Is It Ok For Babies To Sleep On Their Side
I’m definitely one for leaving them to cry – it’s definitely the only way to do it. ’
Liz, mother of four
I’ve always refused to leave my baby to cry, thinking this cruel and unnecessary – especially when young, when they need comfort. ’
Emily, mother of Imogen, aged 13 months
Leaving a baby to cry is an emotive phrase. Behaviour management, sensitively handled, is less about leaving your baby to cry and more about leaving him to sleep. It means giving your baby the chance to fall asleep alone, by putting him down sleepy but awake. Most behaviour management programmes involve returning to your baby at predetermined intervals to reassure him and yourself that everything is alright.
Four Simple Principles to the Behavioural Approach
• Cueing Helping your baby to learn a new behaviour by providing him with the same cues regularly. For example, you provide a regular bedtime routine for your baby, so that he knows when it’s time for sleep (see page 28 for more on routines).
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• Extinction You stop rewarding your baby for the behaviour you don’t like. Babies find an amazing array of activities rewarding. Naturally, nearly all babies enjoy a cuddle, a song, a story, a drink, a smile, a carry, a video, or any other nurturing, companionable activity. But your baby might also find it rewarding when you yell or shout – he won’t find it pleasant but it is attention, and any sort of attention is rewarding.
• Reinforcement You reward or praise your baby when he does things the new way. For example, using a star chart (see page 126 on star charts), or telling him how pleased you are that he stayed in bed/slept all night/got up at 7am instead of 5am
• Shaping Changing your behaviour and his gradually. For example, bringing bedtime ten minutes earlier each night or giving him less and less attention as he falls asleep each night.
You can use the principles of behaviour management to help your baby improve a whole range of sleep problems, and it works for all sorts of children, of all ages, although you may want to try one of the slower approaches if your baby is experiencing separation anxiety (see Chapter 6).
The programme works best when you believe that
• it is in everyone’s best interests
• this is the best way to do it
• you and your baby can manage it, and
• you feel supported in your choices.