Authors: Penny Warner
WAYS TO HELP BABY (AND YOU!) SLEEP BETTER
By Penny Warner
With a Foreword by Louis Borgenicht, M.D
Illustrations by Ashley Alexander
A joy when awake, a cherub when asleep.
Who's just beginning to wake up.
Table of Contents
Changes in child care occur with ever-increasing speed these days. As a pediatrician, I've tracked the trends in medical journals and among my colleagues and patients for more than thirty years. The constant renewal is a clear mirror for our cultural need to always get the newest, best, and most accurate informationâwhich is a tough pace to jog at when you're having your first child.
In stark contrast to this frenzy stands parental intuition, a constant and powerful force in child-rearing that, in the face of information overload, needs constant reinforcement. Dr. Spock's paean to parents to “Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do,” still resonates prominently today. In fact, it's never been truer. No wonder his 1946 book,
Baby and Child Care
, has long been considered the bible of child care and remains a best-seller more than sixty years later.
But not all child-care advice is as evergreen. More than eighty years ago, L. Emmett Holt, M.D., published
The Care and Feeding of Children: A Catechism for the Use of Mothers and Children's Nurses
. It was designed to make simple and very concrete sense of parental concerns. The book contains questions and answers (both concocted by Holt), usually leaving little room for variance.
On the matter of sleep, he commented:
Q: Should a child sleep in the same bed as his mother or nurse?
A: Never, if this can be possibly avoided
Q: Is rocking necessary?
A: By no means. It is a habit easily acquired, but hard to break, and a very useless and injurious one
Holt's catechism seems formulaic in a world in which flexibility is
. Then, and perhaps even more
now, rigidity causes a world of worry for parents. Because there is no
to give your child a safe and healthy upbringing; accepting this notion may make parenting in the twenty-first century easier.
With so many experts opining different truths, attitudes toward and anxiety about infant sleeping begin even before a baby is born. Actual and apocryphal tales of somnolent terror color the perspective of virtually every new parent. To ease the worry, pediatricians now often speak with prospective parents well before the child is bornâhere's that need for the best information again. When I meet with an expectant couple, I emphasize two things that seem to be helpful: the confusion of the first two weeks post-pregnancy, and parental guilt. Both themes are designed to help parents deal comfortably with their new roles.
My talk goes something like this: The first two weeks of life with your new baby will be unlike any others in your life. Your relationship with each other changes as you try to understand your baby and figure out how to care for her. Despite what you may have been told by friends and relatives and what you may have read, you actually know a lot more about taking care of your child than you think you do. This will be a process of trusting yourself, most likely with the assistance of a few judicious questions for your pediatrician.
During those first two weeks and for the years following, remember that once you decided to become parents, you bought into guilt. I've noticed that parents feel they can maintain control over their children's lives by dredging up their guilt as an explanation for the adversity their children encounter. For example, a parent
may believe that his child's cold is due to neglectâfor example, not having dressed his child warmly enough. But I promise you, not everything is your fault. Having some perspective on the convoluted paths of parental guilt may make it less daunting.
All this aside, there is no one simple answer to sleep issues. This book offers more than 200 answers, some of which will ultimately apply to your family if you believe in yourself and your own ability to understand your child.