One of the biggest worries of new parents is sleep—how to get baby to sleep and how to get more sleep themselves. Often parents blame themselves and think there is something they can or should do to “make” their babies sleep. Over time, we understand that babies don’t sleep through the night right away. It’s good to have reassurance and tips during this tender time. Here are my five favorite books on infant sleep.
First, is a brand new book from La Leche League, Sweet Sleep: Nighttime and Nap Strategies for the Breastfeeding Family. Authored by veteran La Leche League Leaders, Diane Wiessinger, Diana West, Linda J. Smith and Teresa Pitman, this book is a welcome sigh of relief in the sleep category. Because it is intended for breastfeeding families, Sweet Sleep acknowledges the fact that breastfeeding moms bedshare with their babies and it helps parents sort out all of the anxious sleep advice they get.
Sweet Sleep covers sleep through toddlerhood, probably because after that it starts to be less of an issue. The book is divided into five sections: “Sleeping Better, Mothers and Babies Together,” “Sleep and Bedsharing Practicalities,” “Sleep Ages and Stages,” “Safe-Sleep Science,” and “Help.” Chapters include “The Safe Sleep Seven,” “Normal Sleep,” “Sleep Personalities and Places,” “Bedsharing Controversies and Commonsense,” and “Defusing Criticism.” The Tearsheet Toolkit is an appendix.
Sweet Sleep has lots of helpful information and tips. From the introduction:
After analyzing the research and talking with researchers, we’ve developed the Safe Sleep Seven: seven very clear criteria that address the risks of Sudden Infant Syndrome (SIDS, or crib death) and suffocation. Meeting all seven means that your baby’s risk of SIDS when he’s sleeping next to you in your bed is no greater than when he’s alone in his crib. And following this books Safe Surface gudelines hugely reduces any breathing risks no matter where your baby sleeps.
I also like the books by two of my favorite pediatricians, Paul Fleiss and Jay Gordon. Paul Fleiss, MD has written, Sweet Dreams: A Pediatrician’s Secrets for Baby’s Good Night’s Sleep, a book that draws on his 30+ years experience as a noted pediatrician and as a father. He shares tips for discovering your child’s natural sleep patterns, developing positive bedtime rituals, nutritional and lifestyle and nutritional aids for sleep and how co-sleeping affects normal growth and development.
Chapters include “What is Sleep,” “How to Handle Night Wakings and Other Sleep Problems,” “Common Things That Impair a Healthy Night’s Sleep and How You Can Avoid Them,” “Bedroom Hygiene: Making Your Child’s Bedroom Just Right,” “Things to Do During the Day to Foster a Good Night’s Sleep,” “Positive Bedtime Rituals for a Good Night’s Sleep,” “The Co-Sleeping Question,” and “A Step-by-Step Guide to Fostering Good Sleep Patterns,” This final chapter discusses sleep through the teenage years. Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 1:
In order to understand their children’s “sleep problems,” it is vital that parents learn to distinguish genuine sleep problems from unrealistic expectations. When we understand that infants, children, teenagers, adults, and the elderly all have unique sleep patterns, we will gain more respect for our children and their unique biological state. This understanding will help us to become better parents. Ignoring the natural biological rhythms and sleep patterns of our children can only lead to frustration.
Pediatrician, Jay Gordon’s, book Good Nights: The Happy Parent’s Guide to the Family Bed (and a Peaceful Night’s Sleep puts concerns about the family bed to rest by offering fun and easy-to-use guidance on safety, coping with criticism, and even keeping the spark in your marriage. The book is co-authored by sleep researcher, Maria Goodavage.
Chapters include: “Baby Knows Best And You Should Listen,” “Tales from the Crib How a Bunch of Little Babies Got Out,” “Practicing Safe Sleep Essential “Beducation” for Co-Sleepers,” “The Sandman Cometh Sound Solutions for a Satisfying Sleep,” “Love in the Laundry Room Keeping the Sizzle in Your Sex Life,” “Critical Support Coping with Naysayers,” “A Farewell to Arms—and Legs—and Feet…Moving Beyond the Family Bed,” and “Bedtime Stories Reassuring Reading.” From the introduction:
But even more than this, new scientific discoveries are revealing that babies were meant to be beside parents at night. A few surprising benefits of co-sleeping:
- The family bed offers many protections that can actually help save a baby’s life. (I firmly believe a safely set up family bed is safer than solitary infant sleep.)
- Family bed babies cry less than babies who sleep alone—a boon to both babies and parents.
- Family bed children end up more independent and better adjusted later in life than those who slept without parental contact.
And this will knock your socks off:
- Most family bed parents have very satisfying sex lives. This finding demolishes that nagging myth that the family bed spells death to sex!”
Also, of course, are the wonderful books by the King of Sleep, James McKenna, noted Notre Dame anthropologist whose research at his Mother-Infant Sleep Lab is world famous. Check out Sleeping with Your Baby: A Parent’s Guide to Co-Sleeping and A Quick Guide to Safely Sleeping with Your Baby: A Parent’s Guide to Co-Sleeping.
Peggy O’Mara is the editor and publisher of peggyomara.com. She was the editor and publisher of Mothering Magazine from 1980 to 2011 and founded Mothering.com in 1995. The author of Having a Baby Naturally; Natural Family Living; The Way Back Home; and A Quiet Place, Peggy has conducted workshops at Omega Institute, Esalen, La Leche League, and Bioneers. She is the mother of four and grandmother of three.