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Specific ProblemsThe Littlest Ones


I'll start with a few generalities on how to care for little babies, newborns to about 6 months. I spoil mine. I love them, I hold them, I talk to them, I cuddle them, I nurse them as much as they want, I pick them up when they cry if possible, and  I spend a lot of time trying to get them to smile. That is so important. Always try to get them to smile.

Nurse your babies as often as they want, and cuddle them as much as possible.  Just sit and hold them; not just when they are fussy or hungry.  This is a good time to read the Bible to yourself or the other children. Carry them in a sling if that works for you.  I try not to pick them up when they are angrily screaming at me. Instead, after checking to be sure they are all right, I try to wait for a pause in their crying, then I cheerfully pick them up and cuddle or feed them.

Sleep whenever they sleep! Don't try to do it all.  Enlist older children to help whenever possible.  Be  sure you teach the older ones to enjoy helping and not to do it grudgingly.  I think the first three months are the hardest, so I just don't expect to get too much done until after that.  Sometimes it seems like it takes a full year before I start feeling organized again. Try to relax and enjoy.

Although I hold my new babies often, I don't "wear" them in a sling frequently  because my 47 year old back can't take it. I don't think I'd "wear" them even if I were 25 because, with several other toddlers and other kids, I don't know how I'd physically manage it. I had a front pack with my very first baby and I used it a lot. I tried several different styles of baby carriers with subsequent babies and found them very useful on many occasions. I have a sling now and used it with my last baby and I liked it for the most part. Still, I don't think I could do it all day every day. I want my babies to feel loved and secure, but I don't think you have to wear them every waking moment to have that happen. I would never discourage anyone from "wearing" their baby, but I don't think that it is essential in order to have a secure child. A baby can feel loved and secure without being carried by mom alone, 24 hours a day.

P.S. My dedicated editor and dear friend tells me that a sling is "absolutely essential" if you have twins (which she does). One baby goes in the sling and the second is held in one arm, and mom still has a free hand and arm to work with!


I don't co-sleep because I think it is very dangerous for me. (If you want to, I think you should be free to do it.) I love to have them cuddle up to me, but I've just read too many sad stories and had too many close calls to feel comfortable with it myself. I keep the little babies in a bassinet right next to the side of my bed. I nurse them in bed with me (as long as I am not falling asleep) then tuck them right back in their bed. They can sleep with me when they are a little older and bigger. Today my 1 1/2 year old took a nap with me and the 2 1/2 often does too. I usually don't have them in bed with us at night because they get overheated and I get a back ache. I've written more about co-sleeping in the section about "Sleep Problems".

Bedtime routine:

To avoid problems getting a new baby to go to sleep at night, I try to establish a bedtime routine.  For example, this is what I have been doing with Michael (six months at time of writing): First I turn the lights out as I carry him upstairs. (We have a night-light in the room so I can still see.)  Next I turn on a soft classical music CD or a Bible tape then lay down and nurse him.  If possible, I let him nurse as long as he wants to or until he is just nursing in his sleep, then I tuck him in bed.  I try not to wake him up by burping him. (He usually burps naturally when I lay him on his tummy)  Other possibilities might be singing a song or rocking, etc., but it helps to do the same thing each time. I don't try to get my little babies to sleep through the night or anything like that. If they wake up, I nurse them back to sleep. "Sleep training" can wait until they are older.

Some babies, and I have had a few like this, seem to need to cry themselves to sleep.  As long you know they are otherwise all right, go ahead and let them.  If you keep picking them up you may actually be making the problem worse by keeping them awake.  Michael, for the first five months or so, seemed to cry all evening, every evening, especially when we were visiting at someone else�s home where we could not lay him down.  He did not seem to be able to fall asleep in my arms and only wanted to nurse.  At home I realized that he was crying from fatigue. If I went through the above mentioned routine he would still cry, but if I let him go ahead and cry for fifteen minutes or so then picked him up (quietly, without turning on the lights) and nursed him in bed again, he would usually fall asleep this second time and stay asleep for the night.  I do NOT keep picking him up every fifteen minutes all night.  That just encourages him to stay awake.  First, I try to be sure he is not hungry, etc., then I may pick him up once, but the second time I let him cry himself to sleep. Use common sense.


There are times when nothing seems to make a little baby happy.  Try everything you can think of, then try it all again, and if you can't get anything to work, consider the possibility that they might just be tired so I just put them down in a safe, comfortable spot and let them cry for a few minutes (I always keep checking on them). They will often go right off the sleep If they don't, you can always pick them up again and start over.

Don't let screaming and crying bother you to the point of frustration, anxiety and anger.    All babies cry, some more than others. Crying, itself, won't hurt them.  If their crying upsets you to the point where you feel you are at risk of losing control, and if you know they're all right, and you have tried everything, but they are still crying;  put them in bed, close the door and go sit down in the other room for a little while.  You can check on them again after YOU calm down.  My mother (who raise 6 children including a set of twins) once said to me, "Babies need to cry some every day to exercise their lungs."  I don't know if that's true or not (probably not), but after the first 2 or 3 kids I got so I wasn't quite so upset by their crying. Now, with 10 children, I sometimes hardly hear it! If I can pick them up I do, but if I am tending to the need of another child I don't always drop everything and rush to the baby. A minute or two of crying won't hurt them. Please  remember that babies cannot talk and MUST cry to try to tell you their needs and wants.  They are NOT just trying to be bad!  

Occasionally, a little baby will struggle and stiffen himself in your arms (usually screaming at the same time), and you know there is not a problem with colic, hunger, weariness, or other. If that is the case don't give in to him.  Hold him firmly and tell him "No", in a quiet, but firm voice.  Do this every time and the incidents will lessen. With a little experience most mothers can readily tell if their baby is crying for a legitimate reason or if it is clearly pure anger at being held or whatever. I always treat them gently, but with a firm attitude if needed. I don't discipline beyond this with a little baby.    

Sleeping through the night:

I don�t mind if my babies wake me up once or twice during the night to nurse. That's great. I wouldn't have it any other way. Babies are supposed to wake up a couple of times during the night. I like to cuddle them and hold them and nurse them back to sleep.

However, I don�t like it too much when they get a little older and start waking up out of pure habit and refusing to lay down and go back to sleep!  Once they are old enough to begin understanding �no�, you can teach them to obey you in this area.  Usually I do this, if needed, when my baby is old enough to get up on his hands and knees, and definitely by the time he can pull himself up on the rails of the crib. 

When you have fed and changed your little one and tucked him in bed, tell him to �put his head down� and go �night-night.�  If he is very sleepy he will probably go to sleep, but sometimes he won�t.  If he starts to cry and lift his head up, then is the time to train him.  Push his head gently, but firmly, back down on its side (don�t push his face into the bed and don�t hold his head down), and say pleasantly, �Put your head down, go night-night.�  If he pulls his knees up under him, gently and firmly pull his legs back down or push his bottom down, and say, �No, go night-night.� 

Of course this will not work.  What you must do to succeed, is to stay there and repeat this until he stops fighting you.  Within a minute or two he will stop picking his head up and squirming, but he will probably keep crying.  Let him cry and in a few minutes he will be asleep.  Don�t leave the side of the bed! You can pat him on the back if you'd like. Although it may seem like forever, it usually doesn�t take more than fifteen minutes the first time and often less.  If you do this every time thereafter, it will usually take only two or three times to train him completely, and each incident after the first, will usually take only one or two minutes.  The crying will stop as soon as you have completely convinced him that he must do as you asked.  As with everything, be consistent.  How nice it is to have a baby who, when laid down, will stay there and go to sleep without a battle every night!  This has come in very handy for us as our little ones get older, since we keep their crib in our room.  We can just look at them and say, �Put your head down,� or �Go night-night�, and they do it.  (I don�t even have to get out of bed!)

To CIO or not to CIO? (Should you let your baby Cry It Out?)

Question: How do I "CIO"? I nurse my baby to sleep then try to lay him down on my bed without waking him, but he often wakes up immediately. Since he is 5 months old, I'm afraid that he will soon start moving around when he wakes and will fall off the bed. I need to get him to stay asleep and am willing to try CIO.

Answer: Well, I've never really read any books on "CIO" so I only know what I hear from other parents and most of them these days think CIO (crying it out) is a horrible, terrible, thing to do to a child. They define "CIO" as "allowing your child to cry alone". Well, that's their official definition, but the clear impression I get is that they believe that all CIOers dump their child in bed when they selfishly want to sleep, then ignore hours worth of pitiful crying on a regular basis. They believe the baby must be crying out of extreme hunger or insecurity, and what the baby really needs is nursing and comfort from mom.

Now I don't know about all of that, but here is what I have done/do: When my babies are very little, I nurse them, hold them, cuddle them, etc., as much as possible. I nurse on demand, but I even push nursing a bit more because I usually have problems with low milk supply. (If and when I don't, I may try to gently steer the nursing into a loose 2 hour pattern.) At nap times, I don't really "nurse the baby to sleep" in the sense that I deliberately nurse him to try to get him to sleep. What I do do, is nurse him, and if he falls asleep and it happens to be a good time, I put him in bed.

I do not think it is ever safe to leave a small baby unattended on a bed, if he is able to roll over or crawl. I have both a crib and a play pen for this purpose. I don't put my baby in the play pen to play, but it is a safe place for them to sleep when I am not with them. It keeps the other children and the pets from disturbing him as well.

I do not hold to the Ezzo method of scheduling. I'm reading his book right now and I don't like it any better than I did the first time I read it. He says he does not advocate "hyperscheduling" but I'd say he comes awfully close. (Sears says he is not permissive, but I'd say he too, comes awfully close.)

What I do is gently nudge my babies into a "general" routine that works for me. In my experience, they do sleep better if I put them to sleep following the same pattern every night. I feed them, sing to them, rock them, maybe feed them again, then lay them down. If I KNOW they are not hungry and are otherwise okay, and are just waking (or refusing to sleep) out of habit, then I sometimes do "train" them to sleep.

Here's what I would do with a very small baby (but usually over 6 months). If I do my routine and lay him down, but he doesn't go to sleep, and starts crying instead, I stay right there. I tell him pleasantly, "Go nite-nite" and I rub his back a little and if he curls his knees up under him, I gently pull his legs back down and push his little bottom down and say, "Go nite-nite". I basically stay there and don't let him get up or roll over, until he stops crying and goes to sleep. In my experience, it usually takes no more than 15 minutes the first time, and less the next time, and there is usually no third time. Now that is mostly how I'd handle a smaller baby who won't go to sleep to begin with, or who is waking up shortly thereafter, or who wakes and won't go back to sleep in the middle of the night, or a baby who is just in the habit of waking too frequently. I DON'T try to get a small baby to sleep through the night. Waking once or twice at night is fine with me (as long as they go back to sleep after nursing).

Once my babies are over a year old, if I want to, and am not having milk
supply problems, then I sometimes do train them to sleep through the night. I basically do what I suggested above. By then they are sleeping in a crib in my room and when they wake, I tell them, "Go nite-nite" and I let them cry if they want to for awhile. If they stand up, I may get up once or twice and make them lay down, and if I have to, I'll stay there and make them stay laying down, but I don't pick them up. I talk to them matter-of-factly, not in a sympathetic voice. I tell them what I want and then I let them cry. I don't think that it has ever taken more than 2 or 3 nights before they just stopped waking up.

NOTE: Remember that I started out by stating that this is for babies who are NOT hungry and do NOT have some other problem, but are waking out of HABIT only.

A Toddler who won't go to sleep:

Question: I'm at my wit's end. I'm so upset I'm crying over this. My 2 year old just will not go to sleep at naptime or night time. I spend literally hours trying to get him to go to sleep. I go through an evening routine with him and put him in bed only to have he keep getting up every 5 or 10 minutes. for one thing or another. I've tried yelling, threatening and even spanking. Nothing works. I don't know what to do. Please help!

Answer: Let him stay up. Obviously he's not tired or is too interested in life to go to sleep. My just turned 3 year old is just like that. I put everybody else to bed, but keep him up with me. He has to play on the floor next to me while I work at my computer, etc. He has to behave but he can play. I never put him to bed until I go to bed, which is usually midnight or later. Then I make a little bed for him on the floor next to my side of my bed. I get him a drink, a stuffed animal, and I make sure he's gone potty, then I tuck him in and I go to bed too. He will remain awake and talking to himself (or me if I let him) until I turn the lights out. Then he goes right to sleep. Try that and see how it goes.

Here's another idea: my little guy will go to sleep if I sit there and police him for 5 minutes or so. I never put him to bed too early, but once in a while I'll put him to bed about an hour before me and I want him to go to sleep. He absolutely will not unless I police him. Example: Tonight I sent the younger kids to bed about 11pm. I gave the 1 year old a bottle, (can't nurse this one anymore, sad to say) and put him in a play pen, then I made a bed on the floor next to the play pen (and my bed) for the 3 year old, 4 year old and 6 year old. The 6 year old is the quietest, so I parked him in the middle with the 4 year old and the 3 year old on either side. Then I turned the lights all out and sat there at the  3 year old's feet, making him "be quiet" and telling him to "close your eyes". The others all obeyed immediately, but I had to tell him (firmly) a few times. In five minutes he was asleep. It was well worth the time it took. He would have been up for hours if I had just
kissed him goodnight and left the room. He would have awakened his siblings too.

Now if you are going to try policing them to sleep, they have to understand "no" first before this will work like it does for me. Let them ask you one question if you want, then say "No talking" and refuse to answer any more questions. If they ask again, say, "You can ask me in the morning". Tell them to "stop talking."

Now I do believe in spanking and I would swat a child if he kept it up, but I don't have to, because I've already taught them to obey me during the day on other matters, and when they know I mean "No talking" then they obey. I'll also tell them to "Lay still" or "Turn over and face the wall." Once you've removed all other distractions and options like this, they will go to sleep (if they are tired). Separate him from your other children if you have to, but keep him near you where you can insist that he be quiet, close his eyes, and stop talking. 

Side Note: Many parents want their children to go to bed early so they can get caught up on their housework without their little ones being under foot. One thing I try never to do is wait until the kids are in bed to do housework. I try to do all my house work when the kids are up. I try to include them as much as possible. KIDS LIKE THIS!. You don't have to entertain them and play with them all day. All they really need and want is to be with you and do what you are doing. LET THEM HELP YOU. Sure, it takes longer (for awhile, until they can really help) but they are happy and learning something too. Even the little ones can fetch and tote for you. Babies love to throw things in the waste basket and pretend to "dust". Teach them to enjoy picking up their toys, etc. My 1 year old comes running every time he hears me open the dishwasher or the dryer. I'll tell him to "hand me a spoon" or I'll hand him a sock and tell him to "throw it in the dryer". He LOVES to help. Then, when they go to bed, I can relax myself, instead of doing housework. And my house is neat all day too! 

Bad Dreams

My girlfriend's daughter is almost 5 years old and has night terrors. She wakes up all through the night and doesn't remember them in the morning. Her mom knows she is overly tired and she needs to sleep through the night for the sake of the whole family. Any suggestions other than medication?

Answer: I don't know what the official definition of "night terrors" is, but I'll share my experience and if it fits maybe it will be of help. One or two of my boys did that for awhile; they'd wake up at night kicking and screaming. They'd do this every single night. Well, I know that my bad dreams (when I have them) are ALWAYS related to something that is going on in my life. Maybe not something that happened that very day, but something. Usually something rather recent. Sometimes it is some old unresolved fear or conflict. For example, I have many times dreamed that I am in a hurry and late for an appointment and can not find something to wear. I can easily trace that back to when I was in high school and I was trying to find something to wear to school and was running very late, which happened all the time, since I didn't have very many clothes. Another dream I have had repeatedly is about how I am about to ride a horse, but I can't because I can't find the bridle. I know I can trace that back to a couple of pieces of equipment I had for my real horse years ago that I lent to someone and they never returned it. I also sometimes dream that I have forgotten to feed my horse for days and he is about to starve. I never forgot to feed my horse when I had one, but I can trace that dream back to one time when I forgot to give my cat water and she drank some antifreeze instead and died! It was an incident that made me very sad and ashamed, and occasionally surfaces in my dreams, usually at times when other tense events are going on in my life.

Do you see how these bad dreams are coming from old bad experiences that haven't been completely resolved? As for current things, we recently drove to Washington D.C. and we had to drive through the mountains in Pennsylvania. I did most of the driving and found it pretty scary especially since I was pulling a trailer. At one point my husband was driving, but it was still VERY scary for me. The highway had sharp turns and was on the side of a very steep mountain, so there was a sheer cliff on the passenger side that dropped off to the Allegany River far below. Sure enough, I've had several bad dreams since then about similar driving type things like running out of road or falling off a mountain.

I am just guessing that children go through the same thing with their dreams. I had 2 little ones who had more of a problem with this than the others. In trying to stop it, first  I looked to what was going on in their daily lives. Were they being frightened by something in real life? Were they getting into too many squabbles with their brothers and sisters? What was emotionally upsetting them during the day that might come out in a dream at night? 

I didn't know for sure what was upsetting these children, but with one in particular, I felt it was related to excessive bickering with his siblings. So I set out a plan to change that and increase his over all sense of security. I began spending extra time with him every day, just being a buddy, and I also put ended to the bickering.  I watched all the children more carefully, stopping fights before they began, and making sure the troubled one was not getting picked on. It worked and his bad dreams disappeared.

My other troubled child seemed to have a problem during the day with "separation anxiety" even though I never left him with a sitter. He would get very scared if I even left the room he was in, and would scream in panic and fear, and would run to look for me. At night he would seem to be dreaming about some similar fear. So with him, I made sure that I never left his sight. If I even had to go to the bathroom, I took him with me. I made every effort to see that he was never frightened. Well it worked.  After a few weeks of this extra effort during the day on my part, and he too stopping having those bad dreams. Later I was also able to slow wean him away from needing to see me every second, he is now a very confident little boy with no fears and not bad dreams.

 Another thing I did was to take naps WITH the child involved, so I could tell exactly when he was starting to have the bad dream and wake him up immediately. I didn't do a lot of comforting though, just enough to make him feel safe and secure, then I  treated it kind of matter-of -factly and pleasantly. I didn't want to draw more attention to it than I needed to. I'd usually talk to the child for a few minutes to get their mind on something else before they went back to sleep. 

Those are just some ideas your friend might try. I really think that what you dream at night is related to your emotions during the day and if you are having bad dreams you need to identify and solve the problems that are causing it during the day. I have also heard of a more severe form of "night terrors" and I don't claim to be an expert on that, so please use common sense.

Night Terrors

Question: My child has begun waking up in the middle of the night screaming and crying. He keeps it up for a while and I don't seem to be able to comfort him. I know the experts say we should not try to wake a child having nightmares, but is there anything else I can do to help the situation? I hate to see him go through this.

Answer: This may be the more severe form of "night terrors" I referred to about, but I still think it is insane not to try to wake a child up who is having a nightmare and I don't care what the "experts" say. Maybe I'm wrong, but I certainly hope someone wakes me up when I am having a nightmare, why not wake a child up?  That said, when my children (or I) have a nightmare, it is usually pretty easy to see how it is related to something that is going on in our daily lives. Often it is a scary movie or TV show. My oldest child began having repeated nightmares after watching the movie "Short Circuit" at age 5 year old. Apparently he had misunderstood the ending of the movie and thought the nice robot had been "killed" and that upset him. The nightmares stopped when he was finally convinced that the robot was fine and hadn't died. Needless to say, that was the end of our movie-going days.

I always wake my kids when they have a nightmare. I don't dwell on the dream unless I think it might be about something that can or should be resolved. If it is just due to a recent average scare (watching a scary show just before bed) then I get them up and awake, and I assure them that they just had a bad dream, then I change the subject and try to get their mind on something else before they begin dwelling too much on the dream. I make sure they are thinking about something else before they go back to sleep. Usually I take them in bed with me for a while, and we try to listen to bible stories on tape as we go to sleep.

Climbing out of bed

Question: My child  (18 months) keeps climbing out of his crib. He doesn't see frightened or lonely, he just wants to get out and play. What do I do? 

Answer: If this is just a matter of him "wanting" to get out, then I would put the side down on the crib and teach him what "no, no" means. I'd take the time needed to teach him that he must obey mom. With the side down, he will be far less likely to get hurt if he tries to climb out, and since he will no longer be restrained in any way, his focus will be turned to whether or not he is going to obey you, not on whether or not he can master that climb. To keep the side up is childproofing, to put it down facilitates teaching obedience.

At 18 months he is plenty old enough to learn that he must obey you and stay in his bed (or on a mattress on the floor if you are worried about him falling). If you don't have time to train him to stay in his bed, train him to take his naps on a couch near you where you can correct him immediately if he tries to get off. It is important to correct him (with a firm "No" and probably some other immediate negative correction) before he actually gets out of the bed. You must watch him carefully and catch him just when he begins to try. Teach him to chose to obey your words, do not force him to obey you by restraining him physically or locking the door or keeping the sides up on the crib.

The Scared Child 

Question: I think my child is afraid to go to sleep alone, but I don't want to have to have him in bed with me every night, what should I do?

Answer: When my firstborn was about 1 1/2 years old, he stopped going to bed nicely in his own crib.  He'd learned to stand up and he'd hang onto the sides of his crib screaming until I came and got him. Nothing I did seemed to help. Every night it took a half hour or more to get him to go to sleep. Eventually he began trying to climb out of his crib and soon he was pounding on the door crying. I finally decided this was more than a simple discipline issue, maybe he was really scared. 

At the time, we were living in a small apartment with two upstairs bedrooms. I took my son out of his crib and placed a mattress on the floor and made it up so we could both lay down on it. Then, every night when it was his bedtime, I tucked him in and laid down with him until he went to sleep. That worked very well and he did not fight me or try to get up. I'd get up myself after he was asleep. After about 2 weeks of this new routine, I changed it a little. I'd go lay down with him as before and read him a story and cuddle with him for a few minutes, but then I'd get up and putz around the room for a bit. I'd leave his bedroom light out, but the hall light on and the door wide open.  He didn't fuss when he knew I wasn't leaving the room, and he'd soon be asleep. After a week or two of that, I began leaving the room for a minute or two at a time, but staying in the hall just out of his room. Eventually, I began  going into my bedroom which was right next to his. He could still hear me in the hall, or sewing in my room, and I continued to leave the hall light on and his door wide open. After about a month's time, I could actually tuck him in bed, spend a few minutes praying with him and cuddling, then go downstairs without him getting upset at all. I made sure that I came promptly when he did call for me, but he really didn't much after that. Apparently his fear of being alone and trapped in his room and unable to get to his mom, was gone. He now understood and believed that I was always nearby and he was safe and secure.

That's what I did, perhaps you could devise something similar that fits your home and lifestyle.

(c) Copyright 2007 L. Elizabeth Krueger.  All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.