Infant Sleep, Part IV: The No-Cry Sleep Solution

I wish I could say that The No-Cry Sleep Solution solved all our sleep problems and we now sleep a peaceful and uninterrupted eight hours every night, while our daughter–now 18 months–sleeps for ten. Unfortunately, that is not the case. But we’ve made some progress from the days when I used to spend about half our nights sleeping on the guest bed with the baby because she woke every time I put her in her crib. Among other signs of improvement, she now takes a consistent daily nap–two to three hours–and I don’t have to rock her for an hour to get her to fall asleep.

I also can’t say how much of this progress is due to Elizabeth Pantley’s advice. But her book is worth perusing by any parent who wants to get more sleep. Above all, I appreciate Pantley because she acknowledges that every child is different and doesn’t expect parents to follow a one-size-fits-all plan.

As Pantley explains in the introduction, this book was birthed from her own desperate need to get a good night’s sleep and her unwillingness to let her babies “cry it out.” There just had to be another way. Her extensive research and her 60 test-group mommies convinced her that there is. Pantley shares that her own son, a co-sleeper, was waking every hour when she began her research; after she had employed the strategies she offers her readers, he was sleeping ten hours straight (still in her bed). Pantley also includes success stories from her “test mommies”–including testimonials from those who struggled with the approach, at least in the beginning. But she writes that by day ten, 42 percent of the babies were sleeping five hours or more without waking (none were doing this in the beginning). This had increased to 53 percent by day 20 and to 92 percent at the end of 60 days. Many of the babies went on to sleep nine to 13 hours at a stretch (17).

The down side is that this book is not the quick fix we all wish for, which Pantley is quick to acknowledge. To keep readers from giving up hope, Pantley encourages them to log their babies’ sleep habits for 24 hours in the beginning and then every ten days after that. Not only do the logs help parents assess the success of their sleep plans, they can provide reassurance that the plan really is working, even if only incrementally.

The up side is that there is no program to follow; the reader is in the driver’s seat. Pantley provides two sets of strategies–one for newborns and one for older children–from which readers can select options that fit their situation. These include ideas like establishing a regular routine, maintaining subdued lighting and activity levels for the hour before bedtime, diminishing the sucking-to-sleep association, gradually changing the way you respond to night waking, and composing a personalized book for older children that illustrates their bedtime routine.1 She also includes targeted ideas for co-sleepers and co-sleepers who want to transition their children into their own bed or room.

Pantley provides a form to help parents create their personal sleep plan. It includes a short description of each strategy so readers can check those they intend to employ and then refer to the plan as needed. I found all Pantley’s charts and forms to be a great asset. In the past I have read lists of helpful hints to help baby sleep and then, in my sleep-deprived fog, wondered, “What were those suggestions?” I have also tended to regard keeping a sleep log as tedious busy work, but Pantley’s charts make it simple, and her analysis questions for parents following each log make the exercise a valuable assessment tool.

I appreciate Pantley’s compassionate stance not just toward babies but parents, too. I have come away from some sleep books laden with guilt because it is clear I am interfering with my baby’s ability to get adequate rest. But Pantley acknowledges that a family’s approach to infant sleep habits is a complex amalgamation of parents’ needs and babies’ tendencies. She writes, “If you or your baby get upset at any point, just go ahead and put her to sleep in your usual way and ditch the plan for the moment. Eventually she will get more comfortable with your new routine and she will go to sleep” (148).

Pantley also includes a section outlining all the factors that can interfere with sleep: teething, illness, developmental milestones, separation anxiety. During such seasons, Pantley encourages parents to take a break from the plan and just do what is necessary to help baby sleep.  I think my current situation is one of settling for the status quo. I’m not entirely happy with where we’re at, but Pantley’s methods take some work, and I’m not quite ready for that, either. Pantley addresses this situation, too. She advises tired parents to take two weeks put aside all but the essential responsibilities, sleep when their child sleeps, and do whatever else is necessary to get as much rest as possible. Then come back to the plan and consider whether they’re ready to give it a try. Maybe when we have two “free” weeks I’ll take her advice.

The foreword to The No-Cry Sleep Solution is an endorsement by William Sears, MD, whose parenting expertise and philosophy I respect. He writes: “At long last, I’ve found a book that I can hand to weary parents with the confidence that they can learn to help their baby sleep through the night–without the baby crying it out” (xiv).

1. As an example, Pantley includes the text of a book she created for her own son, with pictures of him, beginning with infancy. A photo of his second birthday party is accompanied by the statement that “Mommy and David can cuddle at bedtime, and then they both sleep all night long” (154).

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