Baby sleep Debate

Katherine - posted on 03/15/2011 ( 11 moms have responded )

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Strollerderby

Some would call it a baby sleep show-down.

Today, Julie Deardorff of The Chicago Tribune moderated a live chat with sleep experts Dr. Marc Weissbluth, author of “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby” and Dr. Bob Sears (Dr. William Sears’ son), pediatrician and supporter of c0-sleeping and “nighttime parenting.”

Deardorff may have prepared her own questions, but instead she was deluged by questions and comments from readers during the chat, including:

How can I start to sleep train my fussy 5 week old?

My 14-month-old wants to nurse at night still, what do I do?

What do I do with a cat-napper?

My 5-month-old wakes up 10 times a night!

and of course the requisite: Does the CIO method cause brain damage?

Since sleep is one of my favorite topics, I was listening intently. Here’s what the two docs had to say:

Weissbluth On the question of sleep training a 5 week old, he didn’t say to let a baby this age cry. He said that when your baby begins to “social smile” around 6 weeks after her due date, you should start to put her down earlier in the evening — around 6 – 7 p.m. The mistake many parents make at this point is keeping their baby up too late at night. Weissbluth kept stressing that early bedtimes and “consolidated sleep” are important. And that the quality of sleep is more important than the duration.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear him say to a mom of a 5-month-old who wakes twice a night, “feed him if he’s hungry.” Most babies wake up once or twice a night and that’s perfectly normal, but lots of parents feel like they’re doing something wrong if their baby is eating at night.

One mom, and the chat moderator herself asked Weissbluth about putting babies on their bellies to sleep because they sleep better that way. He took the safe route by saying back sleeping lowers the risk of SIDS and he didn’t acknowledge that most babies sleep better on their bellies and that back sleeping (which we absolutely do for safety reasons) can make sleep more difficult for a few months.

Sears didn’t criticize parents for sleep training and he also said — to the question of whether his methods or Weissbluth’s were right – that there is no right, there’s just what’s right for each family. Loved that.

On the issue of a toddler night-nursing, he basically said to keep feeding her at night (if she wants to eat) until she’s 18 months, when she would be ready for the “breasts are asleep at night and wake up when it’s light out” approach. His stance on most of the questions was for the parent to be the “soother” until a child was older (he didn’t say how old) and ready to take over the job of soothing himself. Until then, co-sleeping is a great way for everyone to get a better night sleep, he said.

Sears said something I really liked, which was that short naps are totally normal. So many parents have short 30-minute nappers, which is really okay, but we have this idea that a “good” nap has to be 2 hours long. A nap is a nap, and 30 minutes is restorative and important too.

I was surprised to hear Sears say a spirited 8-month-old who wakes every hour might have a sensory processing disorder and to talk to an OT. I had never heard that as the first explanation for an older baby who wakes up that frequently.

On the question of how crying at night could cause brain damage, Sears said “I wouldn’t say brain damage,” but he added a whole section on cortisol levels and stress. Weissbluth pointed out that lack of sleep harms brain development. If you want to know more about the research behind this issue of CIO, see my full Science of Kids article on the topic.

Have you read Sears or Weissbluth sleep books. What did you find most helpful?

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11 Comments

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Minnie - posted on 03/20/2011

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Bob Sears is the younger right? I think is a little less-mainstream. He even is a bit more crunchy regarding vaccines than his dad.

I get them mixed up too sometimes!

[deleted account]

Ooops, I just realized it was William Sears' book on sleep that I read. I read so much at the time, that I sometimes get a little confused. Sorry Bob, will have to check your book out next...

Katherine - posted on 03/18/2011

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Heh. My waking every hour baby had sleep apnea. I can't imagine how much worse things would have been for him if I'd just let him scream himself to sleep. I felt bad enough for missing the apnea until he was almost 2...

Katherine - posted on 03/18/2011

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Heh. My waking every hour baby had sleep apnea. I can't imagine how much worse things would have been for him if I'd just let him scream himself to sleep. I felt bad enough for missing the apnea until he was almost 2...

Noreen - posted on 03/17/2011

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OMG Daniela!! I can't beleive that!! That is awful that Weissbluth says to allow them to CIO and if they puke to clean it up AFTER they have fallen asleep! That isn't just abuse, that is NEGLECT! HOW SAD! That pisses me off to no end!!

I bought those cards to put in Ezzo's books. Maybe I will start slipping them into HSHHC books too!! CRAZY!

[deleted account]

Ezzo... Yeah that doesn't really surprise me. It frightens me how many people buy into that kind of stuff. They both have such a huge following. My daughter is 18 months old and the thought of just night-weaning her - in my bed, with me there - is already putting me on a guilt-trip. I agree, it absolutely is abuse.

Minnie - posted on 03/17/2011

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Wow! Daniela! That's abuse! That's cruel and unusual punishment- on a creature who doesn't even know what's happening, except that he or she is separated from the being that he or she solely depends on for nutrition and comfort.

I think Ezzo also supports CIO until puking. He supports up to 45 minutes of CIO for newborns.

[deleted account]

Lisa, that's kind of what I thought when I read about the interview first. If you had read Weissbluth you would not be able to NOT start an argument with him, so I really would have expected them to have a good go at each other. His book basically says you should just let your baby scream its head off for as many hours in as many nights as it takes - from the age of four months old! And should she vomit from the strain of all of that, you may - if you must - go in AFTER she has fallen asleep to clean it up. As I said, in regard to how sleep works the book was great. Would I ever want to sit next to the man who probably persuaded thousands of women to do that to their babies? Not really...

Minnie - posted on 03/17/2011

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Haven't read any Weissbluth.



I do like Sears, many of his and his father's books are in our LLL Group's library- he offers a lot of good suggestions and many mothers like him.



For me- I tend to be a bit more on the crunchy side and Sears tends to be a little too mainstream for me. And that says a lot, lol, because to most parents, Sears IS crunchy. I feel that quite often he tries to smooth the wrinkles in any conversation he's in and appeal to the masses. Doesn't make him a bad guy, I just sometimes wish he would put his foot down on things more.

Katherine - posted on 03/16/2011

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I haven't read Weissbluth, but I have read Dr. Sears and do enjoy him.
He does surprise me though sometimes.

[deleted account]

You know, I actually read Dr. Weissbluth's book kind of by accident - I simply didn't realize it was a CIO book. While I absolutely do not agree with his methods of how to get babies to sleep, I did find his book immensely helpful for understanding infant's sleep, particularly the parts about post-colicky babies and about chronic fatigue. His and Elisabeth Pantley's book helped me most getting my daughter to sleep better (though a year later we are still struggling quite a bit with that subject...). Dr. Sears book was good as well, but not as elaborate or helpful. I do love all the Sears books, but sometimes AP-books can be a bit vague on issues like sleep, at least when you have such serious problems as we do. I tried going with the flow, I do still sleep with my baby, I do respond to her needs and so on and so on. I still had a rough first year with my fussy baby and now, at 18 months, I am still struggling to get the dishes washed without her getting hysterical because I am not devoting enough time to her. I love AP and wouldn't want to parent my child any other way, but I do understand why people turn to books like that of Dr. Weissbluth. They are more tangible. That said, I love the kind of reassurance you get from Dr. Sears' book. Dr. Weissbluth almost made me doubt myself with his constant 'you are damaging your child by not helping her to sleep'. Certainly didn't enjoy that part of his book or the many, many, many 'success stories'. His book could have been half its size...

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