One of the key factors to your baby's healthy development is in creating sleep associations. It is important, therefore, to instill a bedtime routine in your baby that includes sleep associations he or she can replicate. The idea is to get your baby to go back to sleep if he or she wakes up in the middle of the night.
Establishing a bedtime routine with your baby which includes things like a final changing and feeding is essential. The best thing you can do is to put your baby to sleep at a time when he or she feel quite drowsy, but is still aware enough to take in the surroundings and develop their associations with sleep.
The worst thing you can do is to have your baby get used to falling asleep while you are there. If your baby develops sleep associations with a pacifier or by being rocked, he or she won’t be able to recreate the sleep situation when he or she wakes up in the middle of the night - because you won’t be there to rock or feed your baby.
Parents should consider the use of what is called a "transitional object". You should get your baby to associate sleep with thing like a stuffed toy or a special blanket, something you allow your baby access to only before bedtime and bring to bed. If your baby makes sleep associations with these items, your baby can recreate the sleep situation when he or she wakes up in the middle of the night. Instead of crying for a feeding or to be rocked, your baby will be able to grab the stuffed animal or blanket and fall asleep again.