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Bedtime Rituals That Work

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1 year to 18 months
If your child is still waking up during the night, this strategy may help: Wake your toddler before she wakes you. Before you go to bed at, say, 11 p.m., wake her up to comfort and even feed her. Say to her, "Now you can manage for yourself when you wake up later." Then be sure you let her. Comfort her, but don't take her out of her crib. You may find that she doesn't wake later on. For some reason, rousing a child first often breaks the cycle of waking in the middle of the night.

Be aware that if you've had your child sleeping with you all these months, it will be increasingly difficult to coax her back into her own bed. Babies this age are starting to have opinions of their own, as well as a growing inclination to voice them.

2 years
This is the age when many children graduate from a crib to a bed, if they haven't already moved. Toddlers normally go through periods of nighttime insecurity and may make periodic trips to their parents' bedroom. You might put a mattress or sleeping bag near your bed and tell your child that she's welcome to come in and use her special bed, but not to wake you. Or you can lead her back to her own room. If you regularly give in to her pleas to sleep in your bed, she'll come to expect it every night. You have a choice, but you should be consistent so she learns the rules.

Suzanne Dixon, M.D., M.P.H., graduated from the University of Minnesota, School of Medicine. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and served in national positions in that organization and a member of the Society for Pediatric Research, the Society for Research in Child Development, the American Public Health Association, and the Executive Council of the Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. Her textbook, written with Dr. Martin Stein, Encounters With Children: Pediatric Behavior and Development, has become a classic in child health education and is in its fourth edition. She is also Editor in Chief of the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.

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