Monday, April 15, 2013

Parenting Book Review - The No-Cry Sleep Solution

Powell's Books · Barnes & Noble
Elizabeth Pantley - © 2002

There is an almost universal malady among parents of young children and babies and it’s called Sleep Deprived. You know if you suffer from this condition if your baggy eyes remind you to that you need to call Grandma June, your pillow hair resists all attempts at taming, you put the cereal in the fridge and milk in the cupboard, and slinged to your body is a bundle from heaven for whom all of this is worthwhile.

But you think, “Can’t I have this wonderful baby AND get some sleep?”

What if I said, “Yes”?

If you’re like me you’d say, “But I can’t—won’t make her cry.”

What if I still said, “Yes”?

It is possible.  I know because I was there and we did it thanks to a wonderful book called The No-Cry Sleep Solution. Instead of a one-size-fits all approach this book respects the unique combination of you and your baby’s temperaments. Not once, has there ever been a mom exactly like you, nor a baby exactly like yours. This wonderful variety among people almost ensures that whatever trick worked for someone else probably won’t for you, and you’re left feeling like you’re doing something wrong. This book supports different parenting styles by offering help for nursing moms, bottle fed babies, pacifier users, co-sleeper and crib sleepers alike and provides dozens ideas from which you plot your own route out of the fog of sleep deprivation.

At four months old, my first daughter Boots was only waking once a night and we thought the worst was behind us. However, her sleep got progressively worse as she started teething and reaching developmental milestones. I knew my tenderhearted husband and I would not be able to muster the wherewithal to let her cry-it-out, as her doctor and many of my friends felt was the only way.

According to my sleep logs, at about 9 months of age I was up 11 times a night tending to every little whimper and perceived sign of discomfort. She was sleeping a total of 8 ½ hours a night with only one or two short 45 minute naps a day. I was exhausted, desperate, and feeling like a failure because I couldn’t help my spirited little baby get the rest she needed. Other babies I knew that were her age were taking two, two-hour naps a day and sleeping 12 hours a night! What was I doing wrong? It turned out that my spirited baby wasn't wired to sleep as much as other babies, and that’s OK. Using this book, I learned how to set her circadian rhythms, (and my own) and how to prime her for sleep. With something as simple as setting an early bedtime, she improved her sleep by almost 2 hours a night! Further, I was able to learn to which night-wakings I needed to respond and which was normal sleep movements and noises. I was waking the poor thing up! The map I created led us to a place we could live in. It still fell short of other people’s standards, but that was OK; because as Elizabeth teaches it’s only a problem, if we feel it's a problem. And we no longer did.

By the time Gabrielle came along, all those changes we made to our daily life that felt unnatural four years ago were now intuitive. I followed Elizabeth’s advice without even being conscious of it and had a much easier time helping her sleep well from the beginning. Although, we too found ourselves in rough waters, but Elizabeth’s book was right there, whispering words of kindly advice like breezes into my sails, righting our course and sending us to the pleasant waters of restful nights.

How this Book Works

One of the first things Elizabeth says is to “use this book however it is helpful to you”. You don’t like the idea of doing logs all night or the formality of creating a sleep plan? Don't. It’s OK. The strength of this book is the ideas, support and hope it provides. It is a map showing many routes out of the fog of sleep deprivation. You build your own boat, choose the beacons and the speed at which you travel. The magic is that with her ideas and your perseverance, they all lead to a sunnier place.
  • Do a Safety Check
    Whether you plan to co-sleep, use a co-sleeper or crib there are important safety considerations to follow. I found the co-sleeping safety advice particularly helpful, most other resources simply discourage the practice and since I chose to do it anyway, I was grateful that Elizabeth showed me how to do it safely.
  • Learn Basic Sleep Facts
    Just the most important facts about sleep and circadian rhythms to help you understand how the following solutions will help.
  • Sleep Logs
    Logging what’s actually happening at night to help you asses your current situation. This is probably the most discouraging step, but hang in there—help is coming!
  • Review and Choose Solutions
    I was relieved when I got to this point. The solutions are divided into sections based on age: newborn to four-months-old and four-months to two-years old.
  • Create your Personal Sleep Plan
    This is the fun part. You pick and choose from all the wonderful ideas to create a plan that fits you and your baby.
  • The second half of the book deals with logging your nights using your new plan so you can track your progress and troubleshoot the rough spots. It may take several iterations to achieve the goals you set, but you’re well on your way.  At this point I began to think of Elizabeth as my wise friend and the other moms as my sleep support group. Their testimonies, woven throughout the book, are very comforting and supportive. The book wraps up with more information about revising your plan and logging your results as well as information about how to get you sleeping again, once baby is doing better. 
  • It is a concise 246 pages, chock full of advice, support and only the most pertinent clinical information. After all, tired mamas shouldn't have to wade through a thousand page tome of medical jargon to glean a little help and hope.

Once you've navigated out of the fog of sleep deprivation, you can bask in the love and beauty of your baby. You’ll see with clarity routes through the many challenges of parenthood and life.  Each night you can go to bed relaxed knowing that you have the skills to navigate through future patches of rough water, thanks to your perseverance and this lovely book.

My big girl, sleeping sideways in her bed.

Good Morning Sunshine!
After a year or so of co-sleeping we referred back to The No-Cry Solution
and here's Boots after sleeping all night in her own bed.
No tears were shed in the making of all night miracle.

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