YOU and your baby are the experts on sleep.

Not getting any sleep?  Don’t buy into the sleep “expert” trap!  You and your baby are the real experts.

I googled “baby sleep books” and this is what I found… The Baby Sleep Book by William and Martha Sears, No Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley, Nighttime Parenting by William and Martha Sears, The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvy Karp, etc…

Then  I googled “sleep train baby”  and found… Baby Sleep Training by Sophia Lawson, The Baby Sleep Training Solution by Margaret Rousseau, Twelve Hours’ Sleep by Twelve Weeks Old by Suzy Giordano and Lisa Abidin, On Becoming Baby Wise by Gary Ezzo, etc…

I have personally not read any of these books cover to cover so know that I am not claiming to be an expert myself on them or on your baby.  What I can say with some confidence is that I do have a good general idea of them from speaking to families and the many conversations I have had with sleepy new moms and dads.  The first set of books mostly fall into category of a little more flexibility and are more geared towards routines and natural rhythms.  For the most part, they give some tips and include some information on typical biological infant sleep patterns. They inform parents of the expectations and realities and give coping strategies.  The second set mostly give parents a method or prescription for more rigid schedules and promises parents they will be “good” parents with “happy” babies.

I am not suggesting an attachment parent vs. a cry-it-out here… and the key is not co-sleep or crib sleep but I do think that new parents want honesty and should educate themselves about the realities of being responsive parents under biologically normal circumstances vs. myths and one-size-fits-all approach. So many of us, including myself at one point, tend to believe our child should fit the mold or we are doing something wrong.  This ideology sets up parents for failure before they even hit the pillow!

When I was pregnant with A, a friend gave me the book Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg.  I am a totally type A, check-list person, so this book really appealed to me.  I took notes, I typed up her schedules for “Eat, Activity, Sleep, Your Time”… and had a plan for when our daughter was born.  Baby Whisperer and Baby Wise are pretty similar in that they set up a schedule and you follow it but Baby Wise is even harsher in their stances about “uncooperative infants” and moral stance on “permissive parents” who don’t follow their books.

When A was born…and I called my friend who gave me The Baby Whisper to ask her some questions because it wasn’t working for us…A wasn’t ready for activity after nursing, she fell asleep nursing… should I wake her to play and put her down awake? Looking at my real-live-baby in my arms and this didn’t make any sense anymore.  My friend told me that actually she had thrown the book out!  What a relief to hear!  I WASN’T FAILING, THE BOOK HAD FAILED US. I slowly woke up to the fact that I knew best as I held, comforted, breastfed, cared for and slept near or with A, I got to know her rhythms and her needs, in her order.  This was not to say that I was a martyr or that I wasn’t in the picture but I soon realized and had to acknowledge that the books were not read by my baby and that she was not “text-book”.

Luckily for me; while ordering some nursing clothing over the phone; I was given the option to choose a book as a gift.  I was soon holding The Baby Book by William and Martha Sears.  One of the great things about this book is that it included realistic information on infant development and baby behavior.  The other great thing was that it included chapters on nighttime parenting and on “fussy” babies.  The differences between the Baby Whisperer and The Baby Book are night and day because one is totally “ME” centered and one is based on the parent/baby dyad.  It included factual information on baby temperament and developmental realities such as the fact that baby sleep cycles are shorter than adults. So, while the first set of books are more of a prescription for forcing sleep, the second are more about flexibility and realities of being a parent both day AND night with some tips to get through this period and feel successful.

When S came along, he was a different type of sleeper.  A would cat nap many short naps a day and was sleeping for 5 hour blocks by 6 months on some nights.  S would take a couple of hour-long naps a day but was waking multiple times at night even into his second year.  It was such a different experience both during the day and at night.  I had to switch my resting to daytime with him but had two children now.  So, I bought the book The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers by Elizabeth Pantley.   It was in-line with the values I had formed while parenting my children thus far.  It also has accurate information on baby health and sleep patterns, tips for helping my child with useful strategies to CUSTOMIZE our sleep routine for our family specific situation.

Don’t take my word for it.  Decide for yourself how you want to parent by asking yourself questions that matter to you.  I try to think in terms of the things I want for my children; good relationships with others, empathy, to feel successful, to feel valued, to be healthy emotionally and physically, to be part of our family, to be resilient and other characteristics I want for them.

Here are some of the questions I ask myself when I read books or articles:

Does it help me and my child?

Will it bring me and my family closer?

Is it in line with my values and the values I want to teach my children?

Is it something I can follow through with and feel good about?

Can I pick what works for us or is it all-or-nothing?

Does it raise our spirits and encourage me and my child?

Does it foster and challenge me to grow as a parent?

Does it include accurate expectations and information on child development?

Is it something my partner and other caregivers in my children’s lives can also follow?

Will it promote or hinder my child’s growth, development and spirit?

Does it support my family’s choices and current situation?

What questions would you add…?

Some books will encourage sleep by X# weeks but they don’t inform on the milk supply loss that will inevitably result.  Some books encourage sleeping away from parents but they don’t take the AAP guidelines stating that a baby should sleep in the same room as parents the first 6 months an important risk factor for SIDS or SUIDS.  Some books tell us not to allow baby to fall asleep at the breast but they don’t inform moms of the natural sleep inducing hormones that occur in breastmilk while breastfeeding.  They may even suggest that I sleep at night while my partner gives the baby milk I pumped during the day…which may actually wake my baby and lower my supply at the same time!

The ideas in the books have value in them but in stating absolutes, many of them do not take into account human biology or how nature actually works.  Many of us find routines calming and feel safer when we have our rhythms.  When our babies are young there is often a feeling of sanity around our routines but this does not mean that we are set to inflexible schedules.  I don’t always eat at 12:05 PM…sometimes I want a snack at 11:30 or am not hungry until 1:00 for lunch.  Why should we treat our littlest family members as if they are so different from ourselves?  If I am upset, my husband or a friend comforts me.  Why should we believe a book that tells us not to comfort our own children?  If it isn’t feeling right, it isn’t right. Listen to your hearts and “read” your children.

As for me, I just nursed Z down to sleep…

Online Resources:

Uppity Science Chick; Evidence-based, With Attitude – Kathleen Kendall-Tackett

Breastfeeding Made Simple


Attachment Parenting – Baby Training and the Breast by Jasmine Carlson

Ask Moxi Q&A: What are sleep regressions anyway?

A Biocultural Approach to Breastfeeding by Judithe Thompson

Secrets of Baby Behavior – Dealing Realistically with Postpartum Sleep Deprivation Part 1 

Secrets of Baby Behavior – Dealing Realistically with Postpartum Sleep Deprivation Part 2 

Infant Sleep Information Source

Best for Babes – Booby Traps Series: How “never bedshare” leads breastfeeding moms to more dangerous sleep arrangements by Tanya Lieberman

When Will My Baby Sleep Through the Night – La Leche League

Do Older Babies Need Night Feeding? Nancy Mohrbacher

Responsive parenting; interventions and outcomes   – World Health Organization

Recent Study Finds that Controlled-Crying Causes No Apparent Long-term Harm: Should We Recommend This Practice to Parents?  by Kathleen Kendall-Tackett

Infant Feeding Methods and Maternal Sleep and Sleepiness by Hawley Montgomery-Downs

UNICEF – Caring for your baby at night

Evaluating Babywise

This entry was posted in Attachment Parenting, Boundaries, Breastfeeding, Child Development, Cue Feeding, Milk Supply, Nighttime, Parenting Books, Weaning. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to YOU and your baby are the experts on sleep.

  1. Tara Smith says:

    Great essay about the conflicting info out there. I bought into a lot of those baby sleep books since H was such a colicky and horrible sleeper. The line that stood out to me was “Some books will encourage sleep by X# weeks but they don’t inform on the milk supply loss that will inevitably result.” I always worried about this and never understood how these sleep books got around that one –because they can’t!

  2. Pingback: Night Limits, Nighttime Breastfeeding or Night-Weaning | a2z lactation

  3. Pingback: Sleep Books and Fear | a2z lactation

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