About a month ago Drs. Sears and Weissbluth both participated in an online chat with Chicago Tribune’s health reporter, Julie Deardorff. I think back to a few key points raised in the chat that still surprise me how disconnected doctors can be to parents. Perhaps it’s because it’s been a long time since they’ve been parents to young babies. Or, perhaps being doctors tends to give you a more scientific approach rather than a practical one. Either way, there are a few key points this article is raising to educate new parents on the topic of baby sleep.
How much is sleep really a problem for young babies?
“Dr. Bob Sears: I don’t think most parents even need to be taught. Like most aspect of parenting, the choices we make regarding sleep can be just as instinctual. Most parents and babies DON’T have sleep problems at all. The thing is, we don’t hear from those parents. We only hear from those who do have problems. In my opinion, that’s actually the minority. I think most parents just naturally learn how to help their baby sleep well and how to get a good night sleep despite having a baby.”
One of the first things Dr. Bob Sears (son of the renowned Dr. William Sears) is that he claims that those with sleep issues are really the minority and that those without sleep problems are those who don’t say anything. Quite the contrary! It’s those without sleep problems I feel have the louder voice making those of us who have sleep problems feel like we are doing something wrong. I also believe that some parents claim their baby sleeps fine to feel better about their sleep situation or they are simply tired of talking about it. I was so tired of telling people my son wouldn’t sleep, because no one had advice that helped! “Keep him up later.”, “Don’t let him nap.” That was the worst advice EVER!
Dr. Sears, I have over 100,000 visitors to this site a month that say otherwise that their baby’s sleep IS a problem. Perhaps it is technically the minority, but it’s a large number of people! And, we are only starting to scratch the surface.
Dr Sears did go on to say later that some parents don’t necessarily have perfect sleep, but they see it as what they signed up for in being a parent. To a certain extent, I believe this to be true. Our expectations make a HUGE difference in how we approach solutions to our baby’s sleep problems. One nursing mom who expects to feed her baby twice a night past a year is very different than one who believes all babies can sleep through the night without feedings by 4 months old because some of the books or doctors told her how that’s how it should be. The point here is that if you have a certain set of expectations regarding your baby’s sleep, then those will most likely influence how you approach your baby’s sleep habits.
Will teething wake your baby every 2 hours to nurse?
Later on in the chat a mom of a 5-month old said her baby was waking 10 times a night to comfort nurse back to sleep and Dr. Sears said that it sounded like teething pain. Sigh. If you’ve gotten my free baby sleep guide, you know this is due to sleep associations, not teething. I must get this question five times a day! I don’t understand how a doctor can not know this! You can read Dr. Weissbluth’s son voicing frustration on the same topic here: Weissbluth’s problem with Dr. Bob Sears.
Can transitioning a baby from co-sleeping to crib be that easy?
A worried mom asks about transitioning her baby from co-sleeping to crib and Dr. Weissbluth tells her just to do it and “not to worry.” As new parents, we do nothing but worry! If only it was that easy, Doctor. Although Dr. Weissbluth’s advice I felt was informative and practical, some of his answers were brief. Of course, answers about sleep can quickly get lengthy, which is why this is a whole website about the topic and I summarize the information in my books to keep it manageable. I don’t agree with Weissbluth on all fronts as I find a 5:30 p.m. bedtime is neither practical nor always necessary (especially since even if your baby sleeps 12 hours, this means he is waking up before dawn). The truth is that the transition from co-sleeping to a crib is often a major event for both the parent and the child, and a topic I help parents with quite often.
Why do 8-month olds wake every hour all night long?
Even later in the chat, Dr. Sears advised a parent of an exhausted 8 month old with bags under his eyes that her baby may have Sensory Processing Disorder. I yelled at the screen at that one. Again, I get new clients EVERY DAY with babies who wake every 1-2 hours (roughly every sleep cycle) because they think they need “help” back to sleep. This is nothing out of the ordinary for those of us who have had sleep issues! It is quite extreme for a doctor to suggest that a child who isn’t sleeping may have a disorder without knowing the baby’s history, personality and other information, when waking every 1-2 hours is actually quite a normal claim, in my experience.
Will cry it out cause brain damage?
I was actually pretty shocked that Dr. Sears said mild cry it out was fine, but he was more concerned about “INTENSE WEEKS” of cry it out leading to increased levels of cortisol. I wonder what his definition of cry it out would be or whether 3-4 nights of 20 minutes is okay versus crying for an hour, for example. So many gray areas and I did agree with him on the slower transition from co-sleeping to crib. Good advice. I always wonder what he would tell a family where co-sleeping did not work for them and Pantley’s method didn’t work, either. Remember, you can still practice attachment parenting and sleep train.
Is 9 months too old to sleep train?
A mom was asking whether 9 months is too old for sleep training. Dr. Weissbluth in the chat compares junk sleep with junk food. He goes on to say that a little junk food is okay, but a lot is not. Similarly, your baby waking frequently at night is considered “junk sleep” and not as restorative. I will finish Dr. Weissbluth’s thought and say that it’s never too late to sleep train, just like it’s never too late to eat healthy. After all, Raymond Francis healed himself from a terminal illness with transforming his diet. Although I’m not about to switch to 100% raw foods, I have been dipping my toes into green smoothies and a bonus has been that my sons have been requesting them, which has increased their green vegetable intake tremendously! :). Whether you have a 6 month old or a 4 year old, it’s never too late to teach healthy (sleep) habits!
Who’s right and who’s wrong?
Dr. Sears said this very well:
“Dr. Bob Sears: It’s NOT about who’s right and who’s wrong – it’s all about YOUR parenting choice.”
The Baby Sleep Site is here to help educate you on all the various methods so that you can make an informed decision, but not only that, it’s about what is RIGHT for YOUR baby and YOUR family. Your baby’s temperament is a huge factor in all of this. You can’t take your baby out of the decision process. Sometimes it’s not just a parenting choice, but adapting your parenting and philosophies to fit your baby’s needs. On a daily basis we will do things we never planned on doing prior to becoming parents. To quote Will Smith in Hitch, “That went differently in my head.” is something I say often.
For your persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3-Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your baby sleep through the night. For those looking for a more customized solution for your unique situation with support along the way, please consider one-on-one baby and toddler sleep consultations, where you will receive a personalized sleep plan for YOUR family that you can feel good about!