I Read All The Baby Sleep Books So You Don’t Have To
I was at a girls’ weekend a few months back. My friends and I were swapping Amazon passwords so we could download each other’s Kindle libraries (shhh…).
But. No one wanted my library.
That’s because the only e-books I own are baby sleep books. (Pour one out for the fun, well-rounded person I was once.) I’ve got Jodi Mindell, Richard Ferber, Harvey Karp, Moms on Call, Marc Weissbluth, The Informed Parent, Baby 411, William Sears, Zero to Five, and Bringing up Bebe. And I’ve read them all cover-to-cover.
I did this because sleep is my spirit animal. And I was terrified of losing it when I had my daughter, Winnie. Ultimately, our winning combination was putting her to sleep in a baby box next to the bed, drowsy but awake, with a tiny dash of sleep training at her 4-month sleep regression. But, that’s my experience. All babies are different and that’s why there are 45 million(ish) baby sleep books.
The great news is that because I’ve read all of these books, you don’t have to.*
*Note: If you’re facing a specific sleep or health issue – like night terrors or sleep apnea – it’s worth talking to your doctor and reading the books yourself.
Here’s what I’ve learned from baby sleep books:
Babies wake up… a lot. Every 45-60 minutes, in fact. All of us go through sleep cycles. Adults wake every 90 minutes or so to flip over their pillows or elbow their partners. Babies’ nervous systems are immature so they wake every 45-60 minutes. They also tend to cry at these times. Super.
My experience: Yep. They sure do wake up a lot. No one is surprised by this.
Help baby learn to put him or herself back to sleep. Since babies wake up a lot, it’s helpful for them to learn how to go back to sleep without you. Otherwise you get to wake up every 45-60 minutes, too. Pass.
At bedtime, put baby to sleep drowsy, but awake. Your little one feels disconcerted when she falls asleep in your arms but then wakes up an hour later in a different place. So rock, walk, sing, whatever until your sweetie is oh-so-close to asleep, but put her in her bed before her little eyes are shut tight.
My experience: I got obsessed with the definition of “drowsy.” I mean, what does “drowsy” even look like in a baby that passes out while nursing? It turns out finding the perfect amount of “drowsy” doesn’t matter at all and I was just being crazy. My best strategy was to rub W’s back a little as I put her down. Her eyelids would flutter. “Great,” I thought, “that was .05 seconds of awake, right?” Over time, W was more alert and I would put her down when her blinks started to get very heavy and slow.
Pause for a few seconds before going to your baby at night. When your sweet pea inevitably wakes up in the night, take a few breaths before rushing to his or her side. Start with just one breath and build up to a longer pause over time – 2 or 3 minutes if you can. This gives your little darling a chance to go back to sleep without you.
My experience: The baby box next to the bed really helped here. I could, without moving, glance over and see that W was ok without her realizing I was watching. It helped me…