Sleep, baby, sleep

Putting Your Baby to Sleep in today’s The New Health Care column of the New York Times is a good, short, recap on sleep techniques for infants and babies. Here are my quick takes as a mother of a five and a two year old (read: pretty recent sleep deprivation experience):

  • Scheduled awakenings”… what? First time I hear about this. I’ve yet to meet a parent who’d voluntarily wake up a sleeping baby. Baby sleeps, then it’s all good and who knows, he/she might make it through the night.
  • “Extinction”.. what?? Again, first time I hear this term. It seems like an extreme/old-school version of Ferber, which in no way calls for letting baby cry all night. I recommend Ferber’s classic Solve your child’s sleep problems.
  • Swaddling, where are you? Not everyone agrees with doing this. It worked great with my babies. At any rate, it’s always worth a try, and that pretty much sums up my parenting philosophy.
  • Where is the section on paid and longer maternity/parental leave needed in the U.S., as well as other family policies (like night nurse benefit) for new parents? I understand that was not the point, but healthy families make for healthy sleep.
  • Sitting still like a frog: I just started this book by Eline Snel. It’s about mindfulness for parents and little ones, starting five, to help center and thus go to sleep easy, because sleep matters beyond the baby years.

Now, on communication: images matter. The original NYT photo was a fail (baby sleeping on the belly). Many readers commented on this and asked for a new photo, which they got.

“However, in the interest of promoting safe sleep for infants, I request that the NYT please replace the image associated with the piece with one that demonstrates current recommendations. To reduce risk of SIDS and other sleep related deaths, infants should be placed on their backs, on a firm, flat surface, free of soft, loose bedding. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words!!” –reader

“NYT editor: Thanks. We’ve replaced the photo. Again, thanks to all the doctors and concerned parents who have written in.

Now, the best part, the readers’ comments! A short selection of quotes from my favorite readers’ comments as of 4:15pm ET. Enjoy!

If nearly every intervention showed improvement in nearly all children (80%), then it’s very likely that time is what is solving the sleep issues. I don’t know what the control groups were, but I’d imagine a control group in which the parents did nothing, or didn’t change their current routine, would see the same improvement as the interventions over the same time period.

The anthropologist would ask, what do parents in traditional societies do? I guarantee you it is not let the baby scream all night.

No matter if you feed formula or breastmilk, an infant needs food and closeness at regular intervals. Why would modern life override millions of years of biological programming?

People want to talk only about possible harm to babies (of which there is no evidence) but rarely do we hear about possible harm to mothers due to sleep deprivation. For anyone who doubts that, google “Rechtshaffen rats.”

Methods like those described in the article can be useful tools, but they should not be taken as The One Right Way ™ to raise a child. I’m finding that we are hard-wired with more parenting wisdom than we give ourselves credit for, so use your inner voice to decide what is best for you and your baby, even if it contradicts the conventional wisdom and/or experts du jour.

Of course, what is really needed is for our society to care enough about babies and families to require something most of the rest of the world already has- paid family leave, to give new parents the time they need to care for their newborns without the added stress of returning to work so soon.

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