Every now and then I read a parenting book that makes me think: “I must give someone a copy.” La Leche League International’s Sweet Sleep: Nighttime & Naptime Strategies for the Breastfeeding Family had me at the introduction. I mentally listed every mother I knew who consciously seeks to parent gently, rooting her decisions in instinct and evidence.
Written by International Board Certified Lactation Consultants and La Leche League Leaders Diane Wiessinger, Diana West, Linda J. Smith and Teresa Pitman, this book is likely to stand out from any other baby sleep book you’ve come across. The authors easily offer research in one hand and common sense in the other. Full references are available throughout and studies evaluated. But it is not at all an academic text book. Sweet Sleep somehow manages to be thorough without being heavy.
In true LLL style, mothers’ stories feature throughout. The aim is never to preach or prescribe any one way of doing things. Information and experiences are simply shared and I believe that this book will greatly encourage and help many families adjusting to life with a breastfed baby.
Although the book offers various sleep solutions, it is unashamedly pro-bedsharing. It starts off with “emergency bedsharing” tips for parents desperate for sleep. It details how to make your bed safe for your baby and what criteria needs to be met to minimise risks. These are summarised as “The Safe Sleep Seven”:
“If you are:
1. A non-smoker
2. Sober and unimpaired
3. A breastfeeding mother
and your baby is:
4. Healthy and full-term
5. On his back
6. Lightly dressed
and you both are:
7. On a safe surface
Then your baby in bed with you is at no greater risk for SIDS than if he’s nearby in a cot.”
Sweet Sleep goes on to discuss what’s normal for baby sleep, how babies are wired and how we are wired as mothers. It also gives ideas for the role partners or nighttime helpers can play. The “Alternate Routes” chapter is particularly interesting, looking at how supplementing at night (with breastmilk or formula, bottles or at-breast supplementer) works, nighttime options for premature babies, multiples, babies with special needs and adopted babies.
“It’s your right and privilege to hold your baby as much as you want, and it only does good things for you. Spoiling? Can’t happen at this age, neurologically, biologically, or emotionally. So go ahead and enjoy your baby.”
When my copy of Sweet Sleep arrived in the post, I skipped straight to the chapter on naps. Sleep at night is pretty simple for us. She sleeps in our bed and even though she usually wakes up at least a couple of times a night now, it’s usually a simple affair of flopping out a breast and drifting back to sleep.
Naps, on the other hand… We never really decided what we were going to do about them. We just knew that we spent way too much time stressing over them with Talitha and were unwilling to do that again with Ophelia. Many months in, I stopped fretting and stayed with Talitha for naps. So this time we skipped the fretting and Ophelia just ended up in a sling or in arms.
Not only does Sweet Sleep present babywearing as an option for naps but it explains its benefits, why we naturally fell into this pattern and why it feels so good.
There will come a day when I don’t want to do this for every nap or won’t find it practical. I know that. I do get touched out. I have another child. The book offers ideas, too, for being “separate but not solitary” which I’ll probably give a go in time, including a few that worked with my older daughter.
“Nights can be hard for new parents. But it makes much more sense for us to adapt a short span of our own lives to responding to our babies’ needs than to force our babies to adapt to our needs during such a vitally important and once-in-a-liftetime part of their development.”
Naturally, the book discusses concerns about sleep training with honesty and compassion. It gets into what’s involved and its potential effects on infant development, family relationships and breastfeeding outcomes.
That’s not to say that this a book without a range of solutions. Things do change as babies get older and Sweet Sleep discusses night weaning among other nighttime parenting ideas. There are also some very sensible sections on looking after yourself and maximising your own sleep.
I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of what’s going on in this book because there is a wealth of information for a multitude of situations, whether you’re out working or at home with your baby. It was necessary for such a book to be written. We’re fortunate that it’s been published now.
Pinter & Martin Publishers sent me a copy of Sweet Sleep: Nighttime & Naptime Strategies for the Breastfeeding Family for the purposes. I honestly love it, cover to cover.