Dear Mr. Dad: We’re having trouble getting our almost-four-month old daughter to take naps. Until a week or two ago, everything was fine. Now she won’t go down for more than 45 minutes. We’ve heard all kinds of advice on what to do, but we’re trying to let her sooth herself to sleep—and trying to strike a balance between running to her crib whenever she wakes up versus letting her scream until she passes out. What’s your take?

A: You’re definitely on the right track with trying to get her to soothe herself—a tremendously important skill. You say she was napping fine until recently. Did something change in her schedule, diet, routine, or surroundings? Babies are remarkably sensitive little creatures, and their behavior is often a response to what’s going on around them.
Pay especially close attention to “sleep hygiene.” Are you putting your daughter down in a room where there are lots of toys around? If so, that could be the problem. Even though we think we sleep through the night, most of us actually wake up many times, take a look around, and go back to sleep. When your baby wakes up for those few seconds in the middle of her nap, if she sees toys, she’ll want to get up—and why not? Who’d want to sleep with all those cool things to play with. If all she sees around her is her crib, though, she’s more likely to drift off to sleep for a bit longer.

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