If I could have one wish…

Ask the parent of a baby if they could have one wish what would it be. With no hesitation at all, almost all of them will say wistfully, sleep. “Ahh, if I could just sleep with no interruptions.”

Sleep deprivation is a common problem, it just goes with the territory when you’re parenting a baby. But is it a given? Do we really need to stumble through the first year of our baby’s life rubbing our eyes and dreaming of the night we actually sleep for more than a few hours at a stretch? Well, yes and no.

When an exhausted parent looks for answers it seems that there are two choices: live with it, it’s part of the reality and will pass eventually, or let the baby cry it out. Weary parents are not very interested in simply living with it, but listening to their baby’s cries hour after hour just doesn’t seem right.

Finally there is a realistic plan. I just came across a book by parent educator Elizabeth Pantley called the no-cry sleep solution and oh I wish I had had that book when my children were babies. Parents I speak to find listening to their baby sob difficult, in fact many find it simply impossible. But many of the books and articles I see on this issue, are rigid and adult-centered and imply that listening to your child cry is the only recourse. This book is child-centered while at the same time recognizing that tired parents need some sleep.

First, she is not rigid. She helps you develop a plan that fits you and your baby. As she says, “Every baby is unique, every mother in unique and every family is unique. Only you can determine the right answers for your situation.” How refreshing to read an author who doesn’t lay down the law but offers a range of solutions as well as information.

There are some things you need to know. The biological clock which regulates our sleeping patterns does not run smoothly until baby is four to five months old, so if it seems that she can’t tell night from day, it’s because she can’t. It’s also helpful to note that most babies wake two to three time a night up to about six months of age and once or twice until twelve months. And here’s the real kicker! When the baby sleeps five consecutive hours, that is defined as sleeping through the night. So, up to a point, we do have to live with it. Our babies need our care and attention at least a few times during what we would call through the night.

I can hear you now. What about the babies that waken every hour or two? Just like us, babies have a sleep rhythm with deeper sleep, lighter sleep and brief awakenings. When we awaken we punch our pillow or roll over and go back to sleep. When our babies awaken we often rush to them, teaching them to need us even when they are not really awake, hungry or wet. Our job is to learn to tell the difference between their sleep sound and their awake sounds. It’s not letting them cry but is letting them snort or snuffle when they come awake, then waiting to hear them settle back to sleep.

This book is for real parents with real babies. The author is the mother of four children and understands the need for sleep. The book makes sense.

She starts with safety issues. What if you want to co-sleep? How can you prevent SIDS? What about crib safety? Then she talks about basic sleep facts so that armed with knowledge you can develop the sleep solutions that will work best for you and your little one.

This is a program and not a program. Some of the basic ideas are putting baby to bed when he’s sleepy but before he’s asleep so he will learn to fall asleep on his own, catching him as soon as he’s tired and before he gets his second wind and developing a routine. She also doesn’t promise miracles and is clear that this will take some time.

We often discuss bedtime routine but never have I seen their importance put forth as forcefully and clearly as in this book. Pantley is clear that routines are very important and need to be in place as long as the child needs them, which can be until they are about ten years old. You simply adjust them to suit the age of the child.

Pick up the no-cry sleep solution and sweet dreams.

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