Do not even whisper the words “baby” and “sleep” in a bookstore or around other moms. You’ll be inundated with so many tips, advice, and promises that your head will spin, and you’ll realize—like Ava Neyer did in her blog excerpted below, “I Read All the Baby Sleep Books”—that there’s absolutely no consensus.
Don’t let your baby sleep too long, except when they’ve been napping too much, then you should wake them. Never wake a sleeping baby. Any baby problem can be solved by putting them to bed earlier, even if they are waking up too early. If your baby wakes up too early, put them to bed later or cut out a nap. Don’t let them nap after 5 p.m. Sleep begets sleep, so try to get your child to sleep as much as possible. Put the baby to bed awake but drowsy. Don’t wake the baby if it fell asleep while nursing.
You’d think that children haven’t been sleeping for millions of years. You’d think that there’s some magic unicorn trick that makes a baby a “good sleeper.” Nah. It’s time to simplify baby sleep.
Have you ever bought an appliance or electronic device—such as a TV—that came with both a Quick Start Guide and also the more detailed instruction manual (in five languages)? You open the quick guide—and it gets you going quickly. You can go to the detailed manual afterward if you need, but 80 percent of the time you get what you need with the quick guide.
That’s the way baby sleep is. Jumping straight in with all the sleep philosophies and training practices and miracle-sleep-fairy-nap-tips is like jumping straight to the detailed manual in German—before you’ve even figured out how to plug in the TV. Put down the detailed manual. Let’s start with sleep’s equivalent of the Quick Start Guide, which is building your child’s sleep foundation.
Once you’ve instituted a sleep foundation, many children will sleep well and not need any more guidance. For those who do, it’s still much easier to troubleshoot or sleep train, once the sleep foundation is in place.
As LA-based certified child and family sleep consultant—and author of the upcoming 4 Pillars of Sleep Hygiene—Jenni June told me, “Without a sleep foundation, none of the sleep-training methods will work. And even if it does, it will come undone when real-life circumstances come your way—such as travel and illness.” Because the easiest way to minimize bedtime tears has nothing to do with “cry-it-out” or “no-cry” philosophies but everything to do with building a sleep foundation from day 1.