30th January 2017

Everything you need to know about sleep self-help books when you’re too tired to read one

Shush-pat? Co-sleeping? Crying it out? Jo E Verrill has read all the books so you don’t have to… 

Need to sort out your child’s sleep, but haven’t managed to read anything longer than the Calpol packaging for about 2 years? Allow me to summarise your main options in simple sentences that you can read on your phone while trapped under a possibly-sleeping-you’re-not-quite-sure-but-don’t-want-to-risk-transferring-it-to-a-cot baby…

The Super Strict: Gina Ford

How it works: Based on the premise that babies are scientific little robots that will fall into a ‘natural’ daily programme of sleeping (and all in their cot – ding ding ding!) if you just show them how. The routines, which evolve by age, are insanely fiddly and strict, even breaking down when you can eat your breakfast (er, everyone baptizes their baby with toast crumbs during the morning feed, don’t they?).

Pros: If you haven’t drop-kicked the book across the garden on day 2 it does actually start to work. Me-time returns and it’s good. Very good. By the time they’re around 3 months old you should be treated to a regular schedule of chocolate-guzzling and box set bingeing for at least 4 hours a day. This drops down gradually into a 2-hour lunchtime rest that can make a hangover an almost feasible prospect.

Cons: Babies like sleeping on warm, milky bosoms and will remind you of this loudly as you lovingly tuck them into the cot post-feed.  No-nonsense maternity nurse Gina is all over this kind of tomfoolery, though, and suggests they ‘cry it out’ for a short period to learn how to drop off by themselves. The catch is that unlike Ms Ford, who apparently never had any children of her own, you are tethered to your LO with great twanging heartstrings that’ll have you crawling back to the nursery with every pitiful mew.

Conclusion: Very high yield results if you nail it, but considered too prescriptive and utterly joyless by many.  It’s a good job Gina didn’t try it out on her own children or else she’d have wanted to punch herself in the face every day too.

The Middle Ground: The Baby Whisperer 

How it works: Your baby’s daily regime can be broken down into 4 components that repeat in a cycle set to suit your needs: Eat Activity Sleep You time. You time you say? Why not Me time? Because EASM isn’t a sellable concept, duh!

Pros: You’re allowed to control nap times, so won’t have palpitations whenever someone suggests meeting between 12 and 2. If you can break the (arguably natural) association between eating and sleeping it’ll work wonders for your baby’s sleep.

Cons: Babies can’t spell, and will EEE and SSS in whatever order the F order they like. Less EASY, also, is how to get them to sleep without a boob or a bottle. Baby Whisperer advises a good old ‘shush-pat’ to soothe them off, but this can quickly turn to ‘shush-sob-pat’ when you’ve had 2.5 hours of sleep in 1 minute bursts and your boobs are leaking blood.

Conclusion: EASilY remembered and refreshingly adaptable concept for flexi-parents seeking the best of both worlds – but not as EASY to implement as you might hope. Sadly, the original Baby Whisperer, Tracy Hogg, died in 2004. You may die too before you get to have a rest again.

The Softly Softly Approach: BabyCalm 

How it works: Woah, what’s with all this pressure, man?  Much like Nigel Farage, this book has had enough of so-called ‘experts’. Only YOU know what is best for your baby. Do what YOU think is right. Rock your baby to sleep if you like. Let them have a five-hour nap in the afternoon. Your instincts are best for your offspring. Go you!

Pros: This reads like panpipes if you’ve been through the gruelling terror of trying to wrangle a baby – who it turns out has free will, who knew – into a routine.  It promises you everything you’ve been looking for. Calm. Relaxation. Blissfully happy children who will be WhatsApping you another round of the heart eyes emoji while their friends are busy slagging off their parents in therapy.

Cons: Just as you start to wonder what this supremely magical life-changing formula could possibly be it hits you with the goods. Co-sleeping! Baby comes into bed with you every night (subject to some important safety guidelines, of course) and stays there until it darn well chooses otherwise. So it was all about one of those giant, extended ‘family beds’ that makes a bit of sick come into your mouth after all. If you do plump for it you quickly realise, however, that the ‘sleeping’ bit isn’t as straightforward as it sounds. For an older baby unrestricted access to their favourite toy (mummy and daddy’s faces) is a festival of excitement. They poke, prod, kick…and, after the seven hundredth attempt to prise your eye open, finally pass out horizontally with their fingers up your nose and feet in your partner’s neck. You dare not move, but heck, you’ve only got 3 inches of bed space anyway so can’t.

Conclusion: Wonderfully therapeutic read for stressed out parents, and completely workable as long as you don’t need to get anything vaguely useful done for about 5 years. People who co-sleep often seem to conceive multiple children. The question you’ll be asking yourself is HOW.

@verrillverrill @mushmums

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