As a pregnant mother-to-be there came a point when reading and preparing for birth shifted over to reading and preparing for looking after a newborn baby. My sister and cousin had had such great success with Babywise that when the book was passed on to me I was eager and ready to take on board all the advice I could get. I think I read it three times before my son was even born.
Mikhail is now 11 months old and a happy, healthy sleeper who loves nap times and bedtime. When other parents complain about their child’s sleeping difficulties, often with babies who still haven’t had a full night’s unbroken sleep at the age of two, I really feel for them. Mikhail didn’t sleep through until 11 weeks of age, and in that short time the effects of disrupted sleep had a consuming effect on my overall wellbeing. I cannot imagine that scenario continuing for months or years, as it has for many of my friends.
The road to happy healthy sleep seems easy in retrospect, but there were many points at which I had no idea which way to go. The 45 minute intruder! Early wakings; transitioning from 4 to 3 to 2 naps; learning to roll over and not being able to settle. These things came up, and at the time they seem like permanent problems and I would tear my hair out in panic. It was at these points that I found the Babywise Mom blog absolutely invaluable. There were practical, workable options to try, and it was so reassuring that I wasn’t the only one dealing with these sleep interruptions. Most of all, it was a relief to learn that I hadn’t ‘done something wrong’ or created a bad sleeper. And, sure enough, we would work through each problem in a day or two and be back to happy sleep.
That path is not so easy to navigate for a first time mum (no ‘moms’ in Australia!), especially in the first few months when I was reading Babywise alongside other books that advocated highly scheduled 4 hour sleep routines. The blog helped me to let go of those routines, which really didn’t work for Mikhail at all, and feel ok about devising my own routines to suit his development. It saved my sanity, and it worked so much better for him.
Despite what friends post on social media about the detrimental effects of ‘controlled crying’ associated with self-settling, I’ve found that Mikhail has hardly cried much at all. We followed Babywise from the beginning, and he cried for a minute or so before each day sleep until he was 6 weeks old. Now if he’s over-tired he might cry for 30 seconds or a minute, then settle off to a good long sleep.
Some babies have sleepier dispositions than others; Mikhail is not a naturally sleepy baby, so it is our approach to sleep that has created these healthy sleep habits for him. I receive many comments about how lucky I am to have a good sleeper. I have to be careful how I respond to those comments, as I know that it is not luck at all.
Telling people how we have taught him to sleep so well and happily is fraught with difficulty. If people ask me how we’ve done it, I tell them and pass on the book. If they don’t ask, I don’t tell. I believe every parent I know is doing what they believe is best for their family and children, but it does seem that the advocates for never letting a baby cry are quite zealous about their approach, which I find intimidating. Some of the parents I passed on the book to, however, had great success helping their ‘bad sleepers’ learn to sleep well. I tend to recommend that people speak to those friends if their babies are having a lot of trouble and they’re not confident to teach them to self-settle. Because I followed Babywise from the beginning I don’t share a lot of their experiences, and it’s great for them to hear it from people who’ve been in the same position as them.
Now, at 11 months of age, I have a happy, settled baby who loves spending time with different people and happily goes to sleep whether I am there or not. This has enabled me to go back to work without worry, and for him to develop very close bonds with his father and grandmother as well as me. He has a very predictable life with regular meals and naptimes and consistent discipline from all of his carers, making him confident and happy, and able to deal with minor disruptions such as travel because life always goes back to ‘normal’.
I have never joined an online chat or commented on a blog, but I am so grateful to those who have contributed to the Babywise Mom blog and comments, as what I have learnt in that forum has made the difficult role of being a parent and having a baby such a joyful experience. As Mikhail grows and develops I feel reassured knowing the Babywise community is out there with tips to get us through the various stages as we go.