Baby Sleep Books: A Goldilocks Tale

April 5, 2018 Motherhood 12

Howdy Bookworms!
I know, I disappeared AGAIN but I have reasons. The tiny human I helped to create has been alternately sick or teething for the past 3 months solid. I’m not exaggerating. The kid is 7 months old and has EIGHT TEETH. Now he’s cutting molars. And before you say “oh no, you’re crazy, kids don’t cut molars that young,” he’s already got WAY more teeth than average for his age, so just take my word for it, okay? All of this teething and sickness (RSV in an infant is no freaking joke, y’all) and general developmental milestones made for some less than stellar nights of sleep, so I turned to books in an attempt to improve upon that. And thus I began my “how do I get my kid to stop waking up every 2 hours” journey.

I know I’m probably stepping into a giant minefield writing a parenting post, but I read SO MANY of these dang books that I feel the need to discuss them. To start, my parenting approach is basically:

  1. Different things work for different families.
  2. Be humble and flexible.

The first book I tried out was Elizabeth Pantley’s The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night. This was my first choice because, obviously, I hate hearing the young sir cry and if I could kiss his cheeks 24 hours a day, I probably would. While I liked a lot of what this book had to say, it wasn’t a perfect fit for our situation. I’m nursing, so I found a lot of those tips helpful, but it also advocated for co-sleeping and room sharing which isn’t my jam. Overall I didn’t hate the book, but it was the proverbial Mama Bear’s chair of sleep books. Just a little too soft.

I mean, seriously. THIS FACE! Also, note the four bottom teeth. The four on the top have cut through, but you can’t quite see them when he smiles yet.

The next book I attempted was On Becoming Baby Wise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep by Gary Ezzo and Dr. Robert Bucknam. This was recommended to me from a place of absolute kindness, and I harbor no ill will toward the gal who pointed me in its direction. However. I don’t know that I’ve disliked a book so vehemently since I was required to read Moby Dick in high school. I found it incredibly rigid in its recommendations and I thought the tone was smug and dismissive of virtually every other parenting philosophy in the history of the universe. I didn’t make it very far in before I gave up the ship on this one. Do I think it’s a lifesaver for some families? I mean, it must be since it’s sold a boatload of copies. Perhaps if I could have gotten past the tone of the book I would have found some nuggets of information helpful. Ultimately though, I couldn’t stomach it and I’m glad I accessed it through the library and didn’t give these folks my hard earned dollars. I’m afraid On Becoming Baby Wise is a giant NOPE for me.

There were a few other books I attempted to start along the way, but I found my Goldilocks moment when I stumbled upon Precious Little Sleep: The Complete Baby Sleep Guide for Modern Parents by Alexis Dubief. Precious Little Sleep began as a blog and eventually morphed into a book. This was EXACTLY what I wanted in a sleep book. Irreverent, funny, and helpful. Instead of a “follow this exact system” approach, Dubief explained the major tenets of most sleep training philosophies. She embraced the idea that different approaches work for different families. Plus, there were Princess Bride references. I like to think the author and I would be friends should we meet IRL, and I’d much rather take advice from a friend than from anyone claiming to have THE ONE CORRECT ANSWER.

So where are we now? Things are much better. We arrived at this point mostly through my allowing a few minutes of fussing to see if the baby would put himself back to sleep instead of my rushing in at the first tiny noise. The big takeaway for me from Dubief’s book was that giving Sam a little space to figure things out for himself was acceptable and that if he hadn’t calmed himself within a few minutes it was totally okay for me or Jim to go to him and soothe him in whatever way seemed appropriate. It also made me feel that the end goal was simply finding a sleep situation we could all live with; we’re not a failing at life if he doesn’t sleep a solid 12 hours without a peep.

Marauder in training. So many adventures await.

We’ve gone from waking every 1.5-2 hours to once or twice a night. I really don’t mind the 1-2 wake up calls, though, because I get physically uncomfortable going a super long stretch without feeding. (That’s just real life boob talk right there.) I’m sure things will change down the road. I’m sure we’ve got plenty more sleep regressions and illnesses and random setbacks we’ll have to overcome. I’m sure at some point those 1-2 wake up calls are going to get old and I’ll want to eliminate them. But for now? We’re all getting more sleep and I feel less like a zombified mom failure.

So, Bookworms who are also parents (or who hang around kids a lot)- how do you feel about parenting books? And to you Bookworms who are not parents- isn’t my kid cute and aren’t books just wonderful in general?

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12 Responses to “Baby Sleep Books: A Goldilocks Tale”

  1. Lisa G

    I think your kid is adorable. I think parenting books are like jelly beans, mostly enh, but not horrible. Occasionally you find a great one (I tend to love white jelly beans) and once in a while, they really suck (read: black jelly beans). Knowing what works for you is important. Sleep is a vital thing. I’m glad you (all) are getting more of it. And happy late birthday to Jim, since I saw it was his bday, but Facebook is basically a black hole for me.

  2. Psychobabble

    I largely think that parenting books are a huge waste of time. What I feel works better and faster is to ask parent friends, “hey, I’m having issue x. What worked for you?” And then you take all the responses and try some you think might work til you find one that does.
    In my experience, parenting books are far too preachy and end up making me doubt my intuition, which is usually right to begin with.
    Yay for getting him to sleep and OH MY GLOBS you have a cute one.

    • Words for Worms

      Yeah, I’m thinking parenting books aren’t really going to be my go-to. Being among the last of my friend group to take the parenting journey, I’ve got a lot of great resources at my fingertips. I was just SO SURE I’d find the easy fix to the sleep thing in a book. Because books.

  3. lostinliterature108

    Haha! Well, I confess, I did Babywise and it worked great for us. Sure, there were times when flexibility was called for, or when I went with my intuituon over the structure, but the majority of the time it worked for us, and was a life saver with twins.

    With our first child, we didn’t start It until 13 months. 13 months of sleep depriviation and after a very short time, she fell right into it.

    We started it with the boys around 2 weeks old, once nursing issues were.settled. Ezzo’s plan is to double the amount of time expected for multiples which should be 12 weeks. It took one kid 14 weeks and the other 15, but it worked.
    It was recommended to me by one friend l, but I had another friend who HATED it.

    So you are right. Different things work for different families.

    And your kid is nothing short of ADORABLE.

    • wordsfor

      I’m glad Babywise worked for you! It was just a no-go for me. Apparently even when I’m looking for someone to literally tell me what to do, I need them to do so in a specific way. Probably why I never read self help books under normal circumstances. Also, I think having twins is an ENTIRELY different ballgame, and structure would be a lot more important in that situation. The grown ups outnumber the children at the moment. If that were to change, things might get dicey.

  4. Kristen M.

    I read exactly zero parenting books when Z was little, even the one that his pediatrician had written. They just never seemed to address exactly what we were going through and I was too tired to read something that wasn’t just what we needed. You are so right though with your two parenting approach points. Trial and error was our best friend — that and the fact that Z slept through the night at 10 weeks. 😉

    • Words for Worms

      Aww you had a unicorn sleeper baby! Lucky! I actually asked my pediatrician about it because the stupid internet was all “your baby should sleep through the night at 4 months and you’re obviously doing everything wrong if this is not the case.” His doc assured me that while a lot of kids do sleep through the night before Sammy’s age, they usually just do it on their own, not because of some magical technique. Seriously though. Of all the milestones my son had to be early on, we get teething? Not cool, universe. Not cool. (But since everything else about him is perfect I won’t complain, please don’t smite me, universe!!! Parenting has made me superstitious.)

  5. somer

    Um, your baby look just like you! So, as a bookworm, I of course, read a ton of books during pregnancy. And then some more after my baby was born. I didn’t think it healthy to try to sleep train before 4 months, so that is when I began reading sleep books. I really liked, The Happy Sleeper. I felt like it really described the science behind how babies sleep, and made it more understandable to know what’s going on for them. Without taking any of the book’s advice, just knowing the science of sleep, was a huge help. Overall, I think self help books can really just be a pamphlet. I’ve noticed all of the baby books I’ve read repeat themselves so much, that I really just skim them. And then I get nervous that I’ve missed something important hidden somewhere. And after half a dozen sleep books, they really say the same thing for the most part. I got my baby down to only one wakeup and I was pretty excited about that. But then a 10 month sleep regression hit and it was just as bad as the 4 month regression. We’re still dealing with it, but last night was a good night with 2 wakeups and a 5am morning wakeup. But what can you do? Good luck!

    • wordsfor

      You know, the more people tell me Sammers looks like me, the more conceited I get, LOL. It’s like, I might be insecure about my looks sometimes, but if I look like this little piece of perfection? I must be cuter than I realized! Both the No-Cry Sleep Solution and Precious Little Sleep did a great job of explaining the science of baby sleep which is soooooooo helpful to know just in general. I’m just going to enjoy this while it lasts, we already had one horrendous night again recently, so I know we’re not totally out of the woods.

  6. Shannon

    I have yet to read a parenting book, though I do google articles all the time to fit whatever situation we are in.

    Thankfully Little Miss is a decent sleeper, but it was a lot of trial an error around the 4 month mark that got us there- I was cranky around 7 months when she went through a regression that made her wake up once a night, which totally makes me sound like a spoiled brat. I’m kind of a crunchy mama though; we bed share which has been a lifesaver- in her crib she would have trouble sleeping more than an hour or 2 at a time. In bed with me the couple of times a night she stirs I can rock her back to sleep without either of us waking up all the way

    Still no teeth here at 10 months…I’m so dreading it!

    • wordsfor

      Not a spoiled brat at all! Sometimes I’ll read the comments sections or mom forums and they’re talking about their kids being up every 45 minutes and I’m just like “am I overreacting here? Yikes!” I’m glad you found a sleep situation that works for you! Bed sharing wouldn’t be a good fit for our household, but I know lots of folks who swear by it.

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