Monday, March 4, 2013

Navigating the Waters

There are only about a bajillion different books on child rearing. No joke. And they can be really intimidating as a new mom who wants only the best for her little peanut. Not only that, but parenting is a hot button issue. Nothing will get a group of women more fired up at each other than throwing around parenting theory criticisms. With all of this, where do you even begin? Today's post will hopefully navigate the way through some of the more popular theories on living with an infant. I'll just be hitting the high points for each popular theory, and each theory will have links to their respective books. Included with some of the theories are other popular books that are similar (But not exactly the same). I'm hoping that I can present this to you in a way that is unbiased, because I'm convinced that the right choice is completely different for each and every family. Not included with each review is the author's assumptions on infant bonding and development based on their model - mostly because each author believes their method results in the most well-adjusted child.

The last thing I'd want to accomplish is to create a divide between parents based on the way they raise their children. There's too much of that squabbling going on around the interwebz, so lets leave the judgement and criticism out, got it?! Now that we're all on board, lets get started!

This is also commonly known as the "Rapid Extinction" method of sleep training, which is a Cry It Out (CIO) method. With this method and the remaining CIO methods, parents are always encouraged to evaluate infant for other causes of crying (hunger cues, dirty diapers, sickness, teething) before allowing baby to CIO. The idea is that infants cry when tired and by crying, can both expend necessary energy and learn to soothe him/herself to sleep. CIO methods also claim that sleeping is a learned skill, thus  babies must be taught how to sleep well. This is a solitary sleep (crib sleeper) method. HSHHC asserts that good sleep is critical to good behavior and functioning, but well-intended parents sabotage their child's sleep habits unintentionally. Bad sleep begets bad sleep, therefore, parents must break the cycle of sleep deprivation and bad sleep habits via rapid extinction. The goal is to train your child to fall asleep independently and stay asleep via self-soothing. Here are the basics:
  • Early bedtimes mean baby goes down before he/she becomes tired. 
  • Naptimes are of extreme importance and should be preserved at all costs.
  • Baby learns how to fall asleep by doing it on his/her own.
  • "Rapid Extinction:" This is kinda like the cold turkey method...once baby is relaxed, put him/her in the crib and say goodnight. The End. Baby will cry, but eventually will learn to fall asleep on his/her own.
  • Pro: When you stick to your guns and leave baby to sleep on his/her own, this method states it works within a few days.
  • Con: Those can be some hellaciously long days. 

This is also known as "Progressive Waiting" or Ferberizing. This is also a CIO and solitary sleep method. This centers around positive sleep associations, routines, and rituals (the book also has information on night terrors, sleep walking, bedwetting, and other sleep disorders). Like HSHHC, Ferber asserts that parents often intervene during normal wakenings at night, which instead of helping the child go back to sleep, it creates more of a disturbance. Parents break bad habits through progressive waiting. The goal here again is to train your child to fall asleep independently and stay asleep. Here are the basics:
  • Do not let baby fall asleep while feeding, rocking, or being stroked/patted
  • Avoid sleep props (pacifiers, mobiles, music, etc). Ferber makes the point that falling asleep with a pacifier (that eventually falls out) is like falling asleep with a pillow that's taken away. When you wake up without a pillow (or Paci), it's confusing, frustrating, and much harder to go back to sleep without it.
  • Each night there is an identical bedtime ritual. 
  • Baby sleeps in the same place for naps and bedtime
  • Baby goes to bed relaxed but not asleep
  • "Progressive Waiting:" If baby cries, you make a short appearance at increasing intervals (5 minutes, then 10 minutes, then 15 minutes, etc). This is to reassure baby that you haven't abandoned him/her but is not intended to console your baby to sleep.
  • Pro: When you stick to your guns and leave baby to sleep on his/her own, this method states it works within a few days.
  • Con: Those can be some hellaciously long days.
  • Similar books: Sleeping Through the Night (Mindell Method)

This method takes on sleeping and feeding routines, because it asserts that good sleep patterns arise from good feeding patterns. The sleep recommendations are very similar to the Ferber method, which means it's also a CIO/solitary sleep method. Parents are encouraged to get in full feedings every 2-3 hours instead of frequent snacking, but still always assessing a crying baby for hunger vs. dirty diaper vs. exhaustion, boredom, sickness, teething, etc. The idea is that parents will guide and direct the day, neither a slave to the clock (hyper scheduling) nor a slave to the baby (on demand feeding). Baby's day begins with a "first feeding" and is from there organized into feed/wake/sleep cycles. Each day ends with an identical bedtime ritual. The goal here is to create a flexible day schedule of feedings/naps which in turn lends itself to successful nighttime sleep. Here are the basics:
  • Full feedings -not short feeding "snacks"- every 2-3 hours (from birth to 8 weeks, then lengthening as the baby gets older), but parents are mindful of hunger cues in addition to the clock when determining feeding times.
  • Each day begins at the same time with the first feeding and ends at the same time with a nighttime routine. This helps regulate the day and night sleep schedule.
  • Baby goes down relaxed but not asleep, without sleep props, and is allowed to CIO in a "progressive waiting"-type manner. 
  • Days are organized into predictable patterns of feed time, followed by awake time, and then a nap. 
  • Pro: Parent direction allows for a flexible but still regular schedule that leads to prolonged nighttime sleep
  • Con: This method initially received lots of negative publicity for being linked to infants suffering from Failure to Thrive (FTT), due to scheduled feedings. Later editions were revised to include more flexibility with feedings based on hunger cues and schedule. 
  • Similar books: The Baby Whisperer (Hogg)
This is an attachment parenting (AP) method (Sears is the AP Guru), which means family bed (mom, dad, and baby share the same bed), on demand feeding, and no-cry sleeping. Breastfeeding and baby wearing are also encouraged. This theory asserts that babies need positive sleep associations, which means your baby should be close during sleep. Because the family bed fosters AP, there is no reason to force your baby to sleep through the night or discontinue nighttime feedings. On-demand feeding is embraced, which means infants are offered a breast whenever hunger cues are given, whether 30 minutes after the previous feeding or several hours after the previous feeding. This set up is especially convenient for mom when baby wakes at night to feed. The closeness can be rewarding for both parents and baby.  It should be noted that this book covers a very broad range of birthing/parenting topics outside of what I've highlighted (700+ pages y'all!). Here are the basics:
  • 7 B's of attachment parenting: Birth bonding, Belief in baby's cries, Breastfeeding, Baby wearing, Bed sharing, Balance and boundaries, and Beware of baby trainers.
  • Crying is a form of infant communication and should be pacified. 
  • Parents are encouraged to use their creativity/instincts rather than follow a list of rules
  • Pro: It's convenient to care for your baby when he/she is close. 
  • Con: The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend the family bed as it poses a risk for suffocation and SIDS. 
  • Similar: The No-Cry Sleep Solution (Pantley)
This book isn't a guide on sleeping or feeding methods, but rather looks at cognitive developmental changes over the first 20 months of life. TWW asserts that every infant will undergo predictable developmental leaps (10 in all) in cognition and awareness, called the Wonder Weeks. This is not to be confused with physical growth spurts, although those could certainly overlap in some instances. TWW asserts that babies will exhibit the 3 C's (Crying, Cranky, Clingy) preceding or during a WW because these major changes in cognition can be startling and confusing until baby processes what's new in the world around them. It should be stated though, that parents are always encouraged to rule out sickness, pain, teething, etc when these behaviors are exhibited. The book breaks down each WW including: behaviors to anticipate, the regressions that you will notice, the leap that baby accomplishes, and activities to help baby meet his/her potential. Here are the basics:
  • The wonder weeks are at ages 5 weeks, 8, 12, 19, 26, 37, 46, 55, 64, and 75 weeks. 
  • Each wonder week is preceded or marked by the 3 C's. Additional week-specific behaviors are included in the book. 
  • It is intended for normal/healthy full-term infants. 
  • Pro: It's nice to have something to blame that difficult week on. Knowing when they are coming can help troubleshoot the fragile disposition that comes with such great gains in cognitive development.
  • Con: Many reviews cite this book as being overly repetitive. 
Again, not a guide on sleeping or feeding methods, The Happiest Baby on the Block is a guide to soothing infants and quelling crying. Karp has devised 5 solutions to infant crying, which he has termed the 5 S's. The idea is that infants are born developmentally unprepared for the outside world, thus the first 3 months of life is termed a fourth trimester. Karp even refers to fourth trimester babies as "fetuses" (a term reserved for infants still in utero) in the book. Parents help soothe their infants by "recreating" a womb-like environment, resulting in a happier baby whose cries are quickly and efficiently quieted. Parents are encouraged to use a combination of the 5 S's in order to quiet their little screamer. Here are the basics:
  • Swaddling: Baby "burrito wrap" is similar to the closeness of the uterus and prevents baby's limbs from flailing and triggering the Moro reflex. It is meant to be snug.
  • Side/Stomach: Think "fetal position." Similar to baby's position in utero, which was never flat on his/her back (NOT to be confused with sleeping position). Prevents triggering the Moro reflex.
  • Shhhh-ing: Babies were accustomed to lots of noise while in mom's tummy, especially the whooshing of bloodflow through the placenta. Shushing recreates this noise and should be relatively loud to be effective.
  • Swinging: Again with the uterine environment thing. Babies are suspended in fluid and float/swing back & forth as mom moves around. Jiggling, bouncing, swinging, walking... you get the picture. 
  • Sucking: The great baby calmer. Can be accomplished through nursing, pacifiers, or even mom's clean finger.
  • Pro: These calming methods are great for babies who cry even when all their needs are met. 
  • Con: The theory that babies are being born "3 months too early/should gestate for 12 months" can be a turn off to Christians who believe that pregnancy and birth are God-breathed and God-ordained. (Plus, what mom wants to be pregnant for another 3 months longer? Yikes! We ladies know this book HAD to be written by a man.).

So maybe you like ideas from several different theorists. Perhaps you want to co-sleep with your baby, but like the idea of a scheduled day time. Maybe you want to let your child sleep in his/her crib, but also want to use a no-cry method. The brilliance of baby raising is that you do what's right for your baby and your family. One thing I found while researching these methods is that much of the squabbling that happens among mothers begins at the source! Each author asserts that his way is vastly superior, will result in the happiest, most well-adjusted baby, and any other method or theory is complete hogwash. Be careful of jumping on a parenting method bandwagon too early, as sometimes your child is the one who will determine what your new family's life is going to be like! 

I obtained a wealth of information from the book Baby 411, which I would recommend wholeheartedly to all new moms! I own a few of the books listed above, but used Wikipedia and mybabysleepguide to fill in any other holes. FYI, I wasn't compensated in any way for of the book links or information. Lastly (and most importantly!!!!), these texts should be viewed as baby theories, and should not be taken from me as actual medical advice. Lets leave that to our pediatricians!

1 comment:

Amanda McD said...

Wow...I wish I had this post to read 9 months ago. I've read most of these books and you did an absolute fantastic job describing each one.

I also swear by Baby 411 and it is now my go-to baby shower gift!

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