A Facebook reader has concerns about my suggested approach for getting an infant to be a good sleeper:
I’m disappointed to see this “one-size fits all approach” to responding to our babies. Adults don’t have the same sleep needs and patterns as one another, why do we assume all children have the same needs and therefore all are fine crying themselves to sleep?
I suppose writing recommendations and suggestions on a blog (or in a book or magazine) is bound to give the appearance that there is only one way (my way) to do things. I’ll accept that criticism and take it constructively.
Adults have learned their sleep patterns over many years of nightly practice, beginning on their very first day of life. It’s my belief — from my own experience with my own three kids as well as from parents telling me again and again (for 22+ years) that this is the best advice I’ve ever given them — that it is never too early to put a baby to sleep on their back (SIDS prevention), in their crib (not cradle or bassinet), in their own room (if possible).
As I stated in the original post, these suggestions are for “healthy, full-term” infants. My approach might be different for different circumstances: prematurity, congenital abnormalities, acute and chronic medical conditions, assorted family living arrangements and family dynamics, and so on.
I think we can agree that as parents, our goal is to get our babies to sleep through the night, every night, on their own, as soon as possible. And we can also agree that getting babies into good, hopefully life-long sleep habits will be a healthy thing for them in the long run. Also, we should recognize that wanting your kids to sleep through the night, on their own, is selfish. “Never underestimate a good night’s sleep” is a good motto for parents’ own health. Parents need to sleep well, too!
This Facebook reader says it really works:
I actually remember Dr. Ketyer recommending this to me in the office when my 2nd daughter was a newborn. We didn’t immediately do what he suggested. I hesitated since I was nursing, but, within a week or two, I did move my daughter into her own room. I think this is a great approach, and you can make it work for you. My daughters are great sleepers and I believe it is because they were in their own rooms within a few weeks of birth. They both started sleeping through the night at 9-10 weeks old.
It’s true that not every baby is the same. But young babies are similar. Their needs revolve around four functions: eating, sleeping, pooping, and fussing. Crying has a purpose — it lets parents know that something may be wrong. But it is also a way for babies to expend energy and settle down — especially at night. It’s hard at first to recognize the difference, which is why it’s so hard for some parents to let their babies cry in the first place. Crying is a language: with time it gets easier to understand.
If this approach is not working for either you or your baby let us know. It may be a sign that there is something wrong with the baby (like gastroesophageal reflux — GERD), the mother (post-partum anxiety and depression), or the living and sleeping arrangement (apartment dwellers may find that letting a baby cry is just not cool). In these cases, we can help you find an approach to sleep that works better.
Have a plan, start a routine, be consistent, be patient. If you can’t let your baby cry at night, then don’t! We can talk about it in the office and brainstorm a better plan for your baby and for you.
Read more PediaBlog posts on sleeping here.