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Archive: 4 October 2012

The Scent of a Parent

At least two of our three kids had a hard time being put to sleep at night.  It wasn’t so much that they objected to sleeping—once they were out, they stayed out all night—as they got very anxious about being left alone.  I’m not talking about one-week-olds here; I’m talking more the 3-9 month range.  We’d cuddle them to sleep, put them down very gently, cautiously trace a silent path along the non-creaking floorboards, noiselessly pull the door shut…and then the wailing would start.

But then we noticed that when we went back in to pick them and soothe them, they would take a great big indrawn breath, hold it, release, and settle down.  We wondered: could they be relaxing because they smelled us, and that scent was triggering feelings of comfort and safety?

From then on, we would put the little one down to sleep, take off our shirt, and arrange the shirt in a wide horseshoe around the head and upper body of the sleeping baby, at least a foot separated on every side to avoid smothering risks.  And…it worked.  There was a lot more sleeping and a lot less waking up wailing.  The scent seemed to give them what they needed to stay relaxed and asleep.

It probably won’t work for every child who has trouble sleeping, but if you’re having the same problem we did, try (safely!) surrounding them your shirt or some other article of clothing that smells like you.  It might be just what they need to settle down and let you get some rest.

October 2012
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