As a sequel to our post last week on my amazing sleep with an infant (yes, you read that correctly—amazing sleep!), we are going to talk about a few other goodies from the book, On Becoming Baby Wise. Another good takeaway from the book is to always follow a 3 hour “sleep-feed-wake” pattern. Dr. Bucknam says that the key is to have your baby eat as soon as she wakes up from her nap, so that she is awake enough to get a full feeding in. Then, she will have a wake time, followed by sleeping. It’s important that babies aren’t nursed to sleep. Otherwise, nursing to sleep will become a sleep crutch so that sleep will become impossible unless they nurse themselves to sleep. Another downside about nursing or feeding your baby to sleep is that your baby will not get a full feeding in. Not getting a full feeding in means that your baby will not have eaten enough and, as a result, most likely will not nap very long because they will wake up hungry.
A final good and practical takeaway is to not let your baby sleep too long during the day. Dr. Bucknam says that babies will naturally start extending one stretch of sleep during a 24 hour period to be their “long” sleep stretch. If you just let your baby sleep as long as he/she wants during the day, then they could be making their long sleep stretch during the day instead of at night. Daytime naps should not be longer than 1 1/2 to 2 hours at a time. Any longer than this, and, they may be cutting into their nighttime sleep. I found all of these concepts to prove true in my life with a baby.
The shortcomings of the book are that it does not account for the fact that every child is different, and that every child may not be able to sleep at night for the duration of time it states. Also, in the first 4-6 weeks of life, it seems nearly impossible to keep any breastfed child on any eating schedule since they eat almost continuously. The 3 hour “sleep-feed-wake” pattern is nearly impossible for a baby for the first 4-6 weeks of life. After that, though, they do nicely fall into that pattern naturally, except occasionally when they are going through a growth spurt. Another shortcoming is the book presents these principals as if they are rules instead of flexible guidelines.
My friends and I who followed the general principles of this book had our babies sleeping longer at night than those we knew who didn’t follow this book. At 10 weeks old, my baby was sleeping 9-10 hours a night consistently. My friends with babies had varying degrees of success, yet all the babies were sleeping at least 6 hours at night by 10 weeks. By 4 months old, they were all sleeping 8-12 hours at night consistently. Of course, there are always periods of sleep regression no matter what, but after a week or so of regression, they naturally went back to their regular schedules. When my baby was 6 months, though, we all had to fight the sleep regressions with a very gentle cry-it-out method.
The general principles of Baby Wise help, but are just the foundation. In the end, finding ways for your unique baby to sleep is a lot of trial and error. For example, I personally found that for my baby, she would not sleep through the night or nap without a white noise machine on. I discovered this by trial and error—whenever the white noise was on during the entire night, she would rarely wake up in the middle of the night. With the white noise machine off, she would wake up once during the night consistently. All in all, I highly recommend Baby Wise for its fundamental ideas, as long as they are implemented with a lot of flexibility and are used as guidelines instead of rules.