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At what point do you stop tending to a crying infant at night? At what point do your attempts to rush in and comfort them actually lead to more harm, and more difficult-to-overcome challenges than simply letting them work through it on their own? Dr. Carey Chronis, a respected pediatrician and host of Dr. Carey’s Baby Care in Ventura, CA, gives a relatively simple answer to these seemingly complex questions: four months. Most parents have difficulty simply letting their child cry and have to work hard to fight the urge to immediately try to fix the problem. By doing this, however, they’re worsening the problem by setting the stage for long-term sleep problems, and at the same time, they’re missing out on the quality sleep they need for themselves. By drawing the line at four months and letting an infant figure out sleep on their own, two problems are solved: the infant will begin to develop healthy sleeping patterns, and the parents will be able to get the sleep they need.

Dr. Chronis explains why the four-month mark in infant development is the best time to implement these changes, which has to do with the concept of object permanence. He also explains how to promote good sleep in infants under four months of age, the importance of establishing routines, how to navigate unavoidable disruptions in those routines, and how much sleep infants need at different stages of development.

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