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April 23, 2009


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This is excellent! I can't wait to hear more. My parenting intuition is zilch (after 2 kids - yikes!) but my science head runs at warp speed. You are giving me all the fuel I need to make better choices. Thanks for doing this.


Something about this entry has puzzled me since I read it, and I would love to clarify because I just had my second child (she's a little over two weeks old now). You talk about not wanting to cause a baby social confusion by putting her in a dark room when she's aroused and excited. I certainly am not trying to sleep-train my daughter, but this has left me wondering what I should do when I'm ready to go to sleep and she's awake and interactive at, say, 11 p.m. or 12 a.m. Her schedule, like that of many babies at this age, is fairly topsy-turvy and I do want to slowly encourage her to sleep more at night and less during the day. Currently we're co-sleeping. So, during these wakeful moments, I often swaddle her up and put her between me and my husband, so that she can look at our faces. The room is dimly lit but not dark. Or I might lie her on my chest, so that, while she is not making eye contact, she can feel me and listen to my heart.

Is this appropriate? Or should I be interacting with her more actively during these times? If the latter, how do you balance interaction with teaching the baby to wind down during nighttimes?

@L: Great question! I can see why that would sound confusing. I think what you're doing is EXACTLY right, so let me get that straight off the bat. The potential social confusion (and it really is only a potential -- some kids have no problem "getting" that sometimes it's "on" time with mom and sometimes not) comes from going from intense play to suddenly cutting that play off and leaving her ALONE. The two points here are SUDDEN and ALONE. None of which you are doing. You are gradually swaddling her, probably cooing at her all the way through. She's probably either hollering to all hell or being soothed slowly while she's being swaddled. She's ALREADY getting gradual cues that it's now bedtime, not play time. Then you go one step further and you stay close to her. She knows you're there to read her cues (and that's the same of parents who choose to use a basinette, or a crib in or out of the room, as long as they're responding to their baby's high distress). Most parents, no matter the sleeping arrangement they choose, are being as sensitive to the baby's distress as possible during these very early months, and that's all that's necessary. Now, if she was smiling and cooing at you and you just put her down and walked away from all that intense interaction, all at once, you can see how that might confuse a baby who is just learning the give and take of interactions with others. Is that more clear?

Yes, that makes sense! Thank you for the explanation!

By the way, I am really enjoying the blog, but haven't commented much because we don't have a lot going on, sleep-wise; the baby's too young for us to do anything but muddle through. And although we made some huge mistakes with my son, we sleep-trained him at 18 months (two nights of CIO, no going back in the room at all + total revamping of bedtime) and, at 27 months he is still sleeping well... knock on wood!

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Hi, I'm Isabel

  • I'm a developmental psychologist and mom to two awesome 3-year-old boys. My area of expertise is social and emotional development and most of my research is on interventions that help make families and friendships healthier for children. More about me...


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    Ask us any question about your child, child development in general, or parenting. We'll try to post your question as soon as possible, with our take on the answer. We both have our PhDs in developmental psychology, so our "take" will usually be informed by our own and our colleagues' research, as well as developmental theory that spans several decades. And of course we'll throw in some thoughts that come from our own personal sample size of 3.

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