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When I found out I was pregnant with my son, the first thing I did was order a truckload of books about babies. I have a master’s degree in educational psychology, so I thought it was only natural to follow my usual pattern of studying hard and applying my knowledge. I devoured the entire “Wise” series, plowed through Dr. Weissbluth’s dense text, and even took copious notes from the Baby Whisperer. I truly assumed my son would be an angel baby. He would be calm, sweet, and an easy sleeper. While I did read about babies with colic, I thought to myself, “That won’t happen to me! I have the tools to prevent everything!” Little did I know, my future held quite a surprise for me.
Charles was born with his eyes wide open, and he barely shut them those first 6 weeks. He resisted sleep from the very beginning. The only time he would nod off was while nursing, a big no-no according to the books I had read. He didn’t fall asleep while being held, he didn’t fall asleep in a swing, and he didn’t even fall asleep in a carseat. Luckily, I had done enough research to try a whole arsenal of tools with him. Because of Babywise, I knew a routine and consistency were key to sleep success. I prayed and studied and worried over what to do for my son. I absolutely did not want to start bad habits just to get him to sleep, because I knew he would be dependent on them in the future and felt it would be difficult for both of us to have to re-teach him a new way to fall asleep. From his second week of life, I implemented a strict routine and strove to teach him to fall asleep on his own. I knew in my heart that this child would thrive on a routine and needed one desperately. We started a three hour schedule with 40 minutes of awake time. He would go down drowsy but awake and usually cry for 20 or so minutes before drifting off. It absolutely broke my heart to hear him cry, but I felt a deeper peace in my decision, knowing instinctively that this would pay off in the long run. By 8 weeks, magic happened. He began sleeping 8 hours at night (exclusively breastfed) and knew how to get himself to sleep on his own in his bassinet with little to no fussing – as long as I put him down during his exact window of tiredness. As time went on, he slept better and better. My dedication to consistency was paying off in dividends!
Many visitors and family members did not understand my devotion to this routine. They insisted it was unnecessary and often guilted me into letting them hold my son during his nap times when they would come to visit. During these times, my heart would ache for my son because he would cry in their arms and I wanted to shout, “He’s so tired and he doesn’t know how to sleep while you hold him!” In retrospect, I do understand their confusion and their well-intended desires to spend time with Charles. However, I also wish I had been a stronger advocate for my son and his sleep during this tremulous time. Charles needed his routine, and when it was thrown off, it was very clear. He was fussy, didn’t sleep well, didn’t eat well, and woke in the night.
Now, Charles is a very happy 9 month old. He sleeps 12-13 hours at night and 3-4 hours of combined daytime sleep (two naps). I am always getting comments on how settled and content he is. People are amazed when they see that I can just set him in his crib wide awake and he will peacefully go to sleep on his own. Does he have some bad naps occasionally? Sure. We have days where he might take a short nap or two, and I use my instincts to gauge whether to let him fuss back to sleep or to get him. Still, without Babywise, I have no idea what kind of sleeper my child would be. Well, I do – he would be one of the many children I see who refuse to sleep, fight bedtime, and have that telltale “wild-hyper” look in their eyes that indicates to Babywise moms they desperately need sleep! I am so eternally grateful for this series. I love that we have a routine every day and that I know exactly what my baby needs when he’s fussy. Without reading the books I did, I would not know how much sleep babies really need nor how brief their waketime really should be!
That said, your blog has been such a wonderful resource. I was relieved to see the posts and comments that helped me sort through my son’s sleep issues. I felt so much less alone during a very lonely time! Thank you so much for all you have done!