Q: Can my eight month old baby’s sleep-time rituals be affecting his inability to settle down before sleep?

A: Sleep-time rituals, otherwise known as “pre-sleep activities”, play a crucial role in your baby’s ability to wind down and follow predictable cues to go to sleep. It is important to determine which rituals help your baby wind down and which ones have the adverse effect. Things like singing and doing exercises are enjoyable, healthy things to do with your baby, but may not be the best things to do right before bedtime.

Some babies can get easily over stimulated and having exciting, loud activities before bed only create more stimulation, which in turn has a negative effect to anything sleep conducive. I would suggest altering your sleep-time rituals by doing things a bit more calming and soothing like baby massage, a bath, reading a book and the like. By doing quiet activities before she goes to sleep, you will help her enter a peaceful state hereby promoting muscle relaxation and the production of other physical hormones to aid her in winding down properly and falling asleep easily.

Q: My baby recently started getting very upset when I leave the room after bedtime. He used to settle himself easily and now seems inconsolable and I often have to calm him for hours on end until he falls asleep. What’s going on here?

A: What is occurring here is a classic case of separation anxiety. While your baby used to settle quite easily, he now wants you there with him all of the time and feels confused and distressed when you leave him. Your baby is wondering what you’re going to do when he cries and is curious to see if he can make you come back and stay with him for as long as he wants. Leaving him to cry for hours alone won’t help the situation either and can often manifest itself into other issues as well. If you don’t have a problem going in and out of his room many times at night, then by all means continue doing what you’re doing. If, however, this is becoming a frustrating and escalating problem for you I would suggest introducing an attachment object which is discussed in detail in the question below.

Q: What exactly is an attachment object and what are its benefits?

A: An attachment object, otherwise known as a transitional object, lovey, comfort object, snuggly, etc. is most commonly a special stuffed animal or blanket used to help ease separations anxiety and help with disrupting sleep habits. Introducing your baby to such an object helps her forge a bond with something that can remain with her all night and comfort her when you are not there. It can make her feel safe and cozy which will aid her in her feelings of separation when you leave the room.

If your baby hasn’t yet picked a specific object, pick one for her! Obviously pay attention to her preferences, but it is usually something soft that she will be able to snuggle up with at night. When choosing your object I would definitely recommend buying two in case one gets lost. Babies are very smart and she may not accept a substitute even when you think it looks and feels the same. You’ll soon see that once the bond between your baby and this object is forged, she will she will accept it with open arms and should drift off to dreamland without needing you there with her all of the time.

Since your child will hopefully become quite attached to the object, try picking something with a positive, Jewish message, such as a plush charity box, or stuffed Torah. If you don’t have a Judaica store near you, shop online and you will see a wide array of Jewish objects that are perfect for your baby’s crib.

Q: My baby is completely jetlagged. I returned from traveling abroad with him over a week ago and he’s still out of whack. His sleep is completely erratic and he’s up all night. What should I do?

A: They say that the only constant in life is change. This may be the case for our busy lives and continuous motion, but babies thrive on predictability and consistency. A baby that was thriving and maintaining his general routine can very easily be thrown off and resist returning to his original habits. There are always things that come up that can disrupt normal routine such as travel, illness, or special events. These scenarios deviate some of his normal habits but shouldn’t throw things off to the extent that they can’t get back on track within a week’s time. I would suggest that you start getting him back on his original routine that he so beautifully thrived on previously. It may take a few days, but he should acclimate fairly quickly. As a general note, a baby that is well rested will cope much better with variations in schedule than a baby who is overtired and functioning on chaos and inconsistency.

Q: When is the opportune time to introduce solids with my baby?

A: Current health guidelines suggest introducing solids at 6 months of age. If, however, you find that your baby seems unsatisfied between meals before this age, consult your pediatrician and determine how to proceed. Your baby may be ready if you notice any of the following:

• He has generally been lasting happily between feeds but now seems to get irritable well before his usual feeding time • Is extremely irritable after a meal and seems to still be hungry • Used to sleep well during naps and night-time, but has recently started to wake up earlier and earlier • Chews on his hands excessively • Watches you eat and seems genuinely interested • If your baby doesn’t show any of the above signs, don’t worry. According to all health professionals, it is safe to begin solids at 6 months even without seeing any of these signs.

When you decide to introduce solids, start off slowly, introducing one new food every few days—to make sure there are no allergic reactions. I like to start with either baby rice cereal or baby oatmeal (some find the rice cereal constipating, so start slowly). Pick one meal for the first few weeks to gradually replace a liquid meal. Begin by trying the solids a half hour or so after he’s had his liquid meal. Gradually replace the liquid meal completely, until he is having a fully solid feeding to replace it. From there, you can slowly get him used to eating different kinds of food throughout the course of the day.

We are fortunate that we live in a time where it is very easy to find kosher baby food as well. Make sure to look for a reliable kosher symbol on the jar or package. This way you will know that your baby is not only getting the physical nutrition he or she needs, but spiritually is eating the most healthy food possible!

Q: How can my baby’s newfound mobility affect her sleeping?

A: Developmental milestones play a critical role in your baby’s health and well being. As exciting as they are, however, they can sometimes be equally as frustrating when it comes to affecting your baby’s sleep. Things like rolling over, learning to crawl, pulling herself up to standing position etc. are all things that can possibly inhibit her current sleep habits. What once was a sleeping baby that remained on her side while sleeping suddenly turns into a baby whose sheets are a mess and moving around her crib all night!

Wherever she is holding developmentally, just be aware that it may take a few nights for her to learn how to properly maneuver herself around her crib to get comfortable and resettle to sleep. I always encourage parents to go in and try to help get the baby cozy, but only for a few moments as you don’t want to start developing improper sleep habits and associations. And most importantly, stay patient. After a few nights of experiencing this newfound mobility, your baby (who is extremely resourceful) should bounce back fairly quickly.