Category Archives: Infant/Toddler Sleep

Hear me out

Photo by A National Acrobat via Flickr Creative Commons License

I read an other post last week about CIO from a baby’s point of view. An other account of how any baby left alone to cry will feel sad and lonely and start to distrust their parents.

I have to be honest with you, it drove me crazy, despite the good intentions of the author. I know I am defensive about this. It is just not pleasant to have someone, who doesn’t know you, imply that you harmed or caused suffering to your child. But beyond the defensiveness, I also question the implication for our society, which is already so fearful of emotion, when we are fearful of our infants crying from the get go. Fearful that doing something very natural- crying- causes harm.

The post I read is essentially an argument against CIO. I get that. It is not about crying writ large. Here’s the thing. Eventually most of us learn to fall asleep. I have yet to hear of a first year university student who needs to be rocked to sleep. So it’s not like I think CIO is the only way to help a baby fall asleep. Babies don’t sleep through the night and babies often need help to fall asleep. Furthermore, I totally disagree with using ‘sleep training’ with an 8 week old, for example. We should not expect that an 8 week old should fall asleep on their own and sleep a solid 8 hours– realistic expectations people. But somewhere between 6 months and 2 years I do believe 90% of babies/toddlers are ready to learn how to fall asleep on their own. There are lots of methods to support them to learn this and one does not need to use a CIO method if one does not want to. I call bull on anyone who says if you don’t use sleep training your kid will never sleep. But.

Why are we so afraid of crying? What is it about crying that makes us so uncomfortable?

This post is not so much about the merits or downfalls of CIO or no-cry sleep methods or anything of the sort (though I can’t help but question some of the key assumptions of the anti-CIO philosophy). This post is about our attitude to our baby/toddler/kid’s emotions. I know many a new parent (including myself) that felt like a failure at times because they couldn’t stop their baby from crying. But crying is not a measure of if you are or are not a good parent. And crying is not a measure of whether or not your baby is loved or cared for or has its needs fulfilled. All babies cry. Some more then others.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I need a good cry. And sometimes when I am upset the last thing I want is for someone to shush me or tell me everything is okay. I want to express myself. I want to have my feelings. When crying is the only way to communicate, that crying could mean a lot of different things. I’m tired. I’m over stimulated and need to block everything out. I’ve had a long day. Truth is we just don’t know what our babies are thinking. I strongly believe the range of thoughts and emotions for even a young infant are much broader then we sometimes assume.

One of the most interesting things I have heard about older babies who are adjusting to going to daycare or a dayhome is that they often cry when you come to pick them up. They know they are safe with you, so they are releasing the stress and tension from their day of experiencing new and unfamiliar things. They feel safe to cry. Is it not possible that the same could be said for their bed? They feel safe to release the tension from their day knowing that Mommy and Daddy are near by?

Our feelings are a part of who we are. And all of us, from the time we are infants, experience a wide range of feelings. Not all of them pleasant. And I can not accept that experiencing of feeling and emotion is harmful. And I do not accept that a parent that gives a infant the opportunity, in a loving and compassionate way, to feel the full range of emotions is causing harm. Furthermore, I do not believe that experiencing the emotions that can lead to crying (which are actually quite diverse- I cry when I am happy, as well as when I am sad) is synonymous with suffering. I often hear the argument that letting your child cry is letting them suffer. I don’t believe crying = suffering.

As parents, what is the impact on our overall parenting if one of the first messages we hear as parents is this ‘crying causes brain damage’ stuff? (Which I think it total bull, by the way. I wrote about it here.) What does that mean for how we parent when our kid is 1 year, 2 years, 5 years, 8 years? If crying is the ultimate harm? The #1 thing to be avoided? I think a lot of us bottle up our feelings rather then letting them out and I wonder if all this focus on the perils of crying just makes that worse.

What is wrong with emotion? Why are we so uncomfortable with emotion?

I am sure there are lots of individual parents who are against CIO that are also wonderful at honoring, accepting and hearing their child’s emotions. I am not saying that to be against CIO = brushing emotions aside. Just as I am sure there are parents who use CIO who do not listen, hear and have compassion for their child’s emotions. Just to be clear, drawing that parallel is not my point. My point is to draw the parallel between the focus of our collective parenting dialogue on the prevention of crying seems to be at least somewhat reflective of our un-comfortability with emotion. Particularly the non-pleasant emotions of the human range of emotions.

What if instead we teach our children that crying is normal? It is something that we do as humans to express how we feel. It is something that we use as tool to let go and move on. It is something that helps us not keep things all bottled up inside. And so when a child cry’s we don’t say, ‘your okay’ or try to fix it. How about we welcome them to express themselves and acknowledge how they feel? How about we treat all crying the same… normal, natural, expressive. Instead of this intense fear that is causes harm. That doesn’t mean you need to use CIO or Sleep training… but it does mean taking a different approach to your child’s emotions. Accepting, acknowledging and hearing rather then preventing, distracting and avoiding.

Thoughts?

Update: I made a vague reference to the concept of crying to release tension and in the comments Kelly and I talked more about the idea of some babies releasing tension. Then I saw this timely post by @AskMoxie, who, so far as I can tell, first articulated the tension increaser/tension releaser concept, so I thought I would throw in a link. Check it out.

Thoughts on Babywise type parenting

So I did a post on my thoughts on attachment parenting. And it generated a lot of good discussion. So I think discussing what is often viewed/portrayed as ‘the other side’ may be helpful as well.

Full disclosure: I have not read any of Ezzo’s books. So, while I can speak to my general impressions based on talking with other parents about their different experiences and reading a few blog posts here and there, I am not well versed in ‘the theory’. (Although I did do some extra reading just for this post to try and get acquainted with the main for-against arguments). And I think that is okay. I don’t think I was particularly well versed in AP theory when I wrote that post either. (I had read Sears, but while exhausted with a newborn and devastated over the struggle/loss of nursing… which probably did a number on my reading comprehension.) Like my AP post, I am not outright 100% against these types of theories writ large, just like I am not 100% for any particularly theory writ large. I am just talking about what I think based on my impressions.

You may have other ideas, but I don’t want to get into a discussion about Ezzo’s personality flaws, expertise or lack there of, or the whole messy religion aspect that surrounds the discussion of Babywise. When I started to think about writing this post, I came across a whole lot of debate going on out there. And Wow. I so don’t want to go there.

What I do want to talk about is the concept of scheduling. To be quite frank, I don’t care what Ezzo says or doesn’t say. I know dude wrote the book, but once it’s out there and starts being a ‘theory’ it kinda takes on a mind of its own. There are many voices out there shaping what ‘babywise’ parenting is, what it means, and how it is implemented now. In the bit of research I did I saw a lot of quotes from Ezzo’s book. Some of those quotes seemed to support a very rigid, inflexible and controlled application of the theory. Other quotes seemed to point towards flexibility and malleability of the theory. To be honest readers interpret words and remember different emphasis in text based on their personal experiences and mindset at the time. I think we could probably agree that two different people could read the same thing and believe two fairly diverse variations of what the book is suggesting that they do. Hence why I don’t want to debate “Ezzo”; I would rather focus on the issues. This is not a book review.

Also, I should start by saying that I think most people who turn to ‘scheduling’ type theories, it is all about trying to get some routine and stability in the chaos. They want a plan of action, something they can do to try and make things a little less nuts. And, with all theories, some parents are able to implement in a way that works for their kid and some aren’t.

With that long introduction said, here are my concerns and thoughts re: Babywise parenting.

1) Infant feeding and scheduling

One of the strongest criticisms of Babywise is regarding infant feeding. There are serious concerns out there that Babywise recommends feeding infants on a schedule rather then on demand. Some claim that babywise parenting doesn’t mean you shouldn’t feed your infant if they are hungry, just that you should attempt to establish a routine. Others claim that it is strict in it’s approach to ‘parent directed feeding’.

Here is my thinking: for infants, especially during the first 8-12 weeks of establishing a breastfeeding relationship, feeding on demand is really the only way to go. You know the phrase, ‘watch the baby not the clock?’ Yeah, this makes sense.

That being said, can I also say that I think being aware the clock is still called for in some circumstances. For example, my daughter was a sleepy baby. She was dropping weight or not gaining and we were instructed by our lactation consultant that we had to feed her every 1 1/2 to 2 hours at night and more often during the day if necessary. We had the torturous task of setting the alarm all through the night and waking her up to feed her. If we had only fed on demand she wouldn’t have gotten enough because she would rather sleep then eat. My point is just that the clock does come in handy some times and feeding on demand is only part of the picture.

The other piece of this puzzle though is that babies main way to communicate is to cry. And that cry can mean one of a number of different things, one of which is hunger. It makes good sense to try to feed a crying baby. It is something straight forward and proactive you can do that may just be the reason baby is crying. I remember having a list on my fridge of stuff that could be making her cry, so I could go down the list checking to see if ‘that’ was it. Hungry was on the top of the list.

But I do think it is also good sense, particularly with an older baby, to stop and consider why baby is crying before immediately going to feeding. Babies want to be heard and understand and I think there is potential to stifle their ‘voice’ by just feeding (or offering them a soother) them every time they cry. But that is less a critique of scheduling and more a critique of our collective intense fear of babies crying.

Back to the point, I can understand (and echo) the concerns others have about ‘scheduling’ and infant feeding. I don’t think the two go together. Realistically sometimes baby will need to eat more often, sometimes less. That is true of you and me as well. It is completely normal for infants to cluster feed (feeding multiple times really close together, particularly in the evenings). The idea of scheduling feedings for a very young infant doesn’t seem to set the parents up for realistic expectations in my opinion.

One last thing I will say though, is that I completely understand why women may find the idea of scheduling infant feedings appealing. I remember a time when I was feeding Audrey about every 1 1/2 hours during the day. For weeks straight. She had come out of her really sleepy newborn stage and we were having major feeding issues. She was hungry, but not nursing well. I wasn’t producing enough milk. But I also couldn’t continue feeding that often for that long. (Especially because she was taking a good 30-45 minutes to nurse, then I was topping up with formula and then I was pumping… so by the time I got through all that I had to start again). At that point, it was a chicken-egg scenario: IF she was nursing effectively and IF I was producing enough milk, within a week I would have probably gotten up my milk production to meet her demand and she would have started nursing about every 2-3 hours instead of every 1-2 hours (while still sometimes needing to nurse every 1-2 hours occasionally). She was 2ish months old at this point. I started to try and stretch out our feedings and I gave her more top up formula (which we were already doing anyway on lactation consultant orders). I am sure, in retrospect, this didn’t help my milk supply. But to be honest, as I say, (chicken meet egg) continuing to feed every 1-2 hours wasn’t doing my supply any favours either… and if I had continued I am pretty sure I would have 1: gone crazy and 2: still ended up switching 100% to formula by month 4 anyway. Trust me. Anyway, my point is that I get why someone would want to schedule feedings. But if they are in the position I was of feeding that often for weeks on end… what they need is a good lactation consultant and good support, not a feeding schedule.

2) Infant sleep and scheduling

In terms of infant sleep and scheduling… one part of me says HA! and the other part of me says, yeah, I kinda agree. The HA part of me is the part where any parent thinks they can put their baby down at any given time and expect 100% for that child to fall asleep. You can not ‘make’ a baby follow a schedule, trust me, they often have other plans. And you certainly can’t ‘make’ a baby sleep through the night. When babies are first born they don’t have any concept of day and night, and it takes quite a while for them to establish a pattern of sleep. Some older babies may start sleeping through the night, or not. And some babies who usually sleep through the night still occasionally wake up in the middle of the night every so often. Like infant feeding, the idea of ‘scheduling’ seems to me to set someone up for failure and frustration.

Especially because the concept of scheduling doesn’t seem to have any flexibility built in. What if baby wakes up 3 hours earlier one day; by the time you get to ‘scheduled nap #1’ that baby is going to be so over tired that they will have a hard time falling asleep. (Isn’t it a sick irony that an overtired baby is the hardest to get to sleep? It’s like the worst negative cycle ever!) Or they will have fallen asleep on their own way before your ‘scheduled’ time. What if you have a doctors appointment at nap time? What if…. ?? You know?

On the other hand. I do agree with the principal that babies like routine, predictability and consistency. I don’t think scheduled nap and bedtimes work with a 2 month old, but I do think you can do things to encourage a pattern or routine to sleep. Some babies will take to it and some really wont. As long as you accept that it may or may not work for your baby and don’t beat yourself up about it, I don’t see anything wrong with trying.

When I say ‘trying’ here is what I mean. Between about 2 1/2 and 3 1/2 months we worked really hard to establish a routine for naps and bedtime. For naps, we didn’t follow a schedule, but rather this amazing concept of 90minute cycles (from a book called “The 90minute sleep solution”). Audrey would wake up in the morning and we would try put her down for a nap 90 minutes after she woke up. At this point she was 100% rocked or baby carried to sleep. Sometimes she would go down, sometimes she wouldn’t. If she didn’t, we would wait 90 minutes and try again. If she went to sleep, we would try to put her down 90 minutes after she woke up from that nap. Rinse, wash, repeat. No schedule, but routine establishing.

For bedtime we established a ‘we are no fun past 7pm’ rule. We knew we couldn’t make her move her bedtime from 10/11pm to 7pm. But we could provide a very quite, dim, low stimulation, absolutely no fun environment between 7pm and whenever she feel asleep. We took shifts either staying with her in her room, rocking her, feeding her, singing to her or caring her in the sling for a walk or around the house. (Actually, I think the evening sling routine was one we started really really early, like maybe 1 month) Quite. Dark. Calm. Within a month or so she started to go to bed between 7pm-8pm. By 5 months she was the Queen of the early 6pm bedtime. Yes, I know, a lot of babies wouldn’t give in so easily. But I don’t think it hurts to try.

So I guess what I am saying is that I think routines can be a very good thing. I am a big believer in nap times and bedtimes. (By the time Audrey was 6 months or so those 90minute till nap routines turned into 2 naps at roughly similar times with an early bedtime.) (I also recognize that for many families nap times and early bedtimes are nit realistic and/or may not be your preference. Thats cool, I am just saying it is my preference.) But again, I think it is about being realistic, flexible and accepting of the different stages your baby goes through. Teething, growth spurts, travel, day light savings time changes, ect, are all going to throw sleep out of whack.

Overall, that is often my issue with many theories (with the exception of AP theory, which I have to give them credit, do seem to get this more them most): unrealistic expectations and no attention paid to the stages and changes through a babies first year. 1 month olds and 6 months olds and 10 month olds seem like they all came from different planets. A lot of these scheduling type theories don’t seem to get that. They just suggest a schedule as the cure all. Trust me, nothing is a cure all. Lots of times you do something and then things change and you have no idea if what you did ‘worked’ or your baby just grew out of a stage. Other times you think something has been ‘fixed’ for good, only for it to all fall apart (damn you sleep regressions!). So by suggesting that schedule= good baby, I think they set parents up for more frustration, failure and resentment. Not only are you doing everything to take care, love and provide for this baby, you have some unrealistic standard of what a baby is ‘suppose’ to do heaped on top of that. Granted, I am sure that there are many parents who use babywise and effectively adapt it to meet the needs of their baby at different stages, bring flexibility in to the schedule and are realistic about what they expect from their baby. But I do think that scheduling run the risk of making that first year harder, not easier. The last thing anyone needs from any parenting theory is to feel like they are failing at it.

*I know the ‘babywise’ theory is more then just scheduling. I get that. But this post is already way long. So, if you feel that there is another aspect of this theory you would like me to address, have at it in the comments and I will see what I can do about a post addressing it specifically. Okay?

Thoughts on Attachment Parenting

Yes, I know, I have been skirting around this issue for a while and have yet to really write about it. Truth be told, I have been hesitant, for a number of reasons.

First, I find the ‘mommy blogosphere’ to be very dominated by advocates of attachment parenting and writing a post about my reservations about the theory seems a bit like poking a stick at a wasps nest. There are a lot of AP bloggers out there who I have a lot of respect for and have very interesting things to say and great ideas. But there is also a lot of lashing out that happens when you challenge the norm.

Secondly, I have asked myself about the validity of challenging AP because it is not so much the theory itself that is the issue, but rather what I see as an extreme application of it. So I wonder if it is a bit of a straw man argument, in the sense that those who practice AP to the extreme are probably a minority and don’t necessarily reflect the majority. I feel a bit of the same way about the arguments against CIO. It seems to me what people are arguing against when they talk about CIO is the pure application of it in a very young baby. That image of taking a 2 month old, having unrealistic expectations that that baby will sleep through the night, and leaving them to cry and cry until they give up and fall asleep from sheer exhaustion. That approach is on one far end of the spectrum of use of that theory, and is a far cry (pun not intended) from recognizing a particular temperament in a older (5 months plus) baby who seems to need some time to release tension before sleeping, as was my experience.

Also, just as I don’t believe in lumping everyone who has used CIO in as a neglectful parent, I want to make clear that I don’t lump all parents who use AP together as all using the theory in a way, and with a result, that concerns me. Also, I am very supportive of the idea that different parents, different children, different situations. Do as you feel best. Lots of people find great value in AP and I can respect that.

I am not so much anti-AP as I am wary of ‘theory’ parenting in general. There are great AP parents and bad AP parents the same way there are great CIO parents and bad CIO parents. Some practice a theory (any theory) to an extreme, militant and inflexible manner and I suspect this usually has poor results. Some practice a theory like a flexible guide, holding true to certain principles, but flexing to meet their kids. Awesome. Some theories are better then others, and some are just plain bad. I don’t see Attachment parenting as one of the bad ones. More then anything else I am advocating that we put down the books and websites and magazine articles and just parent in a way that is aware of the unique needs of our child. I also am supportive of the need to do whatever gets you through with your sanity intact and your kid happy. It is important to meet the needs of our children, but I also believe that a happy and sane Momma is important. Really important. Whatever works.

So, with those caveats, here are some of my concerns.

1) To my understanding, one of the core beliefs of Attachment parenting is the need for response and comfort whenever a baby is crying, day or night. And, at it’s most basic, my reaction is of course. Of course you should respond to your child. Babies need 24/7/365 care, that’s what we signed up for. BUT. I do think you can do this to an extreme. I think that sometimes babies, as they get older, use crying to express themselves. And I think it is valuable to really listen and evaluate what they need, before swooping in and picking them up. Maybe then just need a safe place to express some frustration. I don’t think all crying is bad and I don’t think it is harmful, so long as the child feels loved and attended to. Crying is not the definition of neglect.

The other piece of the puzzle for me is that there is a difference between wants and needs for all of us. A two month old baby can only communicate needs- so my two month old got 100% response and I did what every I could to provide what she needed. Sometimes nothing would stop her from crying, and I tried to accepted that and just hold her to provide comfort while she expressed her feelings. A 6 month old baby can express mostly needs and some wants. If there is a need, I attend to it. But sometimes her ‘want’ isn’t compatible with what is best for her. I knew she would rather practice her crawling then nap and she would fuss a bit when nap time arrived, but then she went to sleep. She needed sleep; I tried to provide. Yes, of course, sometimes there is nothing we can do to help our kids to sleep even when they need it. My kid likes sleep, like a lot, so I had a much easier time of it. BUT I think the point holds that sometimes what the kid wants and what they need are different. And they put up a fuss when you try and give them what they need over what they want. I can tell you now that my now 16 month old is better at expressing wants then needs. And when she want’s a cookie, she puts up a fight. I don’t worry about if that 45 minute temper tantrum about not getting a cookie is somehow harming her. I might try and distract her, but I don’t go to all extents to try to get her to stop crying. Again, to me crying is not a harmful activity for a baby or a toddler, again given a good, safe and loving environment.

Just in case you are wondering, no, I don’t assume all AP parents give their children cookies whenever they cry. Again, I recognize that many AP parents don’t fall into what I see as AP traps. (And even if they do fall into what I see as ‘traps’, that doesn’t mean it isn’t what works best for their kid) My point is that I don’t believe in 100% respond to crying in older babies and toddlers. It seems to me that rewarding them for crying is only going to equal more crying. They are smart little buggers. So we need to strike a balance between ignoring whining and crying and providing for needs and comfort. Especially when they become toddlers and they want to establish control. Too much response can sometimes give them control over the situation. I believe the parent should be in control of the situation, the leader, if you will. You can’t control a child or a child’s behavior, but you can have control over the situation. Maybe command is a better word, the parent should have command over the situation. I think sometimes we give up too much to our kids in the interest of keeping them happy AKA not crying. To feel really safe they need to know where the boundaries are.

2) The next aspect of AP that I am not 100% comfortable with is the suggestion of exclusive baby wearing. I know Dr. Sears suggests it as a tool and not a ‘need to do 24/7 or else’. But some AP advocate seem to really rail against strollers and car seats. I can tell you that I had (when Audrey was little) 4 methods for getting her around and 3 of those involved baby wearing. We had a sling carrier, an ergo, a wrap carrier and a stroller. Which one did we use most? That depended on the week. I found that when she was really little, like under 3 months, we almost exclusively used the carriers. I wore her most of the day, interspersed with tummy time. As she got older I tried to respond to her needs. Sometimes she loved the close and comfort of a carrier, others she wanted to kick her feet and flail around and that meant a stroller, if I didn’t want a black eye or my hair pulled out. My point is that babies need to move around. Baby carriers are great, especially early on, but I think that needs to be balanced with their need for space and movement sometimes. There is, in my opinion, such a thing as too much attachment.

3) Which brings me to the issue of independent play. I do think that AP has the potential, because of the focus on responsiveness, ceasing tears and baby wearing, to not allow a babies need for independent play to flourish. (Janet did a great post on this recently, check it out.) We don’t need to be right there all the time. We shouldn’t, in my opinion, be right there all the time. Our babies and toddlers (and kids and teenagers) need space to discover both the world and who they are. And I am not sure keeping them so close and responding to them so immediately is always the best way to do that. At least it wasn’t for my child. Her confidence and imagination have flourished by providing her with a safe place to have independent play and encouraging her to not always need an adult right there. (Still within view though, supervision is important. They can make an ordinary object dangerous in about 3.2 seconds.)

4) Lastly, I feel a bit like AP (at times, in some ways, as practiced by some people) doesn’t always value just how capable our children are. Babies are amazing if you give them the space to be. And to always paint them as these weak, helpless, fragile, unthinking beings, who don’t understand what is happening seems to underestimate them. I think AP can paint children this way when they talk about crying as being an incredible harmful thing for a child. I also think it can show a child that they are not capable when their parent swoops in to comfort and fix the problem of an upset child, rather then letting them express and work it out themselves. (can does not equal does)

I feel my daughter has a very good understanding of what is going on. When I don’t respond to her whining as she falls asleep, she knows it is not because I am not responding or caring for her, but because I am supporting her to release tension. When I don’t pick her up every time she falls and crys, she knows it is because I trust her to get up and try again. When I don’t always play with her, she knows it is because I am proud of what she can do on her own. When I tell her NO and put her down (when she hits me, for example), she knows I love her and that I am setting a reasonable and age appropriate limit. She is smart. She is capable. She gets it. She can do lots of things without my help. I beam when she toddles away from me at the playground, not looking back. She knows I am there.

I believe our job as parents is so much more then providing for needs and comforting our children. It is about setting boundaries and limitations and it is about nurturing them to be independent in an age appropriate way. Attachment is important, but so is developing a unique sense of self. At some point we aren’t going to be there to provide for their emotional needs and they need the confidence and love to be able to provide for their own emotional needs. And I think beyond the really early baby stage the extreme use of high touch/high response that attachment parenting recommends isn’t always the best way to go. At least for my kid.

Night Night

(This post, which I wrote quickly the other day and needed to finish, seems like an ironically appropriate post given tonight’s bedtime scream-o-thon. I stand my these words none-the-less.)

Can I just say, that I love Audrey’s bedtime routine.

We were early adopters of the ‘bedtime routine.’ Audrey’s current bedtime routine started when she was only 4 months old. Determined and delusional about the magical effects of a bed time routine and touted as the ‘cure all’ by many a ‘no-cry’ sleep advocate, we were ALL OVER IT.

Did it work? While I have already admitted to extreme amnesia regarding Audrey’s first 6 months, but she was always a pretty good baby when it came to sleep. But I will dare to say, yes, I do suspect it helped, if only a little. By 5 months or so, she had a pretty consistent early bedtime and usually slept through to morning with a couple short wake ups for a bottle. (Yes, I know, this sleeping pattern is not typical and many of you right now are probably trying to kick me through the screen. Trust me, we had other issues.) Was this the magic of the bedtime routine at work or just the winning of the proverbial baby lottery with our ‘really fussy eater but great sleeper’ baby?  I don’t know. And quite honestly, I don’t care.

Because as much as the bed time routine was adopted in desperate hope for a bit of a break in the evening, gained from the ‘victory’ of a sleeping baby, we got so much more out of that bed time routine. Namely, it is the time, every day, where we re-group, connect and are quiet together.

While the timing of the routine has shifted as bedtime has shifted (from later to earlier from 4-6 months and from earlier to later from 12-16 months) the routine has remained the same:

First Audrey has her bath. Honestly, we skip this sometimes because the water here in Calgary is HARD and her skin is SOFT… = dry skin. There is just not enough moisturizer in the world to keep your skin moisturized in Calgary and she has particularly dry skin. Anyway, sometimes we skip this part.

Next, we get her in pajamas and get her bottle ready. Then she has her bottle while sitting on either mommy or daddy’s lap, rocking in the rocking chair beside her crib.

Then, we read her a story. For a very, very long time, that story was always the same. “Good Night Moon.” I love a good classic. But recently, she started to get antsy and likes to hold the book herself and kicks as we try and read to her. So now, we tend to read to her pre- bottle, while she toddles around the room, happily pulling things off shelves. I still like reading “Good Night Moon”, but we mix it up.

My favourite part is after her bottle. We play her a song and sing it to her. The song is by Raffi and is called “Thanks A lot.” This is my favouite part of my day. No matter how frustrated I am or tired I am. No matter if we have had a good day or a bad day. No matter if A was happy and giggly or whiny-mc-whinerson, this part of the day always makes me feel nothing but love for my child and love for being a parent. The song is about being thankful for everything we have around us. And there is something about recognizing that you are grateful every day and communicating that to your child that is wonderful and magical. So I love it. LOVE.

After the magic of the song, we put her down in the crib, with her two lovies, sheep and sophie (no, not the rubber one, the blankie one), and turn on her ‘sleepy music.’ An other relic from the days of trying to find the perfect formula for optimal baby sleep, we have this white noise track on an ipod of rain in the rainforest. We play it every night, all night, on repeat. We swear it helps her sleep. Who knows….

Also, I should mention, either my husband or I can do part or all of it. We regularly tag team and if either one of us is away- no problem- she is all good. Now that wasn’t always the case- there have been periods of separation anxiety when only Mommy would do. But for the most part, she has been pretty easy going about it.

Bed time is my favourite time of the day. And sure, it is partly because it signals the end of my least favourite time of the day: get home/clean up/make dinner/whiny child part of the day. And partly because it signals the beginning of one of the best times of the day: the ‘time not at work and not taking care of toddler, Mommy and Daddy alone time’. But it really is more then that.

I really do love the way I feel holding my daughter and singing to her. I love the calm and the closeness. It is pretty much the only time of the day she will let me hold her without wiggling free to get to something that catches her eye. And as I said, there is something truly magical about practicing gratefulness together. I look forward to the day that she will sing that song with me, know all the words and get value from their meaning, just like I do.

Advice for Mom’s-to-be

Annie from PhD in Parenting posted this question today on her blog. I was going to comment there, but realized that my response was going to be epic. So I thought it was better to just write my own post. Annie’s question is, essentially, what should we tell new/expectant parents and what should we let them figure out on their own.

Here is my list of what I would tell any new/expectant parent who asked for my advice/thoughts:

1) Be confidence and trust your instinct

This is a tall order. Being a new parent shook my confidence and self esteem to the core. I went from being great at my job to feeling like nothing I did was right. I would second guess myself all the time. So I am not suggesting that this piece of advice is easy to do, but I would still suggest that it is worth saying to a expectant Mom. Trusting your instinct and having confidence in your decisions will make a big difference. Not only will you feel better, but it will help your baby(ies) relax. Which brings us to #2.

2) Try to stay calm and confident.

Again, an other tall order. You won’t always be able to. Don’t feel guilty if you get frustrated, upset or sad. But, if you can try to stay calm, baby will sense that and it does help them stay calm. Especially during crying spells. The more worked up you get because you don’t know how to stop them from crying, the more baby senses you getting worked up, perceives that as something is wrong and then cry’s more. If you have attended to your babies needs and they are still crying, relax and accept that babies cry. The talent of staying calm will come in even more handy when baby is a toddler. Trust me.

3) Don’t feel isolated- reach out

I can’t tell you how many times I felt like I was along in how I felt or what I was struggling with. But with just about any struggle, challenge or feeling, someone else has gone through it. Reach out to family and friends and share how you feel. Chances are they know exactly how you feel and can empathize. If you have a really unique situation, there is good support to be found online, so long as your are careful and find a supportive community to engage with. Which brings us to point number 4.

3) Take the advice of strangers, online or offline, with a HUGE grain of salt

Strangers don’t know you and they don’t know your kid, so don’t let anything any stranger says make you feel bad, guilty or wrong. Online in particular, is full of people with opinions across the whole spectrum of just about any parenting issue. For any decision you make you can find someone who is going to suggest that what you did is wrong. So while online support can be helpful, be wary. If you are reading something and it makes you feel bad, guilty or like you are ‘messing’ up your child: stop reading. Even if the advice may be the right advice for you, try to find it in a form that makes you feel supported, relieved and heard. If you feel, deep down, that you are doing the right thing, don’t let someone else make you feel bad or feel like you need to justify yourself.

4) Be wary of ‘theory’ parenting

Parenting theories can be helpful, they give you a general philosophy to follow and some methods to try. But no parenting theory is one size fits all. If there was a perfect way to parent which worked for every baby and every family in every social/economic/geographical/cultural circumstance, we would all be doing in by now. The truth is, not matter what any theory has to say, there is more then one way to raise a intelligent, caring and confident child. On that note:

5) Don’t try and make a round peg fit a square hole

Let’s say you follow parenting philosophy X which says the best way to put baby to sleep is Y.  You think philosophy X is the one most suited to you (and your partners) believes and values. So you try baby sleep method Y. You try. You really really try. Over and over again. You were calm and confident in your decision and tried again. And it doesn’t work. What do you do? Stop. Try something else and don’t feel bad or guilty. If Y doesn’t work for your kid, Y doesn’t work for your kid. Again, there in no one size fits all parenting method. You got to go with what works for your kid.

6) Remember your bag of tricks and rotate often.

I felt, on numerous occasions, that I was doomed to learn the same lesson over and over again. I would figure out this great trick that worked wonders. Like a song that A really liked and calmed her down.  Then it would stop working. Then a couple weeks later when I was at my wits end I would remember said trick again and PRESTO it would work. The thing is that babies change really really quickly. So mix up your tricks and re-use often. For the first year of A’s life we rotated regularly through various methods for moving her around outside or out and about. We had 3 kinds of baby carriers and a stroller. It seemed like every couple of weeks one method would work better then an other. One week she would scream if put in a stroller and the next week it was her favorite place in the world. They change. Go with it.

So, as you can see, my general philosophy when it comes to advice is not so much to give advice on which way to go on specific decisions. (Although I do have some opinions on particularly decisions. If someone asked me my thoughts, or I feel like rambling about them here, then I will share those opinions.) But in general, I think the best advice we can offer new/expectant parents is how to approach the challenges. Because the actual choices they make should be based on their circumstance and their child, not my advice.

ControverSunday: Pacifiers and other comforts

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Our Lady of Perpetual Breadcrumbs

Altered Sky

amoment2think

Mommy-in-Chief

Two Makes Four

Now You’re in the World

Partial Disclosures

The Disgruntled Academic

Ramble Ramble

It’s that time again! Thanks to Perpetua for her great hosting of this bloggy thing (and a big thanks for letting me guest host last week- it was a blast) and thanks to Accidents for the spectacular badge, as always.

Here’s the thing. I get the argument against pacifiers. And I don’t disagree. I totally buy that they can have a negative impact on nursing. I can totally see how a kid can get addicted to them. I hear the critics who say that they already have a built in one: their thumb. Yes, they are a pain when a baby can’t sleep without one but constantly spits them out, putting parents (ahem, Moms) on all night pick-up-pacifier-patrol. I totally agree that sticking a soother in a screaming baby every time they cry doesn’t allow you to really listen to what they need. Babies need to express themselves and crying is a part of that. Yes, yes and yes.

But.

The darn things work.* And, especially in the first couple months of parenting…. I care more about doing whatever works that buys me a little more sleep and a little less crying. I believe in survival parenting…. whatever gets you through the day/night. No shame.

Where am I going with this?

I want to talk about the difference between parenting for the short term or the long term. I think this is an important topic in parenting and one that we often don’t address. There are a ton of parenting theories out there and parts of all of them are great. But the truth of the matter is that when you have a 8 week old baby, crying their head off for 4 hours straight and you haven’t had more then 2 hours sleep at a time for, well, 8 weeks…. theories don’t help you much. They are great, they have value, but they aren’t going to hold your baby for you so you can go take a nap.

Truth be told, I don’t think a lot of our choices matter as much as they seem to. Pacifier or no, co-sleep or crib sleep, CIO or No-cry, bottle fed or breast fed, stroller or sling…. if you walk into a class of 5 year old’s you couldn’t possibly sort them based on the choices their parents made. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying choices don’t have impacts, consequences, positives and negatives. BUT. I think it is more the big picture things that matter: love, patience, kindness, trust, acceptance, comfort, respect, consistency. You know, the big things.

On the other hand… short term parenting has its troubles. For example, if you buy your kid a toy to end a tantrum every time you go to the store… Or cave to that extra candy every day to bribe a kid to clean their room. Or let your 3 year old stay up 2 hours past bedtime every night, despite how cranky and tired they are. We are all human, we will all give in sometimes. But every time? Sometimes you have to make the tough choice in the short term in order to get a better result in the long term. Sometimes the tantrum is worth it because the short term fix causes an even bigger issue in the long term.

The problem is, when do you do what you need to just to get through and when do you parent for the long term? Which situations call for which approach?

I don’t know, I just know. My gut tells me which is which. And sometimes my gut is wrong. But I never claim to be a perfect parent.

So what does that have to do with pacifiers? Pacifiers are totally a short term/long term parenting problem. However. You don’t know if your kid is going to be the one that wants to use a pacifier until they are 6. Or if it will be no big deal to take it away in a couple months. So do you suffer short term on the possibility that it will negatively impact the long term?

I don’t know.

We gave A a soother at about 10 weeks (I don’t quite remember to be honest). We did have it in our heads to not give her one. But I caved. Because it worked. We knew to wait until ‘breastfeeding was established’, but as regular readers know… that boat never really sailed. We waited a while anyway. Regardless, we have always tried to be careful of over using it. A is a pretty happy baby for the most part and was never one prone to long crying bouts. So we reserved the soother for bedtime or nap time. That has kinda gone out the window lately with the transition to the day home, where it was beneficial to use her comfort item a bit more, but that will go back to normal soon.

Along with the soother we introduced a ‘lovey’ when A was about 2 months old. Honestly? Best thing we ever did. The soother probably needs to go sometime soon, but that lovey? She can keep it until she is 10 for all I care. She loves it. When she cry’s we go and get it and it calms her right down (along with hugs from Mom and Dad). Again, we use it mostly for bedtime, nap time and times of high stress (traveling, transition to day home, ect.).

Where am I going with this? Oh yeah, whatever works. I know some kids who’s parents regret ever giving them the thing, but we all make choices we regret. The problem is that it is impossible to tell if you are going to regret that choice. So I say, go with your gut. And if it starts being a problem, then try taking the thing away.

We are right at the point that I think A needs to let go of the soother. As I said, we have been pretty flex lately as she has transitioned to spending her days at the day home. I felt she needed that extra comfort. But in the next couple months the soother is going bye bye. Honestly, I don’t think she needs it. About a week ago, due to a mis-communication between my husband and I, she went to the day home sans soother and she was just fine. Nap time was fine. So I think she is ready. First we are going to separate her soother from her lovey. Then we will get really tough on the whole ‘only at bedtime and nap time’ rule. And then the soother will make its exit. Wish us luck!

* Opps! Forgot to put the obligatory caveat- let me try that again. The darn things work. For A. Maybe not your kid. Every kid= different. There. Now I feel better.

My Judgemental Little Secret

I have a confession to make.

You see, I do a lot of writing here on this blog about how we need to stop judging each other as parents and start supporting. It is something I truly believe. And I have been pretty open about how we all judge sometimes, but we would do well to remember that every kid is different and they all need different things.

But ask any of my friends or family and you will hear one area where I am persistently judgy. If I see a kid, between the ages of about 4 months and well, let’s be honest, at least 4 years, out with their parents past 7pm I can’t help but mumble to myself/who ever is with me: “Put that baby to bed.” I let the under 4 monthers off the hook, because those little monkeys tend to not sleep in any recognizable pattern- so whatever. But for the over 4 month crowd, I strongly believe in early bedtimes. First and foremost because well rested babies are happier babies. And secondly, because we parents need a break. So when I see a Mom with a 1 year old wondering the mall at 9pm I think “Put that baby to bed.”

I know, I know, I know… they don’t all sleep the way my daughter does. And I totally get that many parents take their kids out at night because 1) they need to get out of the house, 2) taking babies out sometimes keeps them occupied and therefore they are sometimes easier to handle, especially when they are refusing to sleep. I get it. I am not saying you should all lock yourselves up in your house with your cranky 8 month old that won’t sleep. Really I get it.

But, I also hear a lot of parents complaining about how their babies won’t sleep during the dreaded 6pm-10pm time slot, only to hear the same parents talk about all the things they go out and do in said time slot. And I can’t help but wonder- maybe the kid doesn’t know they should be sleeping at that time because they always get taken out and their little senses stimulated by light, noise and action, which tells their little brains it is not time to sleep. Artificial light has a huge impact on our circadian rhythms not matter what age we are….. I am just sayin’.

I truly credit part of the reason my daughter did start sleeping from 6pm-6am (with a 10pm bottle) at about 5 months was that we always made that 6-10pm time quiet, calm and dim. (Don’t hate me.) We used to carry her around in a sling to encourage her to sleep and we would talk in hushed voices. We rocked her or walked around with her. We rarely played or did anything too stimulating. Eventually she figured out we were no fun between 6-10pm, so she might as well sleep. For a while, she even went to bed around 5, it was awesome! I would expect in the next year her bedtime will move to 7ish and I am hoping it will stay there until she is, um 12? Maybe that is being a tad unrealistic. 10? Just let me be delusional about that one, okay.

Yes, yes, I know. I am being judgy. But it is because I care! I care people! I want your little monkeys to sleep so you can get a much deserved break. I am being supportatively judgmental. That is so totally a different thing. Okay, fine, I am just being a hypocrite. I accept that. I am willing to take the heat on this one. I know we won the lottery, so to speak, on the sleep thing. I know that so many parents do everything they can to encourage the kid to go to bed and they just don’t. Because, well, again, they are all different. But that doesn’t mean that taking them out the mall at 8pm is helping the situation. I am just sayin’. So I stand by my word: Put that baby to bed!!

Okay, I have said it. Now feel free to proceed to disagree. Really, I won’t mind.

ControverSunday: Free Topic Week

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This week is free topic week. So please join us if you would like! Check out Accidents to get the badge code (and to thank her for the cool badge) and start writing. Then head over to our lovely host, Perpetua to tell us you are in this week.

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The Mothering Life

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Accidents will happen.

Our Lady of Perpetual Bread Crumbs

I have decided this week to get really controversial. I am taking a stand and I just don’t care. I will do my best to do it in an un-judgy way, but I just can’t hold it in anymore. My topic: Sleep. Baby sleep.

I get really frustrated seeing claims that Cry-it-out (CIO) causes brain damage. It is just an other example of people trying to scare parents into (or out of) making a particular choice in parenting, rather then making decisions based on the unique nature of their child.

(Quick definition of CIO: A Sleep ‘training’ method whereby you put sleepy baby in crib and let them cry themselves to sleep. There are different methods, typically going in to sooth baby at regular intervals. But the main idea is that baby learns to fall asleep on their own without parental intervention.)

I can more then accept if any given parent decides CIO is not for them and not right for their baby. There are lots of babies and families for whom it is just not right for. I have no problem with that. I am not going to tell you how to get your baby to sleep. Do whatever works for you. You know your child better then anyone else- so trust yourself.

But please, oh please, do not give me the ‘letting your baby cry causes brain damage’ line. Now I am sure that my little blog is not going to be able to put this debate to rest, wish as I may. I also realize I may be setting myself up for quite the lashing should this post get read by someone who strongly advocates against CIO. I don’t know what I am thinking taking on this battle. But I am going to give it a go anyway.

Here is an excerpt from an article by Dr. Stephen Juan that sites three different sources/studies regarding brain damage and CIO. I found this article quoted on quite a few blogs, but I think it was originally published here in the National Post.

“According to a University of Pittsburgh study by Dr M DeBellis and seven colleagues, published in Biological Psychiatry in 2004, children who suffer early trauma generally develop smaller brains.

A Harvard University study by Dr M Teicher and five colleagues, also published in Biological Psychiatry, claims that the brain areas affected by severe distress are the limbic system, the left hemisphere, and the corpus callosum. Additional areas that may be involved are the hippocampus and the orbitofrontal cortex.

The Science of Parenting by Dr Margot Sunderland (Dorling Kindersley, 2006) is a recently published book that points out some of the brain damaging effects that can occur if parents fail to properly nurture a baby – and that means not allowing them to “cry it out”.”

“Allowing a baby to “cry it out” when they are upset will probably be regarded as child abuse by future generations.”

My first problem is that this article doesn’t provide any context. How much crying are we talking about? 45 minutes everyday for a week? Three hours every day for six months? Did it look at babies that had colic (who often cry for more then 3 hours a day, especially in the first 3 months)? How old were these babies (most CIO methods discourage using this method for babies under 4 months, usually 6 months)? Were they generally neglected or were they generally loved and responded to? Was CIO used even when they had an unmet need (for example- they were still hungry or wet or sick)? Did they look at babies who had different personalities and responses to CIO (I will explain what I mean below)? How big were these studies? What was the result for the children in terms of their actual abilities? What kind of brain damage are we talking about? (No brain damage is good, but I think it is important to quantify the impacts, as the range of possible impacts of brain damage could vary from undetectable within the normal range of development to unable to function in society.)

I think it is so irresponsible to site and and make claims based on studies without giving the reader at least some context. The author and reader of the original study are making conclusions that could be very biased by their perspective. For example, I found the article in Biological Psychiatry by Dr. Teicher. The study was of children whom had been neglected and abused, not a study of any particular sleep training method.

I suspect that the other studies were also not on the effects of varying sleep ‘training’ or non-training (like co-sleeping) methods, but rather on the effects of excessive crying due to neglect. I very much doubt these were babies older then 6 months whose parents are loving and responsive to their needs, but chose to use CIO because they felt it was the most appropriate method for the personality of their particular baby.  If anyone can actually find either of the other studies and wants to send them to me to read, that would be awesome. Otherwise, my best guess is that this a case of taking a study and using it to back up ones beliefs and agenda by going beyond what one could reasonably concluded.

When I read each of these paragraphs I sited above I don’t question the author claims about what these studies are saying: “children who suffer early trauma generally develop smaller brains”; “brain areas affected by severe distress are the limbic system, the left hemisphere, and the corpus callosum”;”the brain damaging effects that can occur if parents fail to properly nurture a baby.” This all seems relatively reasonable to me.

What I question is the leap the author has made that CIO actually causes the type of “early trauma”, “severe distress” and ‘failure of nurturing’ that these studies were looking at.

Don’t get me wrong- I don’t think CIO is the responsible choice for every parent and every child. I 100% agree the concept suggested by Moxie of Ask Moxie that some babies are tension releasers and some babies are tension increasers. This means for some babies, the act of crying gets them more and more upset. They can very quickly reach full panic that I don’t doubt isn’t in the child’s best interest if parents let it go on too long on a regular basis. If you have a ‘tension increaser’ baby CIO is probably not the best option, especially if used very strictly. Then again, I don’t have a ‘tension increaser’ baby; I trust that each parent can make the decision for their particular child as to the appropriateness and effectiveness of CIO. However, if you happen to have a ‘tension decreaser’ baby, in that they fuss and cry on and off and in decreasing severity until they are relaxed and fall asleep, I very much doubt it would have any ill effects. Especially if that child is well bonded to their parents and it shown lots of love and affection throughout the day.

I also have to say that I don’t think we give babies enough credit in terms of their ability to learn limitations. If my daughter can learn at 9 months to “pat your head” when you say that phrase, then she can understand that at night, when all her needs are meet and Mommy and Daddy have shown her love all day, that it is time to sleep. It is a reasonable boundary and limitation that is set there. It is not ignoring her for the sake of ignoring her. It is telling her that it is time to sleep, something that is very important to her well-being. Babies are far more aware of what is happening around them then we think. When we assume that they won’t understand that letting them fuss to sleep doesn’t mean we are not responsive to their needs, then we are doing them a disservice, in my opinion. Again, this is not an argument for any given parent to use CIO, just an argument against branding CIO as being unresponsive and neglectful by definition.

There are so many choices that we make as parents that someone will try and tell us are harmful, even abusive, to our children. I will say it again, I think this is irresponsible. If you want to promote your suggested method of getting babies to sleep as being the most beneficial and effective- go for it. Any tired parent is up for suggestions. But don’t build your method up by leveling ridiculous claims of harm and abuse on an other method. Or by making a false connection beyond the scope of a study to the application of a particular parenting choice. Furthermore, if you are going to critique a particular parenting choice do by looking at the way that parenting choice is typically applied, rather then its extreme application. I have seen many Anti-CIO posts that refer to how cruel it is to put a baby in a crib and leave them there for 12 hours come hell or high water. But very few, if any, parents I have heard of actually apply CIO this strictly. Most parents I have talked to using CIO err on the side of responding too much crying rather then ignoring it.

Because I think context is important, I will share with you how we have used CIO:

Based on the suggestions of the book “Bed Timing” we waited until our daughter was 5 1/2 months to try CIO. As the book argues, that is the first window of opportunity where it is appropriate in the babies development to attempt any type of sleep ‘training’ method, be it CIO or ‘No-Cry’. At about the same time, our daughter, who we rocked and held until she feel asleep from birth, suddenly rejected any attempt on our part to help her fall asleep by soothing her. She would SCREAM and arch her back. We tried everything. We tried all the “No Cry Sleep Solution” techniques, which are fabulous, by the way. That book really helped us to create a soothing, calming, predictable routine that helped her get ready for bed. But in terms of actually falling asleep- if either my husband or I were within eye sight of her, she would not fall asleep. It was taking hours to put her down. There was A LOT of crying going on. A LOT, A LOT. Our baby was not a happy baby at bedtime and I am sure it was possible that she felt her need (which we discovered was to be left alone) was not being met. Eventually, we used a calm, soothing bedtime routine and then put her down in her crib and walked away.

The first night she cried, on and off, for about 45 minutes. The next night it was about 30. I think the next night was about 25. Within a week or so she fussed for a couple minutes on and off and then went to sleep. From then on, she was good. She doesn’t always go to sleep right away, sometimes she fusses or babbles for up to 45 minutes- but she rarely crys. When she does cry it is typically for only 5 minutes. This will sometimes happen during a change of routine (like being on vacation as I recently found out), or if she can tell I am a bit stressed out (like when I do our monthly budget- ekk!), or if she is going through a particularly clingy developmental stage (like the onset of separation anxiety at 8 months) or if she is sick (like the ‘flu like symptoms’ she got after her H1N1 shot). These are exceptions and we treat them as such.

I should also note, that when we started CIO we went in at regular intervals to soothe her. She would have none of it; holding her up, talking to her, rubbing her back, all of this just seemed to keep her awake, rather then help her fall asleep. My instinct told me to let her be. So we did, and she had a much easier time falling asleep after that.

We also learned pretty quickly that there was a difference between her “I just need to fuss to fall asleep cry” and her “come and get me because I need something” cry. And if she did the “I need something” cry we are in their faster then you can say ‘baby.’ She gets what she needs: new diaper, more formula, an extra hug, a kind soothing word, advil if she has some serious teething going on, ect. She is never neglected. But she will not fall asleep unless we leave her be. That is just how she is.

I have said this a number of times, but I am going to say it again. We need to stop judging and making broad universal claims about how to raise our kids. They are all built differently, they all need different things and they are all unique. We need to treat them as such. I believe it is important to take into account their uniqueness when we making parenting decisions. And accept that we aren’t all going to do this gig they call parenting the same way. This is a good thing- not a bad thing. Trust your fellow parents that they know their kids better then anyone else and they are trying their best to do what is right by their kid. Share ideas, great tips and support. But enough with the scare tactic bull, its not helping anyone.

Baby. Sleep.

The ultimate topic of conversation for any new Mom (or Dad).

I am sure most of you do not need my advice/thoughts on the matter. There are about a thousand people, a billion books and trillion internet sites, all talking about the same thing: how to get your little bundle of joy/ultimate creator of sleep deprivation to GO TO SLEEP and STAY ASLEEP. Most of you reading this (meaning my friends, colleagues and family) have already gotten through the rough early months with your baby or babies, so you can just skip reading this post. I am writing this in case a poor sleep deprived Mother (or Father) stumbles upon this article and I might be able to help.

First of all, let me acknowledge that every baby is different and what works for one will not always work for an other. Also, let me say that our little monkey has been a  good sleeper from the beginning. That doesn’t mean there weren’t/aren’t major struggles along the way, but I do know that some kids are better sleepers then others. So, at the risk of sounding like the skinny girl with the high metabolism giving advice about dieting to someone who’s metabolism sucks….here are my favourite books and websites re: baby sleep.

1) I really liked the book “The 90 minute Sleep Program” by Polly Moore on sleep/activity cycles. This worked like a charm for our baby. The idea is that babies (actually all of us) follow a 90 minute cycle going from being very alert and active to being more relaxed and calm. Thus, if you want your little monkey to sleep, try to put them dow 90 minutes from when they wake up, when they are least active in the cycle. If they are older and can stay awake for more then 90 minutes, you want to try in a multiples of 90 minutes (3 hours, 4 1/2 hours). Especially for babies under 6 months, instead of even attempting a ‘schedule’ based on the clock, they suggest a pattern of time between naps/sleep. For example, a typical pattern for a baby who is  about 4 months old:

Time baby wakes up + 90 minutes= #1 nap

time baby wakes up from #1 nap + 3 hours= #2 nap

time baby wakes up from #2 nap + 90 minutes= #3 nap

time baby wakes up from #3 nap + 90 minutes= bed

Now, this pre-supposes that you can a) get your baby to sleep and b) they sleep for longer then 20 minutes… but it is still good advice to try every 90 minutes. Especially if/when your baby is not sleeping well. Also, where to stick that 3 hour stretch in is random and totally up to you. And do however many naps you want, I just found that three worked at that age.

2) The book “Bed Timing” by Marc Lewis and Isabel Granic had some very unique suggestions about when to attempt sleep training (either cry it out or no cry methods) based on babies developmental stages. Their basic argument is that as babies go through different cognitive and emotional development there are times where things are just too crazy in their little brains to handle sleep training. Then there are periods of relative calm, from a developmental point of view, and these are the windows of opportunity for sleep training. (Spoiler alert: In case you are too sleep deprived to read it, the ‘best’ time is between 5 1/2 and 7 1/2 months. BEFORE they go through fun times in the form of separation anxiety that makes sleep training harder.) Oh, and they also go through the most popular cry it out and no cry methods and give tips on how to make them work for babies at their different developmental stages.

And if you are really interested in the whole ‘development and what it means for my baby’s behaviour’ thing you can pick up a copy of “The Wonder Weeks.” Fascinating. All your babies really frustrating behavour begins to make sense, kinda. Here is their website: http://www.thewonderweeks.com.

3) An awesome website to check out for all your parenting woes is ‘Ask Moxie.’

The thing I love about Moxie is that just when you are about to cry because you are so frustrated, you look up a post on her blog about it and laugh until you cry. Thus releasing all of your frustration into one big laugh/cry session.

My favourite of her posts are on sleep regressions (http://www.askmoxie.org/2006/02/qa_what_are_sle.html) and on “CIO” (cry-it-out) sleep training (http://www.askmoxie.org/2006/06/babies_and_cio.html). I particularly like her explanation on recognizing if your baby is a tension releaser or a tension increaser when crying. Essentially, she is saying that if your baby gets increasingly upset when crying (tension increaser) then CIO is probably not for you. If your baby is like ours, and her crying dissipates pretty quickly, then Moxie doesn’t consider this using a true CIO method. (I still think it is CIO; CIO just tends to work for babies like ours, and not for babies that are tension increasers).

4) “The No Cry Sleep Solution” by Elizabeth Pantley. Great book. Non-judgmental, supportive and a collection of great ideas whether or not you use a CIO or no-cry methods. Essentially her deal is: pick a bunch of ideas from the book you think will work for your little monkey. Try for a couple weeks to a month. Keep what works, trash what doesn’t, try some more stuff. Wash, rinse, repeat until you find what works. When baby changes the game again (which they always do) go back to the book for some more ideas. Wash, rinse, repeat.

5) The Baby Sleep Site. (http://www.babysleepsite.com/) Some pretty good free articles with reasonable advice. Some good examples of suggested schedules for babies older the 6 months. Just don’t sign up for their newsletters unless you are okay with a ton of e-mails suggesting all the other stuff they can sell you to help you get your kid to sleep. That being said, the website is connected with an online program for tracking feeding, sleeping and other such things that would have been particularly helpful when our baby was newborn. It would have saved about 25 trees that were used up when I tried to write every detail down. Why did I do that again? Anyway, I am sure you can find the link on their site if your are interested.

Now, for the things/ types of advice to AVOID AT ALL COSTS.

1) Ignore any book/website/person who strikes you as judgmental, or claims that their way is the only way and all others are cruel and unusual punishment or don’t work. I can think of two books off the top of my head that are like this…. you know who I mean… the lady who claims she can ‘whisper’ to babies and the guy who’s name is like the name of a department store. Sorry to anyone who found these two valuable… but I found them uber-juddgy and therefore, even if they do have some good advice, any new Mom ends up feeling like crap after reading them. Not what you need. (I will say that I read the whispering one before I gave birth and thought it was a fabulously good system. Then I had my baby and realized it was crap. Except the dream feeding thing, that worked wonders. Google it. She is still a nut-bar though.)

2) Only do what you feel comfortable doing. Even if you are desperate, do not attempt something that you don’t feel right about. Trust your parental instincts. If you don’t feel good, the baby can tell. Then likelihood of them being relax enough to sleep when they see you are uncomfortable is about zero. Less then zero.

3) Don’t believe anyone who says they can change your babies sleep patterns in anything less then 2-3 weeks. It is not an overnight thing. And their little brains and bodies keep changing, so you are trying to hit a moving target. Not easy.

Hope this helps someone out there.

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