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January 04, 2008

Hush a Bye Baby

J0409148 I want to start a book burning. No, I’m not worried about the word “scrotum” appearing in a kid’s book, or bad grammar. Rather, I want to take my rather impressive collection of sleep training books and toss them all into a big, roaring fire.

It’s not that I’m against sleep training. It sounds like a lovely idea – in theory. Take a baby and teach him how to sleep. Put him down drowsy but awake, patting his chubby belly until he drifts peacefully to sleep. If that fails, switch to Ferber, where your child cries for a bit before falling asleep on his own. Can’t stand the tears? Try the No-Cry sleep method. It takes a little longer, but it promises you the same, sleep-filled result.

The reality? My three year old – whom we Ferberized so many times that I lost count – crawls into our bed each night. My four-month old still sleeps like a newborn, waking every couple of hours to nurse back to sleep. We tried letting him cry one night; after an hour and a half of screaming, I surrendered. Each night, we all wind up in bed together. Tiny toddler toes are pressed into my husband’s face; I barely sleep for fear of the baby getting tangled in our sheets.

I study these sleep books like others read the bible. I pour over the words, again and again, searching for the one thing that will work. Yet no matter how closely I follow their advice – a calming bath before bed, a tight swaddle, a soothing song to drift my child off sleep – I fail. They mock me from my bedside table. Inside each are grateful testimonials from well-rested parents who turned chaotic nights into calm ones. I’m smart and accomplished. Why can’t I get my children to sleep?

But then I noticed some of the newer sleep books have started including testimonials from parents about how those other, older sleep books don’t work. Soon I’m sure I’ll see more books promising yet another sure-fire way to get your child to sleep. It’s all one big, sleep-promising lie. The truth is, some kids just don’t sleep well, no matter what you do.

I recently received yet another new book in the mail: Sleep Deprived No More. It offered one foolproof piece of advice that, above all others, worked perfectly: Put your husband on baby duty and go sleep somewhere else in the house.

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