On the advice of a well-meaning friend, we read Babywise before Lamb was born and tried to follow the plan after we brought him home. From the perspective of soon-to-be parents, the advice in Babywise seems totally legitimate: follow the plan, get real sleep sooner. We didn't know any better, and I suspect we weren't the first parents to be lured away from a broader view of nighttime parenting by the siren song of a good night's sleep. We soon discovered that the advice in Babywise directly contradicted our parental instincts to pick up, soothe, and feed a crying Lamb. It also set us up to feel like totally inadequate parents when our sleep "success" with Lamb didn't last.
Since then, I've done plenty more research, and my view of the baby sleep issue feels a little more balanced. Here are a few things I've learned that led me to question my faith in sleep training:
- Sleeping through the night is a milestone like walking and talking; babies reach these milestones at their own paces. It's silly to imagine forcing a child to walk or talk, and it's just as silly to think we can "make" him sleep.
- Repeatedly letting Baby cry it out alone can affect his brain development and his ability to form meaningful relationships later in life.
- The feeding schedule outlined in Babywise doesn't support healthy babies or a strong breastfeeding relationship; in fact, the schedule has been associated with failure to thrive, dehydration, and earlier weaning due to low milk production. (reprint of original article)
- Babies wake in the night for real reasons (not just to torture us!), including teething, illness, hunger, or to reconnect with Mom, especially if she is working during the day.
- Babies don't sleep the way adults do, and forcing infants to sleep too deeply too soon can be dangerous.
- Refusing to respond to Baby's cries at night risks losing his trust.
Moms, weigh in: did you sleep train your kids? How did it go? If you didn't, what did you do to help your little ones sleep?
PS: This book has awesome, sensitive advice that isn't "let him cry it out."