Dr. Anne Zachry

occupational therapist & child development specialist

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How to Get Baby To Sleep Through the Night

Sleeping Infant

Do you have problems with your baby sleeping through the night? Maybe he falls asleep just fine, but then he wakes up in the night and calls out for you. This can be even more of a problem when baby gets big enough to climb out of bed and comes to Mommy and Daddy’s room. If you are dealing with any of these situations, you may want to consider establishing a regular bedtime routine for your little one. Read on to discover how to get baby sleeping through the night.

Have a Routine

Research suggests that establishing a consistent bedtime routine for infants and toddlers helps a baby to fall asleep more quickly, and it even increases the duration of their sleep. Studies have found that toddlers who follow a bedtime routine each evening are less likely to call out to their parents or crawl out of the crib during the night. Interestingly, the mother’s mood also improved significantly once a regular bedtime routine was established. (Probably because she’s getting more sleep!)

Exactly why does this make a difference? Dr. Richard Ferber explains in his wonderful book, Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems, that babies need to fall asleep on their own, without being rocked or having a parent in the room. This is called a “sleep-onset” association. If baby associates sleep with one of these things, when she wakes in the night, she will need one of these to fall back asleep. Obviously, she will cry or call our for Mommy to come rock her back to sleep, and this cycle will repeat itself every time she wakes in the night.

Stick with it

Starting a bedtime routine may be difficult at first, especially if your child is used to being rocked to sleep. You’ll have to put your infant in the bed and he will have to learn to fall asleep on his own. This will probably mean crying himself to sleep. At first. I’ll admit, I had a very difficult time with this, and my husband had to help; however, after a couple of nights, the crying did not last as long, and it wasn’t long before everyone in the family was sleeping all night. If you are truly committed to getting your baby to sleep through the night, I recommend that you purchase Dr. Ferber’s Book.

A bedtime routine provides a smooth transition from an active day to the calmness of sleep. A basic routine such as putting on pajamas, brushing teeth (when baby is old enough), reading a story, and a goodnight kiss lets a child know what to expect every evening. An added bonus is that children usually love having their parent’s undivided attention! The time together before a child falls asleep is the perfect time to stay connected. So if you haven’t already started this wonderful habit, do it tonight!

Activities to Promote Fine Motor Skills

Fine Motor Skills

Writing on a vertical surface such as a wall is a wonderful way to develop fine motor skills. It puts the wrist into an extended position and facilitates coordination in the thumb, index, and middle fingers, while building strength and stability on the ring/index finger side of the hand. It also helps to develop the arches in the hand and helps with shoulder and elbow stability. Here are some fun ideas:

  • write or draw with chalk on a chalkboard.
  • place stickers on a vertical surface. 
  • trace or stencil on a piece of paper taped to the wall.
  • color on a piece of paper taped to the wall or on an easel.
  • paint on an easel or on a large piece of paper taped to the wall.
  • play with magnets on a vertical magnetic board.
  • make shapes or designs on windows or the refrigerator using “wikki stix”.
  • draw on a magnadoodle propped up against a wall.
  • you can also tape a piece of paper to the underside of a low table and have you child draw and color a picture while lying on her back. This is very therapeutic and kids love this!

Skills Needed for Handwriting

Writing is a multifaceted activity in which a child has to pay attention to many separate tasks at one time. Initially, a child has to think of a topic about which he is going to write, or formulate an idea for the text. He has to remember how to form each letter, and make sure to write the letters in the designated space and in the correct sequence on the page. Finally, there are the rules of spelling, grammar, and punctuation that must be attended to- all of this while staying focused amidst the many distractions that might occur. Considering all of these components, it’s no wonder that many children find handwriting to be a challenging task. 

The foundation for good fine motor skills is postural control, so this is usually the first area that I assess when a student is referred to me for poor handwriting skills. If core weakness is present, the child will most likely have difficulty sitting at a desk with a proper “handwriting posture.” 

Once I know that postural stability is being addressed, I typically look at some of these basic hand skills: 

  • Can the child rotate a pencil with one hand to use the eraser?  
  • Can he bring coins from the palm out to the fingertips, as if putting money in a soda machine? 
  • Can he perform that same task, with several other coins held in the palm, while bringing each coin out one at a time?  
  • Can he pick up a handful of change from a table, one coin at a time, bringing each coin into the palm and storing it while picking up the rest? 
  • Is he able to rapidly and sequentially touch the tip of each finger to the thumb? 

If the child has problems with any of these skills, it might be an indication that there is weakness in the muscles of the hands and fingers. In my next post, I will share some activities that are great for strengthening the muscles of the hands and for improving fine motor coordination. 

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