Sleep and "the experts"

Buddy Boo has had trouble getting to sleep lately. Our routine was great, but like everything else in parenthood, I've learned nothing is as constant as change. My least favorite question: "Is he sleeping through the night already?" My answer is usually, "Right now he is," because I know it will change again. If he learns a new trick that he wants to practice, if he's teething more, if he's going through another growth spurt...all of the "ifs" can quickly change that answer to "Right now he is not."

After Boo was born, when sleep was a distant friend, I started devouring all of the wisdom imparted by doctors and insightful parents in the form of parenting books. I knew them all. On my nightstand ready for a quick reference check were (in no particular order): Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby(highly recommended by our pediatrician and lactation consultants), The Happiest Baby on the Block (ditto on recommendations), The Baby Whisperer (think Mary Poppins on an ego trip), Baby Owner's Manual (for kicks), What to Expect: The First Year (my favorite because it covers everything briefly), Mother's Nursing Companion (ok breastfeeding reference), and The Girlfriend's Guide to Surviving the First Year (silly and sometimes informative). My recommendation? Read all of them... or none of them.

During the first month or so of new mommyhood, I looked to any place I could for some direction. I was fascinated by the answers I got - from books, friends, co-workers, family, doctors, strangers in the pediatrician waiting room or in line at the grocery store. Everyone has their own take on "the rules." What you are supposed to do and what you are supposed to avoid when taking care of a newborn. The differing opinions in the books I read astonished me. Never nurse your child to sleep (difficult when this is what most newborns do). Always put them to bed drowsy but awake (much easier said than done). Don't rock your child to sleep. Don't use sleep aids like sound machines or driving them around town to sleep. Blah blah blah. I'm convinced that these books -and not just dealing with a crying baby- are the cause of many a nervous breakdown by frazzled new parents.

All of these books are fun reads, and they gave me some good ideas, but I don't take much stock in any of them. They weren't written specifically for me or my husband. They weren't written with my child in mind. They weren't written with our particular home and work situation in mind. They certainly weren't written to be followed word for word.

After dissecting all of the books, A and I came to our own conclusions. We did what was right for us, and for Boo.

Listen to your baby. Listen to yourself, your spouse or your S.O., your heart. You know what your baby needs. You know what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. Screw everyone else. Well, okay, listen to your doctor once in a while, but even the pediatrician doesn't know your baby as well as you do and the pediatrician doesn't have to be the one to take care of your baby around the clock. You do. You know. You are a parent and you know your baby.

So Boo's bedtime routine is changing. We don't know quite yet which changes will stick and which won't. He doesn't seem to like the Guess How Much I Love You book anymore, which he found comforting before. He takes three very short naps during the day instead of two long naps. He has started eating before he sleeps - not just snacking, but a full extra meal, even if he just ate an hour before. A couple of times he nursed to sleep, which is a big no-no according to the experts.

But the experts aren't home with us, loving our baby as we do. In this case, quite frankly, we are the experts on our baby. It took us a bit to realize that, but we know that now. What works for us, what makes our baby happy, is all that really matters.


Anonymous said...

Sorry this post has to be anonymous but it wanted me to sign in and I'm not a Blogger user. Anyway I wanted to tell you I couldn't agree with you more! I only read two books when I was pregnant, and then two new-baby books, and I have always had the best success when I just followed my instinct. (I have a 20-month-old daughter who seems to be doing just fine!) Those rules about sleep - oh dear, don't get me started. It's as if you're a bad mom if your kid isn't sleeping through the night. Give me a break.

I just found your blog through a webring and I'm enjoying it! Congrats on being a new mom.


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