Tag Archives: sleep regressions

Book Review: Good Night Sleep Tight: The Sleep Lady’s Gentle Guide to Helping Your Child Go to Sleep, Stay Asleep, and Wake Up Happy by Kim West and Joanne Kenen

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Good Night, Sleep Tight has the dubious distinction of being the first baby sleep book I ever read. You may be noticing a pattern here, but I found this for $1 at the Good Will (I was there a lot when I was first pregnant, and none of my clothes fit), and when I looked it up online, it seemed like a lot of people liked it. I was young, I was innocent, I knew nothing about baby sleep . . . into the cart it went.

Now that I’m old and jaded and substantially more knowledgeable about babies all over, I have very mixed feelings about this book. I’m pretty sure that some of my son’s sleep problems were actually created when I tried to follow West’s advice too closely, but there’s also a lot of good information here.

west-good-nightPros: West’s delineation of the amounts of sleep that are normal for different age groups and the types of routines/schedules that work for different age groups are some of the clearest I’ve found, and the most accurate to what my son was doing from 0-9ish months-old. We didn’t try her “Sleep Lady Shuffle,” but it didn’t seem like a terrible idea and I think it would work well for some families.

Cons: West says she breastfed her own children, but it seems like she’s not well-educated about breastfeeding and what’s normal for breast-fed babies (a recurring trouble spot for many sleep books, I’m noticing). This is bad, because a lot of babies won’t be able to be night-weaned nearly as early as she seems to think they should be, and she sometimes suggests formula feeding over breastfeeding for sleep purposes, which is just baloney. If a mother’s willing to breastfeed, she should be supported in that, not told that she’s ruining her baby’s sleep. And we have good evidence that formula-fed babies *don’t* tend to sleep any better than breastfed babies, so encouraging formula here is especially wrongheaded.

Another huge problem for my family, and one of the reasons I end up not recommending this book that often, is that West does not address sleep regressions (common at 4 months, 8 or 9 months, and sometimes 11 months) as a normal part of development. She certainly doesn’t devote any time in the book as to how to get through them. As I’ve mentioned, sleep regressions are really challenging times for everyone, and West ignores the existence of that challenge, potentially making parents feel like they’re doing something wrong when their kid is just going through a normal, difficult stage. She does address some sleep issues like teething and regression in the last chapter, but it needed to be front-and-center in the age-appropriate chapters to be meaningful.

I have such mixed feelings about this book, but I think overall, it doesn’t really fit with my parenting philosophy. Nothing West says is evidence-based, and some of the advice seems actively harmful. For those reasons, I don’t recommend it.

Further thoughts on the 4 month regression.

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As predicted, I fell off the face of the internet for a little while, but my daughter seems to have figured out how to sleep with her fancy new brain with remarkably little intervention from me. The 4 month sleep regression is unpredictable, and this might be the eye of the storm rather than the end of it, but she has slept from 8PM-5AM for two nights in a row, and has been putting herself to sleep for bedtime and naps with no or very little fussing. I am ridiculously proud of her, and also relieved. Even if this is just a respite, my back and shoulders deserve the rest – rocking a 15lb baby to sleep 5-6 times a day is a lot of work!

This is also completely different from our experience of our son’s 4 month sleep regression, which lasted for months, and our son required significant intervention from us to learn to handle his new sleep patterns. I have vivid memories of rocking in a dark room for what seemed like hours, counting to myself to determine when it might be safe to try to put him down in his crib. As a second-time mother, I wonder how much of the trouble was really his different personality and temperament, and how much of it was just me getting in the way of him teaching himself sooner, but I really do think he was just a very different kind of baby from his sister.

Anyway, in my efforts to get through this regression with my sanity intact, I have been reading a lot about this age, and there are two articles I found in particular that I want to recommend strongly for any parents going through this period.

First, Ask Moxie has a great, lucid post explaining what the heck is going on during the 4 and 9 month sleep regressions, and reminds us all that it’s normal for these regressions to leave you feeling defeated and frustrated, even though they’re normal developmentally for your baby. The comments are good reading to help you feel like you’re not alone! A reminder about sleep regressions

(I do feel like I want to mention that, though she’s right that lots of babies seem to only take 20-40 minute naps as newborns, my daughter was the unicorn baby that would take 3 hour naps and always needed to be woken up to eat. So, these babies do exist, and are just as normal as the 20-40 minute nappers!)

Second, I love this article from KellyMom: Wakeful 4 month-olds

It addresses the supremely problematic advice a lot of parents get from their pediatricians, families, and an unfortunately large percentage of books on parenting and sleep, to resort to cry-it-out when their 4 month-old suddenly stops sleeping at night.

“Has NO ONE stopped to consider the developmental stage of the breastfeeding baby that begins at about four months and can go on to 6 or 7 months? Think about your four month old breastfeeding — what are they doing? This baby is on and off the breast — so interested in the world around him he can hardly stand it. “Oh look! There’s the dog! Hi, Mommy, I love you SOOOO much! The phone?! A car went by. The TV is on. Big sister comes into the room….hey, there’s just too much going on for me to concentrate on eating. I think I’m full now. I’ll see you later…..” – Jan Barger, RN, MA, IBCLC

Of course, of course, of course a baby distracted from breastfeeding during the day is going to be more hungry at night! I am moderately conservative when it comes to sleep training – I think there are a lot of gentle, limited-cry methods that are a great help in teaching babies how to sleep independently, but I don’t think cry-it-out is the Devil when used appropriately. The problem is that, in my experience, cry-it-out is almost never used appropriately. You do not wean a baby by leaving them to cry in the dark by themselves. You alter their daytime schedule to make sure they’re eating enough, you feed them in a quiet place so they can concentrate on eating, and then, only if needed, you work on night weaning in a gentle, supportive way. A lot of babies will drop night feedings on their own once parents ensure that they’re getting full feedings during the day, so why not try that before leaving them to cry at night?

I hope these two articles will be helpful to other parents going through this regression, especially if you’re going through it for the first time.

Sleep regressions are the worst.

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I have been a little absent this week, and I might be a little absent for the next month or so (we’ll see!), because my daughter has run head first into the 4 month sleep regression. My daughter is a much more adaptable baby than my son was, and I had tricked myself into thinking that maybe her journey through this sleep regression would just be a little blip on the sleep radar, but gentle readers, I was wrong. Oh, so wrong!

Sleep regressions are a normal part of a baby’s development through the first few years of life, and are characterized by a baby suddenly refusing naps and bedtime, waking a lot at night, taking very short naps, and generally turning into a fussbutt. You think you’re going crazy, because what happened to your adorable, smiling, happy baby? Where did she go? It’s not you, though! It’s totally just a sleep regression.

The 4 month sleep regression has the dubious honor of being the only sleep regression that is permanent. What I mean by that is, the 4 month sleep regression is caused by a permanent change in the way your baby sleeps, and the associated miserable-ness is really your baby doing her darnedness to re-learn how to sleep under new conditions. I am not a sleep scientist, but from what I understand, babies under 4 months-old are almost always in deep sleep. Around 4 months, this changes, and babies start to sleep more like adults, cycling between light sleep and deep sleep continuously. A lot of the symptoms of the 4 month regression are your baby going, “What the heck is this light sleep thing, and how do I make it go away?!”

Although I have met many parents who swear that their baby has been sleeping well since they were 6 weeks-old, I have met many more who hit 4 months-old and started to fall apart. You’ve been getting up a minimum of twice a night to feed the baby for four months, and maybe you weren’t sleeping well during the later stages of the pregnancy, and maybe you are the rare adult like me who needs 9 hours of sleep to be a happy person. You think you’re finally getting the hang of this exhaustion thing, and then, BOOM! Your baby is suddenly not napping and waking up 10 times a night! Awesome, right?

The 4 month regression is a time for self-care if there ever was one. This is the time to call in all favors, to pay all the babysitters, to get a night nurse for even one night if you can. Get the teenager across the street to hold the baby for an hour so you can take a nap. Order pizza for dinner so you can veg out in front of the TV with your baby who will suddenly only sleep if you hold her. Find other people to worry about the crumbs on the floor and the dishes in the sink. The regression can last anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks, and you will make it through, but you need to pace yourself. And above all, you need to sleep, as much as you possibly can.

There is some good news associated with the sleep regression! Once it’s over, your baby is mature enough to learn how to fall asleep by herself, and to fall back asleep on her own if she wakes up at night and it’s not time to eat yet. She might not *want* to do that, and you might not feel ready to teach her, but after the 4 month regression, you *can* teach her if you want to. In my opinion, there is ZERO point in sleep training of any kind before 4 months. I know lots of people disagree, and you can certainly get to 4 months in better or worse shape, considering, but I think a lot of new parents work way to hard on sleep in the first few months, see it all fall apart during the regression, and then are just too exhausted to make any real strides after the regression ends. And that’s honestly a shame, because after the regression is the best time to start sleep training – your baby is finally ready! You could probably all use some good sleep!

Anyway, I’m going to try to keep posting a few times a week, but if I completely disappear, now you know where I am. I am frantically bouncing/rocking/climbing stairs trying to get this baby to sleep.