While getting your child to sleep soundly is no easy task, it can be a little bit easier if you introduce some things right from the start. Dr. Karp suggests swaddling your baby - or wrapping them in a large blanket with their arms at their sides.
You can also try adding soothing white noise to your child's bedroom. "It's a swishy sound," says Dr. Karp. "That's the sound in the uterus." By mimicking the womb, your child is more inclined to sleep deeper and less likely to wake up. White noise machines can be purchased, but there are CD's available as well.
Many parents wonder if they should just let their child cry themselves back to sleep. "Crying it out doesn't feel good to the child or to the parent," says Dr. Karp. Many children wake up at night because they hear noises in the house. By using a white noise machine, unnecessary noises can be blocked out, allowing the child to sleep more soundly. As for using classical music to block out extra noises, "[It] doesn't work as well," says Dr. Karp.
Weaning a child off a pacifier may also cause sleep disruptions. "At five months, I'd just get rid of it... at nighttime," says Dr. Karp. If you wait much longer to wean your child, you run the risk of your child crying for it in the middle of the night because it fell out of the crib.
Older toddlers often ask for extras at bedtime - one more glass of milk or one more story. Dr. Karp has a solution called Twinkle Interruptus. This technique teaches children patience during the day, and then the skill is utilized at night. "The technique is pretty simple," says Dr. Karp. "When your child wants something, you almost give it to them."
If a child asks for a cracker, start to hand them the cracker, but then turn away and say "Hold on one second, honey." After two seconds, give them the cracker. Gradually increase the length of time they have to wait for their reward and then integrate the technique at bed time. Read half of a story, but then leave the room for five minutes. As you increase the time they have to wait for the end of the story, the child will eventually get sleepy and drift off.
When all else fails, many parents give up and allow their child to sleep in their bed with them. "Co-sleeping can be a danger in the first three or four months, but what parents can do is get a co-sleeper that fits next to their bed," says Dr. Karp. "What we do know is that, the closer the baby is to the parents, the less risk of SIDS."
For more information on Dr. Karp's books and DVD's, visit www.thehappiestbaby.com. For additional information on this topic, as well as other parenting advice, click here.
By Erin Petrun