Rivaling Philosophies: Do Infants EVER Sleep, Anyway?

Sleep Solutions: Which to Choose? via Feed Me MamaPerhaps one of the most aggressive arguments between passionate parents is that surrounding the sleep schedules of an infant.  Is it best to allow the baby to nurse on demand, or co-sleep, each night? Or is it best to have the child cry themselves to sleep, teaching them to self-soothe?  As a soon-to-be mama, it didn’t take me long to figure out that people who align themselves with one side usually think that those on the other side are psycho or, at the very least, not making the best decision for their child.  Not wanting to end up on anyone’s wrong side from the get-go, I decided to read both books associated with this dilemma: On Becoming Baby Wise by Gary Ezzo, and The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley.

First, we will start with Babywise, as it is known in parenting circles. This book details the first weeks and months of a baby’s life, and teaches the parents how to “sleep train” their babe, with an end goal of sleeping through the night. “Crying it out”, as the other side would affectionately call it, is the main method of training here: teaching the infant to self soothe, learning their place in the family and becoming a routined individual.

Next, we have The No Cry Sleep Solution (we’ll call it NCSS). While NCSS does allow for some crying (given that the infant may just be colicky or trying to express a need), for the most part this is a much more gentle, time-consuming way of teaching the infant to sleep soundly. Most of the techniques are “baby specific”, meaning, you analyze how your baby is naturally soothed (be it touch, sound, nursing, co-sleeping, etc) and cater to those needs, while teaching baby that being alone and falling asleep without those cues is ok. This philosophy aligns itself with what is known as “attachment parenting”.

So, what’s the difference?

First of all, sleeping through the night is defined differently. While Babywise never gives an actual hour amount, it’s assumed that 8-12 hours is what most people are aiming for, and Babywise all but guarantees this result within the first 4-ish months of baby’s life. NCSS, on the other hand, defines sleeping through the night as 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep, which is also how the AAP defines it. This is a much shorter time frame, shorter than many parents are aiming for. However, NCSS shows that many babies will sleep longer using their techniques.

Secondly, the focus of each philosophy is different. While NCSS puts the baby and their comfort in the center, Babywise instead seeks to teach the baby their role in the family structure and their place in the routine. Especially in Christian circles, I have seen Babywise favored, because it inherently teaches submission and that the world does not revolve around the child. While I am not sure that such an idea is really grasped by the infant, I do understand that ‘the child always getting what they want’ can lead to a slippery slope in parenting.

Thirdly, and perhaps most obviously, the techniques for getting baby to sleep are really quite different. While Babywise focuses almost exclusively on allowing the child to self-soothe in whatever manner they choose, NCSS allows the parent to actively identify what works best with their baby and individualize their plan according to those cues.

Okay, then what’s the same about these guys?

Maybe more than you realize. Both philosophies stress having grace with both yourself and the baby, knowing that they plan doesn’t work every night and sometimes you have to abandon it for your own sanity and rest. Both books also emphasize making sure that all of the baby’s needs are met– crying, after all, is the baby’s only method of communication, so it’s important to make sure that the baby is full, dry, etc before putting to bed, as well as make sure that the baby’s sleeping area is completely safe.

Both books also give a lot of practical advice that isn’t necessarily exclusive to their philosophy. For example, Babywise teaches that, the best you can manage, you should try to nurse your baby as soon as they wake (rather than to sleep) so that they don’t form a sucking habit to get themselves to sleep. Similarly, NCSS includes many safety measures to look for in the baby’s area, including a great section on safe co-sleeping.

So, what do I think?

Truth be told, I really can’t align myself with “a side” until I meet my baby. I don’t really want to align myself with a side anyway! I think it’s a little petty, but if something works for your family, then hey, go for it! While I do tend to align myself more with many attachment parenting philosophies, I have known wonderful families that abide by each of these schools of thought, and nobody has damaged their children or ruined bonding or made selfish individuals because of it. I think there are both drawbacks and benefits to each book, as well as ways that each school of thought could be abused. So, I’m waiting it out. We’ll see how our little girl is and we’ll take it from there.

Did you follow either of these methods with your baby? Are you now? Would you keep it the same or do things differently?

5 thoughts on “Rivaling Philosophies: Do Infants EVER Sleep, Anyway?

  1. I didn’t use or read either but from what you explaine about them I guess I used more of the baby wise with my own instincts added to it. Paysen was sleeping through the night by six weeks and on a complete schedule. He slept from 8 til about 7 every night since. I always let him cry for ten minutes and then if he was still crying I would go in and rock him for five minutes then put him back down. If you want more details just let me know

  2. I didn’t use or read either of these actually. I just used my instincts and knowing that I REALLY wanted to get paysen to sleep through the night as soon as I could. If you want the more specific details of what I did just ask but I will say I had him sleeping from 8pm til about 7am from six weeks old. I also let him cry for about ten minutes before I would go in. And when he was still crying after that I would rock him for about five minutes then put him back.

  3. SO, you know my children don’t sleep well. I am on the train of “nursing on demand”. It’s extremely important especially the first few months while your supply is building. Then it’s important to maintain your supply! I also believe in attachment parenting and the many, many reasons babies need to nurse. It is NOT just for food/drink but also for comfort, teething, fussiness, to fall asleep…..etc. 🙂 We are a family bedders in this house. Some may think we are CRAZy but i don’t care. It works for us and our kids are awesome. Pursey slept with us till she was 2 and then slept in her own room until Herschel was born. Now, she’s back in our room. We are fine with that. I plan to let my children lead somewhat as far as what I think they need from my husband and I. I also (as they get older) try to be aware of any manipulation and steer them in a different direction. Naps—I always had to nurse Pursey to sleep. She rarely would stay asleep for more then 20/30 minutes. Agh! Herschel naps on me, in the Ergo carrier. He has only ONCE in 5 months laid down on his OWN and slept for a few hours! That was an amazing day….and hasn’t happened since. It’s really frustrating I am not going to lie. It drives me nuts. BUT–I don’t give myself any other choice at the moment. I don’t believe crying it out is OK nor do I believe it would work for either of my kids. I tried it a little with each and they just make themselves sick with crying and not breathing….and my gut tells me NO. So i stop and never look back. Every kid is different, follow your own instinct and listen to what they are trying to tell you. Some babies are needier then others…..and we are here to love and care for them the way they need us to. You’re gonna do great!

  4. This post was so helpful to me!! Thank you! Maria is 4 months and I’m in the middle of trying to figure out what to do. We had no intention to follow one of these methods but up til now we’re pretty spot on with your description of no-cry. We’ve needed her to have a flexible schedule and we want to spend the time with her putting her to sleep, so it just sort of naturally happened. However, I presume once we have more babies, they will need to spend some more time being set down and crying, and that’s ok. I do like the emphasis babywise puts on the marriage. I can see now how it would be so easy to make your child the center of the universe, and how people end up loving their children more than their spouse.

    So wise of you to do this research. I barely though of this topic before Maria was born! Also wise to get to know your baby before deciding what to do, in my opinion. I hear they’re all different. :)!!

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