parents have had success with letting their babies cry it out at night, but I just didn't have the stomach for it. But West had a solution that was surprisingly simple and reassuringly humane. The day-by-day breakdown:

  • DAYS 1 THROUGH 3: After reading and nursing, I was to put Lucas in his crib and sit right next to it while he cried for however long it took him to go to sleep. I could talk to him and pat him, but I couldn't pick him up.

  • DAYS 4 THROUGH 6: I should move my chair halfway between the crib and the door and reassure him verbally from there.

  • DAYS 7 AND 8: I'm supposed to sit right by the door and continue talking.

  • DAY 9: By now, I should be able to leave the room immediately.