I’ve read a lot of parenting books. Partly because I am the sort of person who likes to do her research, partly because I’ve spent a lot of the last five years on bedrest, growing babies, and I haven’t had that much else to do. (Ok, fine — I didn’t read that much when I was sitting in the hospital waiting for Pancake and Sausage to arrive. I watched the first three seasons of Dexter on Netflix instead. Lots to be learned there, too.)
But no matter how much I’ve read, I can honestly say the first book I ever picked up on my Mommy journey remains, for me, the first, last, and really most profound WORD on parenting ever penned:
Here’s a little story about Mommy learning curves:
When Diddy was born, I couldn’t get enough of her. I literally could not ever put her down. Not because she needed to be held 24/7, but because I needed to hold her. She was just so damn cute. And I’d made her. I’d grown her, I’d delivered her — and without an epidural, to boot! I used to tuck her under my bathrobe and let her fall asleep on my chest. Mr. Big(Ideas) used to do it, too. We just couldn’t get enough of our Diddy.
She started out sleeping in a Snuggle Nest in our bed. But she was a pretty loud sleeper, so around four months, we moved her into her crib in what we called her “n-office” (half her nursery / half our office). Thanks to my obsession with The Happiest Baby on the Block, she was properly swaddled and shushed and swung to sleep each night. This took about forty-five minutes of rocking her down. I’d start, then Mr. Big(Ideas) would come home from work around 7 and he’d take over while I went upstairs to make dinner.
After about a month of this, it became clear we needed a better system for getting her down. This was just too labor intensive — so I read around, decided The Baby Whisperer’s method for patting, and pick up / put down was also just going to take too long (I told you I don’t endorse EVERYTHING in that book), and moved on to The Sleepeasy Solution.
The Sleepeasy Solution is basically a Cry-It-Out (CIO) / Sleep Training approach, along the lines of Ferber. But, unlike Ferber, there is a lot of flexibility in the Sleepeasy plan. Waldburger and Spivack are family therapists in LA, and their business, Sleepy Planet, is mindful of the fact that all families have different sleep-values.
For instance, they will work with you even if you share a family bed.
In general, though, they endorse setting up a consistent bedtime ritual, which includes putting your baby down in his crib, alone, and letting him figure out how to put himself to sleep.
Which is a nice way of saying, it’s his party, let him cry if he wants to.
I have friends for whom this wasn’t palatable. Here’s what I told them:
If you don’t like the idea of letting your baby cry it out, you’re not tired enough to try it yet.
I was tired enough. Diddy cried for forty-five minutes the first night, fifteen the second, and we never looked back.
I figured this would work great for Gaga, too.
And it did.
Unlike her sister, Gaga had growth spurts. She woke up with poop rashes and screamed her eyes out. She was a very very sensitive teether. Her sinuses sucked from birth. Oh, and she just couldn’t adjust to time zone changes when we traveled around visiting family.
Every time we hit some little growth / rash / teething / stuffed nose / travel-induced stumbling block in Gaga’s sleep patterns, we had to start the Sleepeasy Solution all over again.
Still, it was a system that I continued to swear by because it delivered consistent results after three days, every time.
Even though we did it all eight times while Gaga was sleeping in a bassinet next to our bed, screaming her head off while we played dead.
(This, by the way, is totally silly. Sleep train your second kid in your first kid’s room. Your first kid will learn to sleep though it. I know this now because both of my girls can sleep through their sister’s middle-of-the-night mishegas like champs. If I’d figured that out when Gaga was a tiny baby, I could have saved myself the residual ringing in my ears.)
In addition to offering a wonderful, simple, and clearly written guide to sleep training, this is the only book I’ve seen that actually offers you real step-by-step instructions for how to night-wean properly, or how to determine how much daytime sleep your kid needs.
And it’s chock-full of checklists.
Plus it provides sample nap schedules, which even after four kids, I still refer to constantly.
And about those four kids:
Enter Pancake and Sausage. Here’s where I finally got smart: I didn’t hold them. At all, really. I didn’t have time, what with chasing after their sisters. So, unless they were stuck to my boobs — yep, I nursed these boys — I wrapped them back up in their swaddles and put them down.
And lo and behold: I never had to sleep train them. They learned to put themselves down, without tears, from birth — and short of some particularly painful teething episodes, have continued to be excellent sleepers. They just turned one, and they’re still sleeping strong.
But I don’t believe most first-time parents are capable of being so cavalier about their tiny newborn pieces of perfection. Most first-time parents can think of nothing so delicious as staring at their little bundle of baby while she sleeps curled up in their arms.
I get it. I was that Mom. I hear you.
And I’m telling you:
If you can’t put that baby down, you’re gonna need to pick up this book.
What were YOUR infant-sleep experiences? Please share!
Secrets of the Baby Whisperer should be a book I hate. It should be a book I hate because Tracy Hogg’s attitude is totally my-way-or-the-highway, and as I’ve already told you, I really don’t have any patience for that when it comes to parenting advice.
Maybe I’m just ornery. Maybe I’m just lazy. Mostly, as I’ve said before, I am a firm believer in pursuing whatever parenting practices make you least nuts.
That said, I really do believe that the Baby Whisperer system is designed to save you from the crazies.
Harvey Karp’s The Happiest Baby on the Block is a must-have because it does a great job at VERY SIMPLY explaining how you can make that new baby of yours stop crying his eyes out.
Even better, it does it in tiny little short paragraphs, is printed in big type, and even contains a line drawing or two. This makes it a particularly manageable read for women in the throes of pregnancy-brain and men in the throes of … well, every stage of their life.
(I am not saying this to be mean to men. Men are lovely. If they weren’t, so many of us wouldn’t have gone and married them and had their babies. Men are not as stupid as we often claim, either. But ladies, I have said it before, and I will say it again: in general, Dads aren’t that interested in reading all this parenting crap as Moms are. They don’t like being told what to do, or how to do it, even when that “it” is taking care of a baby, even when, and especially if, they haven’t a clue how they’re supposed to do that.)
Anyway, back to the book.
By now you will have noticed that I’m a little bit OCD. Not enough to counter-act the effects of housing four kids in my personal space — I can count seven choke-able, non-appropriate-for-children-under-three-items on the floor right this moment just begging the boys to eat them (POLLY POCKETS, I AM CALLING YOU MOTHAF****S OUT !) — but enough to believe that there is a RIGHT WAY and a WRONG WAY to do most things.
This is NOT to say that MY RIGHT WAY is the same as YOUR RIGHT WAY. As far as parenting choices go, we are all basically in this thing alone (despite what the great big wide kumbaya-mother-blogging world would have you believe), especially when it’s 3 am on a Tuesday night and you are up for the fifteenth time servicing water or potty or “my nightlight stopped working” requests … so who am I to say you shouldn’t a) do whatever it takes to soothe your kids back to sleep or b) lose your temper all over them and let them sob their eyes out for the next three hours because you just don’t have another ounce of Earth Mama left in you?
Can you tell which one I’d choose?