Photo by Manda 5463After having my second baby, I realized one thing about baby sleep advice: It all depends.
My daughter slept through the night at 4 months, my son at 13 months -- most of the time. Still, reading about babies and sleep somehow made me feel more in control when I was trying to figure out why in the world my son wouldn't give up his 4 a.m. wake-up call. Even if some of the tricks worked sparingly, or not at all.
But when I read these 8 baby sleep facts by Dr. Sears, I flashed back to those sleep-deprived months and wanted to pull my hair out, even with some distance from the non-stop pattern of interrupted sleep.
Don't get me wrong, Dr. Sears got me through two pregnancies, and even though his breastfeeding advice didn't work for me, I'm down with his philosophies in a "take what works, leave the rest" fashion. But I draw the line with part three of baby sleep fact #1:
3. Babies have shorter sleep cycles than you do. Stand adoringly next to your sleeping baby and watch him sleep. About an hour after he goes to sleep, he begins to squirm, he tosses a bit, his eyelids flutter, his face muscles grimace, he breathes irregularly, and his muscles tighten. He is reentering the phase of light sleep. The time of moving from deep to light sleep is a vulnerable period during which many babies will awaken if any upsetting or uncomfortable stimulus, such as hunger, occurs. If the baby does not awaken, he will drift through this light sleep period over the next ten minutes, and descend back into deep sleep. Adult sleep cycles (going from light to deep sleep, and then back to light sleep) lasts an average of 90 minutes. Infants' sleep cycles are shorter, lasting 50 to 60 minutes, so they experience a vulnerable period for nightwaking around every hour or even less. As your baby enters this light sleep, if you lay a comforting hand on your baby's back, sing a soothing lullaby, or just be there next to baby if he is in your bed; you can help him get through this light sleep period without waking.
I can assure you, when I'm struggling with my baby's sleep pattern and I'm at my wits' end, I'm not going to stand adoringly next to my sleeping baby. Because he's asleep! And I need to be asleep too! The only time I'm going to get to sleep is WHEN MY BABY IS ASLEEP.
A lot of Dr. Sears' baby sleep facts are written in this manner of "Isn't this such a special time, you should treasure every second" instead of "Hey, we know this is hard and we're here to help." Which really is the issue I have with a lot of the Sears' books. They're filled with great information, but told in a manner that feels like you're a failure if you're not a total zen mom who breastfeeds on demand, co-sleeps, and are giddy about being a new parent every second of the day.
Which is why some gems, such as baby sleep fact #4, go unnoticed because I'm still stuck on "You want me to stand by my sleeping baby's crib for an hour???"
An important fact for you to remember is that your baby's sleep habits are more a reflection of your baby's temperament rather than your style of nighttime parenting. And keep in mind that other parents usually exaggerate how long their baby sleeps, as if this were a badge of good parenting, which it isn't. It's not your fault baby wakes up.
See? How reassuring is this one?
Do you follow Dr. Sears' advice to the letter? Or do you think he needs to live in the real world?