‘Nighttime parenting’ by Sears

I already admitted recently that we bought our first baby sleep book. After a year of not sleeping much longer than 3-4 hours (or less) at a time, I felt that maybe we were missing something. Previously I resisted getting a baby sleep book, because I thought (and still think) that worrying about lack of sleep takes even more of your energy than just not sleeping well. I also believe that sleep is not something you can force onto your children, but that the only thing you can do is create an environment in which they feel safe to fall asleep. So we didn’t buy any of the books that say that you have to let your baby cry-it-out, but instead got ‘Nighttime parenting’ from Bill Sears, the father of attachment parenting. Does it make sense to get a book on something that you already do (namely breastfeeding and co-sleeping)? It kind of does, which is why I’m writing about it.
The book starts out explaining what attachment parenting is. Sears doesn’t say that you have to breastfeed, babywear and co-sleep, but he just says that attachment parenting helps you achieve two goals:

  • To know your child. 
  • To help your child feel right.

And I like the way he talks about ‘nighttime parenting’, suggesting that you shouldn’t put your baby in a separate room from 7PM to 7AM (as some people around us suggest) but that you should also be there for him at night. But what annoyed me a bit was how he made it sound so overly romantic: you lay down with your baby after a nice warm bath, hold him in your arms and nurse him to sleep. Yeah right. In our house, that works only some of the time. Most of the time however, BlueEyes will nurse, almost fall asleep and then turn around and sit up, crawl out of bed and start playing. So then usually Dr. BrownEyes will come in and walk around with BlueEyes until he either sleeps or wants to nurse again (which he will tell by crying). This is far from the romantic picture dat Sears is painting in his book, which is filled with 70s pictures of people cuddling with their sleeping baby in the family bed…
In another chapter Sears talks about the ‘high need baby’, with which he means babies that have a hard time sleeping and/or cry a lot. I’ve been wondering whether BlueEyes would qualify as a high need baby, and to be honest: I have no idea. I don’t really have a lot of firsthand experience with other babies (I had never even changed a diaper before BlueEyes was born!), so I can’t say how he compares to other children (well except for all the stories about children who sleep through the night at 6 weeks old…). But the solution for a high need baby is basically even more co-sleeping, breastfeeding and babywearing than for a regular baby.
So was this book useful? You might be surprised, but yes it was! Because now I know that we’re not just doing something, but that it’s sort of normal to still nurse a 1 year old to sleep and to walk around the room with him when he wakes up at night in order for him to fall asleep again. And that it’s just a matter of waiting until he will sleep better.


Filed under attachment parenting, baby, books, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, sleep

7 responses to “‘Nighttime parenting’ by Sears

  1. We did all of the above with our oldest and he did grow out of it all eventually, and so far at age 5 have not yet had to play the “I want to stay up” game. He sleeps (in his own bed, in his own room) when he's sleepy.

  2. I think it's WAY better to get a book that “agrees” with what you are already doing than one that tells you you're doing it ALL WRONG. Because who wants to pay for that? 🙂

    I was still nursing T to sleep until 14 months and she was still waking 1x for milk. We started the Jay Gordon night weaning thing to get rid of that feeding and it worked after just a few days.

    Now we just have different sleep issues, but it's bearable.

  3. Thanks for your comment! I thought it was really reassuring, but when I told Dr. BrownEyes what you wrote his response was “what?! We have to wait for another four years?!” Still, things are slowly improving and I feel that BlueEyes needs less time nursing at night and he's better capable of putting himself back to sleep. It is two steps forward, one step back though, but currently we're in the two steps forward luckily!

  4. Thanks for your comment. I don't really mind the nursing at night as long as BlueEyes doesn't wake up completely, because then it's hard work to put him back to sleep. Also, with my conference coming up we'll see how it goes when there's no boob available at night (but there are tons of expressed breast milk bottles for just in case).

  5. Baby sleep can be infuriating. Sleep books even more so. We slept with Epsilon, (still to do a certain extent) and I think my partner blames this partly on his poor sleep habits. (Epsilon was waking me up 2-3 times a night to nurse until he was 1, even though he was only nursing once during the day. We finally gave up and let him cry it out.) Epsilon's still a lousy sleeper. On the other hand, we visit friends who sleep with their kid of the same age, and the kid sleeps like a rock when she's tired, goes down for a nap on her own. They've done nothing to encourage this behaviour. I don't know how much the sleep books are meant to give sleep deprived parents some hope to cling to, but I haven't been able to find solutions in either the ones that agree with me, or the ones that don't. I'm glad it's working for you though.

  6. To be honest, I think how good of a sleeper a kid is, is mostly just his/her personality and/or genetics. I'm not sure there's much you can do to change that, other than just trying to find a way that works best for all parties involved. I'm sorry to hear Epsilon is still not a good sleeper.

  7. I definitely hear you on the sleep business. Kiddo is a not so great sleeper (as I've ranted about at length). The best thing that a sleep book did for me was to give me permission to not rush to him at every cry. That is, it wouldn't scar him for life if I grabbed a glass of water first.

    Things have gotten a lot better for us sleep-wise, but we still have rough nights (see last night where I ended up co-sleeping with him in our guest room). I completely agree that sleep has more to do with personality and/or genetics than what parents do. I have friends whose kid decided at 6 months to start night weaning and at 9 months put herself to sleep. My friends say they can claim no credit for this and they couldn't tell me how to replicate it!

    Sorry for the novel. Apparently, I have thoughts about this.

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