Stories and thoughts from day to day life in the Bullard Family

Book Review: Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems July 15, 2011

Filed under: Book Review — parentsong @ 1:00 pm
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Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems by Richard Ferber

There are a million reviews on this book on-line. You are reading my review, and so I will to my best to make it worth your while.

First of all, Dr. Ferber is famous for the so-called “cry-it-out” method of sleep training. Well, unless you have a baby who is calm, able to fall asleep relatively easily on his or her own, or you are a really super awesome parent who can time everything perfectly and catch all your baby’s cues, then there will likely be some crying when teaching the baby to sleep on his or her own. Now, for the review:

The book is broken into four parts. In the preface, Dr. Ferber indicates how the reader should use the book. This is very helpful and will make using the book more effective.

Part 1:

It is important to read the first section: it tells the reader how to tell if your child has a sleep problem, how sleep works, and how to help your child develop good sleep practices.

Part 2:

The second section is where Ferber creates his legacy. This section introduces “sleep associations” and how they impact the child’s ability to sleep. The reason a child cannot go to sleep on his or her own is because he or she associates rocking, nursing / bottles, holding, cuddling, etc. with falling asleep. The child is unable to go to sleep or go back to sleep without the assist of the parent. Ferber calls his method for solving this problem the “progressive-waiting approach.” This method requires the parent to put the child down awake (and sleepy) and wait progressively longer before going in to check on the child.

Ferber provides a detailed, step-by-step approach for using this method. He considers the fact that many parents will have a hard time listening to their child cry and is quite open about how the whole situation will happen in reality. It is not necessarily smooth sailing after a few nights of doing this. Other issues may be involved, such as the procedure itself, scheduling, anxiety, or medical issues. The author does a good job for addressing the “but my child is like this” stance and really provides solutions for almost any imaginable situation. Along with sleep associations, Ferber goes into setting limits, night feeding, nighttime fears, and colic and other medical causes that impede sleep.

Part 3:

The third section goes into schedules and sleep rhythm disturbances. The author discusses biological sleep rhythms and schedule “disorders.” Sleep phases refer to the typical times of day or night that sleep or sleepiness happens. Solutions are offered for correcting unhealthy or irregular sleep phases in all ages. Sleep phase issues are further discussed to include problems such as waking too early, long middle-of-the-night wakings, and nap problems. This section is very helpful for seeing how sleep fits in the big picture and how one thing affects another.

Parts 4 and 5:

The fourth and fifth sections address interruptions during sleep such as nightmares, bedwetting, head banging, partial waking, snoring, sleep apnea, and narcolepsy. This section only useful for these specific problems and can come in handy should they arise.

My take on the book:

For our first child, this book was a life-saver. We had tried several different approaches (Pantley’s No-Cry Sleep Solution, Dr. Sears’ sleeping advice, and Tracy Hogg’s approach) to no avail. Our daughter was around 9 months when we “broke down” and used the progressive-waiting approach. We made a chart for timing that spanned over a seven-day period. It took about four or five days to our daughter to learn to go to sleep on her own. More on this process in another post. Thanks to this book, our 2 ½ year-old is a fantastic sleeper. Naps didn’t work out so well until she was over 2 years old, but at least we had our evenings back. That made everyone happier.

What I really like about this book is that it is pretty straight-forward. Ferber presents the method and gives loads of background information so that the reader can make informed choices regarding this approach. He also gives a few options for modifying the technique to meet the parent’s needs. He gives practical advice concerning parenting issues around sleep. It is not a strict “do it this way or your child will fail” book. This approach also fits nicely with other non-sleep issue parenting approaches. For example, if you only have an issue getting the baby to bed and to sleep on his or her own, then you only need to use the progressive-waiting approach (unlike the 12-hour-sleep approaches that require the baby be on a specific schedule).

The part on colic is not helpful at all. If you have a colicky baby, I highly recommend Your Fussy Baby.

If you are a responsible and loving parent, I do not find this approach to be cruel my any stretch of the imagination, but it isn’t soft and fluffy. As with any sleep training approach, it really depends on the child and the parents and the relationship. All involved parties need to be “ready.”  There will be crying, but that is not necessarily a bad thing as long as it is controlled and your baby’s needs are met (fed, dry, comfortable, etc.).


Sleep and the Post-Colic Baby July 5, 2011

Filed under: Gabriel Stories,Parenting — parentsong @ 12:17 pm
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Colic is a funny thing. I have read loads about it since it appears that is what our son, Gabriel, was suffering from for the first three months of his life. Suffering? Maybe. It is hard to say if it is actual suffering or just not able to acclimate to his new world. The idea of the fourth trimester seems to ring so true for colicky babies. They just cannot calm down unless they are held, rocked, and given a steady noise, such as shhhing or white noise. Basically, put them back in the womb!

One thing that stands out to me from my reading adventures (online and through books) is that when the colic ends, you often have a overly-tired baby on your hands. Trying to get the baby to sleep is of utmost importance because up to this point, he or she has not learned a lick of how to do it on his or her own.

This was certainly true for us. Gabriel showed the classic symptoms of colic: crying for hours on end from about the second week of his life until about 13 or 14 weeks. It gradually got better, it wasn’t like he hit three months and BAM! no more crying. He eased his way out of it. To get through it, we did whatever worked, which included breaking our rule that the baby does not sleep in our bed. As a post-colic baby*, he still ends up in our bed for several hours a night and often awakens there. But the important thing is that he is happy.

I have treated his fourth month of life very much like I would treat a typical baby’s first month. We have not imposed any sleep schedule on him because in my mind, he has only just started being able to self-regulate and develop some natural sleep pattern. I just focused on helping him to get as much sleep as possible. At four months old, he takes 4-5 naps a day and spends 1-2 hours awake between the naps. At night, he is up around 4 times between 8:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. He averages about 13 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. Much better than the 8-10 hours he was getting at the peak of the colic. He also eats NON-STOP. But that’s for another post.

So this is where we are. Where are we going? The therapist part of me has put together a list of questions to help me decide which route to take in sleep training. Our first, Briony, was sleep-trained at 9 months. After failed attempts using a few different methods, we ended up “Ferberizing” her, or a gradual extinction method. It took less than a week for her to learn to go to sleep on her own. Gabriel is a different person and will likely require a different approach. I’m exploring that right now.

*Post-colic baby: The state of being for a baby emerging from colic, usually the first 6-9 weeks following the colic spell. I made up this definition, but it makes sense to me.


Book Review: Sleeping Through the Night June 30, 2011

Filed under: Book Review — parentsong @ 11:33 pm
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Sleeping Through the Night by Jodi Mindell*

The book covers everything about infant sleep behavior. The tone of the book is quite conversational. No references to studies or even a bibliography here.

It is not a method book, per se, though the author seems to be presenting a gradual extinction method. This method is rather simplistic and is likely to leave a parent wondering what went wrong if the baby is mildly challenging. The basic approach here is to let the baby “cry it out.” She illustrates with stories of babies crying so hard they vomit. And she tells the reader how to set up the bed so that when the baby does vomit, the sheets can quickly be changed. Hmmm, not very practical advice for sleep training if you ask me.

The author refers to “sleep associations” that make or break your baby’s ability to go to sleep, which is the same idea that Ferber’s method is built on. I think sleep associations are questionable to begin with. But this author takes it one step further by identifying “negative” and “positive” sleep associations, which is not one of Ferber’s ideas. It may be one of her own or something she picked up from training as a psychologist. Negative sleep associations are identified as the parent or anything that will not be present when the baby wakes (such as a music box or pacifier). Positive sleep associations are the presentation of the room as the child falls asleep (a cuddly toy in a dark room). I have not read this anywhere else and I’m not sure about it because it can become rather ambiguous, depending on how one views positive or negative associations.

The author gives advice of what do in certain situations, such as the child jumping out of the crib, teething, setting limits, moving, traveling, etc. Everything in this book seems to get equal attention. All aspects of sleep, from birth to adulthood, are covered in a paragraph or two each. In this way, everything is sort of glossed over. This seems to make it is more of an “introduction” to sleep. The book will likely train parents more than children (such as if the parent is truly interfering with the child’s ability to sleep).

In all honesty, I did not even want to spend the time reviewing this book. I suppose it is because I have read some very helpful books on sleep and this one offers no new information. I also did not like how the information was presented. For me, I need to know why certain things work and why they do not. I like for the author to have some philosophical background so that I know where they are coming from. This book feels very empty to me, as though the author has never actually had to teach a child to sleep.

*I realize this review is quite biased and less objective than I like reviews to be; my apologies.


Singing to an Infant: Lullabies June 25, 2011

Filed under: Songs — parentsong @ 11:32 pm
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Lullabies have been the muse that lures babes to sleep for, well, a very very long time. It is quite natural to sing to a baby. Almost every culture has some form of a lullaby. Lullabies help promote sleep, increase bonding, boost confidence and trust (part of the rhythm, something to anticipate or something expected), and can be soothing to a restless babe.

With our daughter, we sang spirituals and an English song called Ten Green Bottles. It was difficult to sing to Gabriel in the early months because he was colicky and the only thing that soothed him was shhhhing. Now that he isn’t crying all the time, I have been using lullabies to soothe him during his bedtime routine and prepare him for that wonderful slumber. This also helps me keep the routine straight. This way, even if it gets a little off track, I can keep the same basic rhythm leading to bedtime because it is guided by song. This doesn’t exactly put him to sleep every time, but it is a start!

Here is the rhythm I use for now (at 4 months):

      1. Short song to announce bath time (I wrote).
      2. After bath, during massage and dressing I sing All the Pretty Little Horses. I usually end up improvising some and changing words until we are finished.
      3. During his bottle, which is the only time I don’t nurse him, I sing Edelweiss. It’s not a typical lullaby, but it is very soothing and lovely to hum.
      4. After he has finished eating, I rock him and walk around singing the spirituals. Usually Swing Low, Sweet Chariot or Goin’ Down That Lonesome Road, residuals from when we sang Briony to sleep. If it goes on longer, I bust out the Ten Green Bottles.

Since using these songs, I am better able to keep a consistent routine. This is part of our sleep plan and part of our colic recovery. More on that in other posts.


Recovering from Colic June 14, 2011

Filed under: Gabriel Stories,Parenting — parentsong @ 9:30 pm
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Peaceful napping, mostly when not in a crib

I think the “worst” is over. Though, apparently, when raising children, things don’t get harder or easier, they just change. While there are many challenges of parenting I expect, things such as sleep deprivation and having to eat standing up or use only one hand for everything because the baby cannot be set down, there are some things that I do not like to be challenged by. Having a baby spitting up constantly and crying for many hours of the day is not fun. I just wanted to get through it. And we have. Now, we have a very happy, alert, spunky 3 ½ month old.

The problem now is that sleep is still a major issue. I have many books on sleep in infants and I understand how it works. Weissbluth is the only author I have read that acknowledges the effect colic has on the infant developing healthy sleeping habits. I believe that parents can really make or break a child’s ability to sleep well.

Happy most of the time, now!

I want to help our child learn to sleep. He currently wakes every 30 to 45 minutes from a nap and every hour to three hours in the night. This says to me that he cannot make it through natural arousals that occur in all sleep. We adults have learned how to stay asleep through having to move or adjust in our sleep. We don’t wake up full of vigor in the middle of the night because we were uncomfortable or had an itch or heard a car door shut. We mostly remain unconscious of it and carry on sleeping. By 12 to 16 weeks, infants have the ability to do the same thing. Hmmm, I guess we are dealing with a habit at this point.

While I am not quite ready to jump into hard-core sleep training just yet, we are devising a sort of plan to assist our child in getting the gist of sleeping. I’ll lay it out in another post, and hopefully report great things as time goes on.