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Oh, baby, please go to sleep!

Published: October 2, 2010 Updated: March 21, 2013 at 08:25 PM
Liz Palmer read lots of baby books while she was pregnant with her son, Max, now 2. But nothing could prepare her for the physical exhaustion that came from caring for a newborn.The Davis Islands mom says she could understand why sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture.Then she ran into an acquaintance, Shari Mezrah, a sleep specialist at BabyTime in South Tampa. Mezrah's advice has helped hundreds of families get a good night's sleep."The next week, I sat down with her and we plotted out a schedule, and I felt immediately better because I had a sense of direction," says Palmer, 36.Mezrah's new book, "The Baby Sleeps Tonight: Your Infant Sleeping Through The Night By 9 Weeks (Yes, Really!)" (Sourcebooks Inc., $12.99), is recommended by pediatricians and happy parents. In the easy-to-read guide, she sets out a specific schedule for feedings, naps and wake-up times.That's important because a baby has no concept of day or night, Mezrah says."For nine months, they've been inside this warm place, and all their needs have been met. Then they come into this world, and they're like, 'OK, what do I do now?' And they need you to lead them."Sarah Klapman, another Davis Islands mom, thought having a second baby would be easy. After all, she had survived her 2-year-old son, Noah, who didn't sleep through the night until he was almost 1.But her daughter, Gabrielle, was a bigger challenge; she would only sleep for 20 minutes at a time and was unhappy the rest of the time."She started out crying all the time, screaming all the time," says Klapman, 36. Out of desperation, she turned to Mezrah's BabyTime sleep practice. "I thought, 'Yeah, right, this is going to work.'" she says. But by then she was ready to try anything.Mezrah recommended that Klapman start following a checklist to make sure all of Gabrielle's needs were met. She also set up a sleep schedule and used formula for the 9 p.m. feeding. Within one week, Klapman says, she began to see results.It wasn't easy waiting 15 minutes before responding when she heard Gabrielle crying. "I remember my husband and I laying in bed and listening to the monitor and thinking, 'We can't do it, we can't do it, it's so hard to listen to it.' But then it was over, and now she doesn't cry like that anymore."Palmer agrees. "If the sound bothers you, put in earplugs and watch the clock. It would work. (Max) would stop crying. By nine months, he was sleeping 10 hours. By 10 months, he was sleeping 12 hours."Mezrah says it's never too late to put your kids on a sleep schedule, although it takes longer to break bad habits. Her book includes advice for the parents of toddlers and preschoolers, such as limiting sugar after 3 p.m., having a wind-down time 30 minutes before bedtime and teaching children to sleep in their own rooms.For Klapman, the change in both her baby, who is now 9 months old, and herself has been amazing."Oh, my God. I've been able to sleep. I feel relaxed," Klapman says. "And she is the happiest baby, and I think it's because she's getting sleep, too."