When we brought home our first baby, he slept like a charm for few nights. But after that first week I realized I had no idea what to do about naps. Or about how to lengthen his sleep at night. Or how to put him down in his crib. Or bassinet? Or swing? I was just lost. The advice I got from my family was let him cry, "le hace bien a sus pulmones," which means "it's good for his lungs." I couldn't do that. But it got me wondering, what have people been doing through the ages, as new information comes up, as culture shifts, as medical science changes... ?
So I interviewed my grandma, my mom, and myself (haha), to compare how sleep training advice and practice has changed through the years. Just as background information: my grandma Patricia grew up in Mexico with Italian Immigrant parents, my mom Patty grew up in Mexico, with, of course, Mexican parents, and I grew up around the world (Mexico, US, Brazil, Spain), but I'm raising my babies in the US.
Who helped you navigate the first months of baby sleep? Patricia: My husband. He was a pediatrician so he taught me everything I needed to know.
. What did he advice you do for sleep? Patricia:To have a set schedule. To always stick by it. From the newborn days, never go more than 4 hours without a feed, but never less than 2. It was a bit loose, but not too loose... never ever less than 2 hours between feeds! They need to digest the food! Also, always feed them in your arms. That is the moment to be holding them and giving them love, not any other time of day! Nowadays moms are holding their babies all day, too much! After I fed my baby, I was to make sure she was ok. Burp baby, change the diaper, check everything, and then down in the crib. If baby cried, well you checked baby again. But that's it! Once you made sure everything was ok, you left her in the crib. If they cried then, well then they cried. That way they got used to it- because babies love to be in your arms, but they sleep better in the crib. After a little crying, they fell asleep.
Did you follow this advice? Patricia: Yes, with all three of my babies.
What was the hardest part of baby sleep for you? Patricia: Nothing! They were great sleepers. Since we taught them from the newborn days we never had to deal with any big amount of crying, and they knew what was expected. Actually I did have a rough day! One day your aunt Marce was overtired and overexcited from her baptism, around 7 months old. She didn't want to fall asleep! So I stayed with her in her room, even though the party was in the house, until she fell asleep. She wasn't crying, but she wouldn't sleep - so I stayed with her. My priority was always my babies.
Is there something you would have done differently? Patricia: No, nothing different about sleep. I was always told babies need to cry to develop their lungs properly, so I let them cry when they were little. They need to cry! But you know what? As newborns they don't cry that much. You save yourself a lot of crying if you teach them to sleep that little.
There are many moms now that are afraid of cry it out because of the effects on baby's brain, what would you say to that? Patricia:You know what? I trained all 3 of my babies this way. It was never too much crying because they were so little... and all three of my kids are brains! They are all very successful. Your mother is an actuarian, so you tell me how her brain was damaged by the crying! haha.
Who helped you navigate the first months of baby sleep? Patty: No one really. I knew that babies had to sleep on their belly and I just placed my baby down. Actually, my first baby would just sleep and eat, sleep and eat. One day she wouldn't go right back to sleep so I called my mom, I was terrified and didn't know what to do with her being awake! My mom told me not to worry, that babies just gradually start being more awake during the day.
. What advice did you receive for sleep? Patty: Nothing really. Just to put baby belly down, to make sure the sheets were without wrinkles, that I burped baby before laying her down... and then to just place baby down in the crib. If baby were to cry for 2,3,4 minutes it was ok, it wasn't bad.
Did you follow this advice? Patricia: Yes, that's what I followed because it's all I knew. I didn't know any different until you started telling me about teaching babies to learn how to sleep. All I knew in my world was either babies would cry a few minutes and sleep or moms had to hold babies all day and all night long. I didn't want to hold my baby all night and day long, so I opted for a little crying. And by four months my babies would basically go to sleep without any crying each time.
What was the hardest part of baby sleep for you? Patty: Sleep wasn't ever really a 'hard' thing for me... maybe when you girls were sick at some point... but you guys never really got sick anyway. For me sleep wasn't a huge issue... my main priority was nutrition. That was my main intense focus, as well as making time to play with you girls. Sleep wasn't really on my mind, it was just something that happened when the sun went down.
Is there something you would have done differently? Patty: Yeah I think if I had known there are ways to actually teach baby to fall asleep, I would have done that. I would have guided you girls through the process of learning to sleep gently. If I had known that you could read sleep cues, like you've told me, I would have looked for those. I love you girls with all my soul, so I always would have wanted to do the best for you.
Who helped you navigate the first months of baby sleep? Me: The internet. I didn't have many mommy friends at the time, so I relied on google. I asked my mom for help but I quickly realized I could not do cry it out- my PPA (Post Partum Anxiety) wouldn't let me, and I could not handle my baby crying for even longer than 10 seconds. My husband helped me, but he was just as clueless as I was haha!
What advice did you receive for sleep? Me: My parents told me to let him cry. They told me babies need to exercise their lungs!
Did you follow this advice? Me: No. I couldn't! It sounded barbaric to me!
What was the hardest part of baby sleep for you? Me: The stress of not knowing what to do. The anxiety of thinking everything was going wrong. The no sleeping. The hearing baby cry and feeling useless... the reading ten different books and still feeling out of control.
Is there something you would have done differently? Me: I would have honestly hired a sleep consultant before my first born was born.... I had NO idea how difficult baby sleep would be for me. I read so many books before giving birth, but all on nutrition, development, language.... never worried about sleep. I figured I'd just let baby cry it out- I had no idea I would be physically incapable of doing so!
Hope you liked this post!