If a baby or child is to sleep happily alone, she obviously has to regard bed as a nice place to be. Bear that in mind from her earliest months and don’t ever leave her crying and trapped in her crib. There’s no better way to make her feel it’s a prison.
As she gets older, there are all kinds of things you can do to make her bed and her room feel special to her. But even when she’ s a toddler, the most important thing of all is to avoid associating going to bed, or staying there, with anything negative. Children who are sent to bed when they are naughty hardly ever go there voluntarily, even when they are tired.
Help your baby to know when bedtime’s coming up, and to feel the difference between night and day, by building up a pleasant and predictable routine around her bath, her supper, her last games, and so forth.
Once she’s in bed for the night, do try not to bring her back downstairs or into your bed, however many times she interrupts your evening where you sleep. If you don’t want her permanently with you, you have to be willing to go to her, as often as she needs you.
Penelope Leach, Ph.D., is one of the world’s most respected (and best-loved) developmental child psychologists. She is most widely known for her best-selling books on child development and parenting. They include Babyhood, Children First: What Society Must Do — and Is Not Doing — for Our Children Today, the classic Your Baby & Child: From Birth to Age Five (now in a new edition for a new generation), and Your Growing Child: From Babyhood Through Adolescence.