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Gentle sleep training methods for you toddler

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07/25/15

1. Encourage your baby to get plenty to eat during the day. He'll learn that daytime is for eating and nights are for sleeping. And he'll be less likely to wake up hungry in the wee hours.

2. Establish a regular nap schedule. A consistent sleep routine during the daytime helps regulate nighttime sleep.

3. Put your baby to bed on the early side, such as 6:30 or 7. Don't fall into the trap of keeping your baby awake so he'll be more tired. An overtired baby may actually have a harder time getting to sleep. Some experts say babies who go to bed earlier sleep longer, too.

4. Make changes slowly. If your baby's on a later schedule, don't suddenly move bedtime from, say, 9:30 to 7 o'clock. Make bedtime a little earlier each night until you reach the time that seems best for your baby.

4. Find a soothing bedtime routine and stick to it. For example, a bath, then a book, then a lullaby, then bed, at the same time every night.

5. Develop some "key words," to signal to your child that it's time for sleep. It could be a simple "ssshhhh" sound or a softly spoken phrase like "It's sleepy time." Repeat the sound or phrase when you're soothing your child to sleep or back to sleep so he'll associate it with bedtime.

6. Create a comfortable sleep environment that's tailored to your child. Some babies need more quiet and darkness than others. Recordings of soft music or nature sounds or the sound of a gurgling aquarium can be soothing. Make sure the sheets are cozy and that sleepwear doesn't chafe or bind. Younger babies may sleep better when swaddled. Don't overdress your child or overheat the room.

7. Don't respond to every noise your child makes. Learn to distinguish a real cry from a sleepy whimper. If you're not sure, it's okay to wait for a minute outside the door so you won't disturb him if he's actually asleep.

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