If you are pregnant, or the parent of a new baby, I don’t need to tell you how massive the topic of infant sleep is! The anxiety levels around how much – or how little – your baby will sleep are probably only just pipped at the post by the fear of pain in childbirth.
In 2016, an article in the Herald Sun reported on the new phenomenon of pregnant women wanting to book in for sleep school before their babies had even been born. What on earth does that say about the way people are approaching parenthood today? What is causing women to be so anxious about their baby’s ability to sleep that they have pre-empted that they will not be able to cope without the intervention of so-called “sleep schools”.
If you asked most people around the world what sleep school was, they would look at you utterly blankly. The idea of going to a strange facility with your baby, for up to a week, and learning how to get your child to sleep is a totally foreign concept to most people. The near-obsession with getting your baby to “sleep through the night” is most definitely a Western, millennial crisis.
With desperate parents looking for a magic panacea, it’s no wonder that we’ve seen the proliferation of sleep consultants, night nannies and no shortage of “experts” cashing in on desperate, sleep-deprived parents to pen the latest bestseller that reveals the secret to the elusive promise of a baby who can sleep through the night.
As a Lamaze childbirth educator – and a mother – I am deeply concerned at the rise in popularity (and mainstream acceptance) of Crying It Out methods (CIO), also known as controlled crying, self-settling or self-soothing. A couple of books in particular, that I shall not name because I do not wish to give them any further publicity, are practically touted as the new mother’s bible. Not only do I have concerns about the authors’ credentials, but given the overwhelming evidence-based research that has been conducted in recent years that clearly demonstrates that these methods are not only harmful in the short-term, but may in fact cause significant long-term emotional and psychological damage, I am amazed that these books are still flying off the shelves and into vulnerable parents’ hands.
Author Elizabeth Pantley is no newcomer to parenting books, having written 12 of them. Her books have been read by well over two million people in English, and have been translated into 27 different languages. Her 2017 edition of her bestseller, The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Newborns is a book I would recommend to any parent-to-be looking for a comprehensive book on infant sleep that doesn’t promise unrealistic expectations of your baby’s sleep, but instead offers practical, scientifically-sound advice that will help new parents get through those tough early months.
Renowned infant sleep specialist, Professor James McKenna from the University of Notre Dame has high praise for Pantley’s book; “Elizabeth Pantley spins her baby magic! She towers above her competitors by showing us what babies really need, and how best to give it to them.”
Two points that Pantley stresses practically from page one assured me from the outset that this book was not another “how to get your baby sleeping through the night by six weeks” scam. The first is that she does not in any way, shape or form condone crying it out. Then she quickly explodes the myth that newborns can (or should) sleep through the night – in fact, it is a total myth that any human will sleep through the night. She explains the developmental, neurological and emotional importance for an infant to wake frequently and the potential damage that can be inflicted on a baby whose basic human needs are not met.
The backbone of Pantley’s book is her 15 Keys to Amazing Newborn Sleep. Each Key is a separate chapter, but they are brief, extremely practical and to the point. Throughout the book are highlighted quotes from real parents, sharing their experiences. Pantley worked with many test families in the development of her book, to ensure that the Keys were universally applicable and effective.
Her 2017 edition of the book is bang up-to-date, including all the latest research and information on safe sleeping, including bed-sharing, current SIDS guidelines and safe swaddling (particularly with regard to current research on hip dysplasia). Her approach is professional and unbiased, recognising that each family is unique and that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach.
On her website, you can also download a free handout that highlights many of the main points raised in the book. Also included is a terrific infographic entitled; Your Roadmap to Inspire Peaceful Newborn Sleep, which makes a great free resource for parents.
Tanya Strusberg is the founder of birthwell birthright. She is a Melbourne-based Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, doula and a Fellow of the Association of Certified Childbirth Educators (FACCE). She is a passionate advocate for women’s maternity care and her articles have appeared in The Journal of Perinatal Education, Australian Midwifery News, Science & Sensibility, Interaction – the journal of the Childbirth and Parenting Educators Association of Australia (CAPEA), International Doula, Empowering Birth Magazine and Rockstar Birth Magazine. Through her internationally-accredited Lamaze Educator Training program, she is very excited to be training a new generation of Australian Lamaze educators. Last, but absolutely not least, she is also the mum of two beautiful children, her son Liev and daughter Amalia.