Whenever I am in the BusinessWeek pantry to get a glass of water or heat my lunch, I am still frequently asked about sleep. I am happy to report that my daughter’s long episodes of crying in the evening (our doctor said it was colic) have been replaced with restful nights. We give most of the credit to our daughter but I would like to think some of our early parenting decisions played a role.
I bring up the subject of sleep again in reaction to my colleague Cathy Arnst’s blog entry. My wife Lyn and I are not very familiar with Dr. Ferber’s methods. This is one of the few topics we didn’t research. However, judging from Emily Bazelon’s piece on Slate and listening to others who have employed his system it makes sense. Based on observations and our own upbringing, Lyn and I agree that being consistent and firm is much better for a child.
For example, even before our daughter was born Lyn and I agreed that we would not have our baby sleep with us. Given our small bedroom, that meant the baby would have to sleep in her own room from the start. Since our daughter did much better taking milk from a bottle it reduced any possibility of her staying in our bed. And except for the rare night or two when our daughter felt ill and spent all night strapped in her gently vibrating infant seat, she has slept in her crib.
Lyn and I did fret about the best way to establish a nightly routine for our baby. Luckily, our daughter found her own rhythm. Our contribution is to now hold her to it. We do our best not to let her take any naps after 4 p.m. That includes Lyn’s mother who watcher the baby during the week. Instead, we do our best to play with our daughter as soon as we get home and keep her occupied until at least 7 p.m. This is usually when our girl starts to rub her eyes while letting us know that she is hungry. Normally, as her tummy gets full the eyes begin to close. But there are evenings when she doesn’t want to sleep or may be overly tired. Lyn and I don’t plop her in the crib and ignore her. Rather, we spend time with her but with a minimal amount of stimulus.
I admit that when our daughter does wake up in the middle of the night crying (an infrequent event now), we often rush to her crib. If giving the baby a pacifier isn’t enough, then we stay with our daughter in her room without turning on the lights. We hold her or put on some John Denver.
We, like Cathy, count our blessings that our daughter is so good. Being new parents, I see ways where we could undermine our baby’s good patterns. That was clearly exposed on our first big road trip. So the above is how Lyn and I handle the evenings and nights. It isn’t exactly the Ferber way but I agree that finding a routine and sticking to it can help you catch some much needed Z’s.