Gentle And No-Cry Baby Sleep Techniques
One of the hardest parts of parenting is the lack of sleep. Sure, it's now your job to keep another human being alive, but you know what? That responsibility would seem a lot less terrifying if you could only get five consecutive hours of sleep. Am I right?
Why the hell don't babies sleep through the night?
Well, a few freaky ones do, but most do not...no matter what your friends, family and strangers on the street tell you. They're lying, or at least exaggerating. Oh, and by the way, "sleeping through the night" for a baby is defined as five to six hours of uninterrupted sleep and while that may sound lovely, it's not exactly the eight hours most of us crave.
The simple explanation is that babies are used to the womb where they were constantly fed through their handy umbilical cord, rocked while you walked and they always felt cozy. Now they're in the outside world, they're hungry, confused and a bit overwhelmed. They wake to eat, to be held, to burp, to poo or just to scream and complain about something you'll never figure out. Their little bodies and brains are developing at an alarming rate and these are just needs.
What the hell can you do about it?
Mostly, accept it and nap whenever you can. Of course, there are ways to improve your chances of catching a few more precious hours or even minutes but you'll find that no matter what method you choose, your little one will totally change his or her habits every few months (or weeks, or, let's be honest, days). This is not meant to discourage, but to empower you not to feel like a failure when you read a sleep book, try all its methods, and still find baby waking every two hours. That totally is okay and normal.
What you'll find below
Having said all of that, there are some great books with great tips that will make you feel like a competent, sane parent with a normal, healthy baby. They may not guarantee 12 blissful hours of sleep but they won't turn you into a crazy person who charts every ounce your baby drinks and every minute they sleep, either.
What you won't find below
You won't find any books that suggest cry-it-out or pick-up-put-down methods because I never tried them, so can't vouch for them. And the excerpts I did read from these types of books made me feel like I was doing everything wrong, even though I was mostly following my maternal instinct and doing whatever baby seemed to need. Even the "put baby down awake, but sleepy" concept has been a challenge for me and my fall-asleep-on-the-breast babies.
Please know that I place no judgement on people who use cry-it-out or other sleep training methods. Sleep deprivation is brutal. Every parent needs to do whatever they feel is necessary to make it through each day and be the best mom or dad they can be.
The No-Cry Sleep Solution
Like most baby sleep books, this one explains baby sleep cycles and then gets to the good stuff: getting your kid to fall sleep easier and stay asleep longer. The basic concept here is finding and using tools (sounds, phrases, songs) that your child associates with sleep and using those to get baby back to sleep at night without feeding, picking up or rocking. But you build up to this, and in the beginning, nursing, rocking and all other methods are totally okay.
This book is all about ensuring baby is comfortable, happy and transitions easily from one stage to another.
The No-Cry Sleep Solution, $12.95, amazon.ca
The Gentle Sleep Book
Author Sarah Ockwell-Smith has a background in psychology, is a trained psychotherapist, hypnotherapist and doula. She explains the science behind children's sleep from birth through pre-school and shares tips for coping with sleep deprivation as well as gentle ways to help your children sleep. This isn't so much a sleep training method as a guide to baby's sleep that will give you the tools you need to stick it out through the tough times.
The Gentle Sleep Book, $11.45, amazon.ca
The Happiest Baby On The Block
This isn't a sleep guide. It's a guide to keeping baby happy any time with the added bonus of teaching you how to get your baby to sleep quickly and effectively. Dr. Harvey Karp is known for his 5 S method for soothing crying babies and, if they're tired, getting them to sleep. It consists of Swaddle, Side or Stomach (carrying baby so they're on their side or stomach), Shush, Swing and Suck (a thumb or pacifier) and the book explains how to do it in detail. The new version even includes a method for colicky infants. It's full of interesting facts about babies and why they act the way they do, plus includes tips on how to help baby sleep longer.
The Happiest Baby On The Block, $15.16, amazon.ca
The Baby Sleep Book
If you're not already familiar with Dr. William Sears, he's the person who coined the phrase "attachment parenting." Sears and his wife Martha, a registered nurse, are parents to eight children and co-authors of many books, including this one. Attachment parenting is about keeping baby close both literally and figuratively, creating a strong attachment and bond with parent and child. The Searses actually encourage rocking and breastfeeding to sleep and co-sleeping to help foster a positive association with sleep. This book may be the least like a sleep training guide and that's the way it's meant to be. Dr. Sears is wary and critical of cry-it-out techniques and explains why in these pages.
The Baby Sleep Book, $14.07, amazon.ca