Thursday, April 22, 2010

Day 91: Book reviews continued

Continued from this post...

3. Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, by Marc Weissbluth, M.D.

There was a good deal I liked and found useful about this book. However, in my opinion the most fundamental thing about this book -- the recommended "extinction" crying method is overly harsh and unnecessary for most babies.

But let's start with what I did like, most of all the maxim that sleep begets sleep. Here, I have found that Weissbluth is right and Ferber is wrong. Almost always, an earlier bedtime, not a later one, is better for Mari's sleep. She sleeps more and better than when I've tried to keep her up longer or later. Of course, there is a limit, though Weissbluth sometimes seems to imply otherwise. Mari cannot and will not sleep for more than 14 hours in a day at the most, and she averages about 13 hours, though if I recall correctly, Weissbluth recommends 14-15.

Another thing I liked is the emphasis Weissbluth places on baby temperament and his acknowledgment, missing in many other books, that some babies just aren't going to be as good of sleepers as others, and that what works for most babies may not work for a certain percentage -- especially those who were very fussy as younger babies, which Mari certainly was. It was reassuring to me to know that just because some techniques work with other babies and don't seem to work with Mari, it's not necessarily because I'm doing something wrong -- it's because Mari is a different baby.

For the above reasons, I am prepared to believe that there are some babies for whom the extinction crying method Weissbluth advocates may be the only thing that works. However, I also believe that it's highly stressful for babies. It's plain that babies don't like to cry. Their faces turn red, their temperature goes up, they give every indication of being in extreme distress. Babies cry to communicate. Whether it's because they're in pain or because they just want their mothers, for the baby, something is wrong. I believe those needs should be responded to promptly (though not necessarily immediately), unless there's a damn good reason to delay response. In my opinion, a parent should consistently and patiently try every other method possible before resorting to the extinction method.

It's true that babies need to learn to fall asleep and stay asleep on their own. It may be true that for some babies, a certain amount of crying is necessary before they learn. However, just plain ignoring the baby's cries, no matter how long it takes, ignores the possibility the baby may be in pain or discomfort, which if fixed could get him or her to sleep.

I did find Weissbluth makes good points about why it's so important for children to be well-rested. However, I thought he overstated the case. I found myself worrying as I read it that I had already caused Mari irreparable damage by letting her stay up too long in the past. I even wondered if that was the cause of her not doing things such as crawling as fast as some babies (though she is still very much within the normal range). With a little more distance, I found the book was making me worrying too much. More guilt is something parents don't need.

Another issue I have with the book is that it is overly long, repetitive and written in a convoluted manner. However, that may be the editor in me talking.

4. The Baby Sleep Book, by William, Robert, James and Martha Sears

I like Dr. Sears a lot. I find what he says about attachment parenting (I have the book by that name and love it) makes a lot of sense. Though I no longer follow it to the letter (I allow some limited crying alone, I no longer "wear" Mari much at home, we no longer co-sleep), I believe in the philosophy of maintaining a strong bond between parent and baby. I believe the amount of time I spent in earlier months wearing or carrying Mari, co-sleeping, responding immediately to her cries, bonding with her immediately upon birth, and breastfeeding (still going strong there) laid the foundation for us knowing her well and her trusting us. I also found The Birth Book, also by Dr. Sears, to be the best, most balanced resource I read about birth. So certainly I have nothing against Dr. Sears.

However, I did not find The Baby Sleep Book to be terribly helpful. When I tried to follow his suggestion of waiting until Mari had been asleep for 20 minutes before putting her down, I found she was more lightly asleep than when she had been asleep only about 5 minutes. It also delayed my going to sleep myself -- but then, generally, I found the book didn't give enough weight to parents' needs.

Really, I found the whole concept of actively putting her to sleep each and every time problematic. I do believe Ferber's assertion that babies develop sleep associations. If Mari is rocked or nursed to sleep, then put down once deeply asleep, she does indeed tend to wake up when her sleep cycle becomes shallow, probably because she's alarmed that the conditions she associated with going to sleep (rocking, nursing) are no longer present. It was only when I started working to break those sleep associations that Mari started sleeping better.

Basically, the message I took away from The Baby Sleep Book was that if I didn't like Mari waking up constantly, I should just be very, very patient and she would eventually, by the time she was a toddler or preschooler, learn to sleep better and more independently. In the meaning, Jon or I should always carry her until she fell asleep and then sleep with her, even if it meant a more disrupted sleep for everybody. I found this unacceptable.

To be fair, there are bits about other ways of doing things, and a good chapter about night weaning, but I generally found the book to be simplistic, not that informed about sleep and not very respectful of the need to teach a baby to fall asleep and stay asleep on her own. Though just as gentle, I found the No-Cry Sleep Solution to be better about all that.

Next up: The No-Cry Nap Solution, The Baby Whisperer

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Day 90: Eight months old and busier than ever

Mari turned eight months old yesterday. I can hardly believe it -- time goes so fast. Since I haven't posted photos in awhile, here are a few of the very latest ones.

Mari has been busy learning new skills too. She can now get up onto her hands and knees and her very latest trick is getting onto her hands and feet in the "downward dog" position. No crawling yet, but she seems very close. She's still doing her backwards creeping and is more efficient at it than ever.

She can now say "dada" and "daddy," though I'm still waiting for that elusive first "mama." She has two teeth now. She can now eat an awful lot of solid food. The photo above is from after she polished off half an avocado. While it may look like half an avocado is smeared all over her, I am convinced the vast majority of it went into her mouth. She's also getting good at eating even small, slippery bits of food. Oh, and she can drink from her sippy cup now, though there is still some spillage as she will only drink from it without the non-spill valve in.

As for sleep, she has been getting somewhat better about staying asleep longer for naps, which is HUGE for me, though she's still not consistent. At night, though, she's back to waking up twice most of the time, when for awhile we were down to one or none. I am thinking again about starting to limit her second night feed.

Today: An average day for sleep. A decent morning nap of nearly an hour and a half, but an afternoon nap of less than an hour, which is less than optimal. She woke up still cranky but wouldn't go back down. She was up super early this morning (6:10) and was so tired she had to be put to bed early (just after 7 PM), so I hope this doesn't lead to an even earlier waking and the beginning of a vicious circle.

Day 89: Bedtime disaster

I am writing this post a little late, but it's about April 19, which was the biggest bedtime disaster since I began this blog.

Honestly, I'm not sure what happened. Yes, I got Mari to bed a little later than usual, but by just 10 minutes. This has happened before with no real consequence. She napped fairly well during the day. I knew she was getting tired at night, but Jon had a lot on his mind and I spent a bit of extra time talking to him after dinner. I then performed the usual bedtime routine and everything seemed fine. I put her down at 7:40. She was starting to fuss a bit, but I expected she'd be able to fall asleep. Instead, a few minutes after I left the room, she started screaming at the top of her lungs.

She was so upset, none of the usual tricks (rocking, bouncing, singing, etc.) made one iota of difference. She wouldn't nurse anymore; she'd just eaten. She has seldom cried quite so hard or so loudly. In desperation I let her get up for a little while to try to "reset" her. She watched her mobile (still hung over the now-unused co-sleeper), which she likes, then I turned the light on in her room and read her one more story. Then I tried to put her down again. As soon as her butt hit the mattress, she started screaming again, if anything even louder than before.

I picked her up right away. I was prepared to abandon my usual rules about having her fall asleep on her own. I just wanted her to calm down. But no matter what I did, she wouldn't calm down again. She didn't even seem to notice I was there. She screamed until I thought she'd lose her voice, then she screamed some more. I alternated between trying to soothe her and leaving her for a few minutes at a time in the hope she'd cry herself to sleep, even though I don't really believe in that method. Neither worked. Finally, in large part for the sake of my own sanity, I just left her and closed the door to my own room. I thought I'd give her 15 minutes to cry, but at the 15-minute mark, her cries FINALLY started to peter out, though she kept them up weakly for a further 10 minutes or so. She didn't fall asleep until nearly 9 PM.

Now I feel bad for having left her to cry it out because it wasn't planned. As I've stated before, I don't believe Mari needs to "cry it out." I tried it intentionally once. It didn't work well then and the more I thought about it, the more uncomfortable I became with the idea. I don't want her to cry it out again. But I didn't know what else to do with a baby who wasn't responding to any of my soothing efforts at all. What would you do in this situation?