I wrote in jest yesterday about how I was “breaking up” with Babywise, but I wanted to talk about it in earnest for a bit. First off, it was kind of hyperbole. I’m not really breaking up with Babywise, but we needed to tweak things a bit.
The Babywise method in it’s purest form did absolutely, positively help me a lot in the first few months with Cora. I’m the kind of person who needs a system, who wants to know what to do, who doesn’t like to make things up as I go along. So in that sense, Babywise really gave me something to hold onto when a lot of other newborn care books didn’t. I’m also a big believer in routine and consistency with children, so it fits my sensibilities. Furthermore, Cora responded really well at first. It also helped immensely when we were figuring out Cora’s milk protein issue. Without the parameters of Babywise, I’m not sure we would have figured that out so quickly.
However, as Cora has gotten older, she hasn’t continued to meet the Babywise milestones… most notably, sleeping through the night. I’ve almost been a little embarrassed by it on the blog since I’m such a Babywise believer, but, NEWSFLASH: My 5-month-old does not sleep through the night. She has, but she doesn’t consistently. Meanwhile, according to Babywise, the average 22-week-old Babywise baby can go to bed at 8:00 or 8:30 and sleep through until about 7:00am (see Chapter 5: Managing Your Baby’s Day). We have fallen way “behind.”
As I read it, there’s not a lot of room in Babywise for an older baby that isn’t meeting those milestones. I’ve been at a loss with what to do. I wasn’t expecting her to sleep 11 or 12 hours at night, but I also felt like maybe I was treating her too much like a newborn, keeping her on a schedule too young for her since she wasn’t moving along with Babywise merges. Furthermore, with Cora’s short naps, we were constantly “off schedule” and her eat-wake-sleep cycle was not always in that order anymore. After working and re-working and tweaking and tweaking again… but I wasn’t quite sure what to do.
Somewhere along my blog-reading and Google searching, I decided now was the time to read Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Marc Weissbluth, so I downloaded it on my Kindle and devoured the important portions of it in a day. Full disclosure, I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but in the introduction it gives you shortcuts if your baby is already born and you’re wanting to implement quickly, so I’ve read a few chapters and I’ve read the portions about Cora’s age group twice.
What struck me almost immediately was how closely it described Cora’s habits already, like her irregular nap lengths which she is starting to grow out of (common for a 3-4 month old), when and how often she wakes after bedtime, and how long a wake-time she should be able to handle at 5-months-old. I started moving towards his advice the very same day, and things started clicking the very same day. Things hadn’t really clicked in a while as far as her routine was going.
Now, in all honesty, the devil’s in the details. I first learned about Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child first from Chronicles of a Babywise Mom, and it is one of the books that is frequently referenced among the Babywise blog network, so it’s not like we’ve done a 180º or that I’m dropping everything I’ve learned from Babywise. In fact, there are many ways the books complement each other. As I see it, the biggest difference is that instead of the day rotating around eating times and the cycle that follows, the day now rotates around sleeping times. I think that developmentally, this change makes sense. With a sleepy newborn, there’s a need to make sure she’s eating frequently enough and learning to take full feedings. At 5-months-old, I know she’s eating enough and I know she’ll clearly tell me if she’s not. Now, I’m finding it more important to know how to manage her sleep in more specific ways. And you know what? Most of the time, we are still on an eat-wake-sleep cycle, but when it doesn’t work out that way there’s no more stress.
So… I guess I’m learning to loosen up a little bit. I guess you can call it my own take on Babywise, and it turns out all we needed was a little tweak, at least for the time being. On page after page of Babywise, Ezzo implores us that parental assessment is crucial in managing your baby’s day — whether in building the routine or deciding to go off of it for a time in order to meet your baby’s needs. And that’s what it is. Cora needed a little shake-up. And I’m finding I needed it too. We’re still on a pretty consistent routine, and there’s still a schedule hanging on my fridge, but things are a little more relaxed around here these days… and Cora is flourishing in her routine once again.