Writing this post will inevitably bring on the wrath of many people who swear by “The Baby Whisperer” or Harvey Karp. Because of this, I will start off by saying that it’s not that I don’t see things of value in these books, it’s that I feel they ultimately set you up for failure.
E. A. S. Y. (Eat, Awake/Play, Sleep = Time for you), the 5 S’s (Swaddle, Shhh, Sway, Sideways, Suck), early bedtime, overtired, pick up/put down, Ferber.
There are SO many opinions on how to handle your baby’s routines and sleep. They often contradict themselves but they also all have themes. The themes are basic common sense if you ask me, but if it helps you to read that stuff in a book, then so be it. I have even seen Harvey Karp speak about his 5’s in person and I will admit, he sells a convincing product. But, here is the underlying flaw of all of these books, theories and expert presentations… they do not account for individuality.
Individuality in you, your child and all of the silly small details that you don’t think about until you are in the moment trying to follow all of these instructions. And when you find it’s not magically working like they make it seem like it should, you will inevitably end up asking in desperation “What am I doing wrong? What am I missing? What do I do next?” And if you are at all like me when I was a new mom, you will be in tears over what you perceive as failure.
When I was ready to go back to work after my first maternity leave, I felt like I needed to get my non-napping 10 week old on a nap schedule. It seemed so easy to everyone else, but my child didn’t nap – ever. I read about 3 different books. I tried sitting in the room, I tried swaddling, I tried cry it out, I tried moving up her bedtime. None of it worked. You know what finally worked? Waiting until she was significantly older and giving in to my husband’s more relaxed approach. We did eventually let her cry it out after she was 6 months old and her bedtime became 8:30/9pm. But, it worked. For her and for us. She developed pretty awesome sleep habits as she approached her first birthday and would take good naps and sleep through the night with no problems. From 9p-9a most days.
And while the baby “experts” would frown upon her late bedtime, which is even as late as 9:30p now that she is 3 years old, I have many friends who would kill for their kids to have that later wake up time.
Meredith was a completely different sleep animal. She was a great napper from day one, but horrible at night. I had different issues with her, but we have established good sleep habits with her as well, on our own terms. Nothing about getting her to sleep well was the same as what worked for Nora, despite my naive thoughts that maybe it would be. I was much less hard on myself this time around without all of the books breathing down my neck. (I threw them out when Nora was about 4 months old so I wouldn’t even be tempted to read them and over-analyze things anymore.)
I hate when my friends with new babies call and ask how I got my kids to sleep. I hate hearing them quoting sleep “rules”. I will tell you all what I tell all of them. Trust your instincts and do what feels right for you and your baby. You will figure it out. People have been doing this for years without the help of experts telling them what to do. I personally feel that if you know someone who has an amazing sleeper, that it is a mixture of lies and luck. They may think it was because of their amazing parenting or ability to implement the “rules”, but I know better. And some of them that I know, have gone on to have second children and have now realized just how lucky they got the first time around with that baby who was sleeping through the night at 4 months of age.
If you want to read the books, do so with a grain of salt. Take the general ideas and toss the rest. There is no one size fits all with babies, no matter how much education and experience that particular author may have.