Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mom Talk: Babywise vs. Happiest Baby on the Block

I have been meaning to write this post for a LONG time now, but it has been HARD to get around to blogging with a 4 month old around!  

When Liam was first born, I read both On Becoming Babywise and The Happiest Baby on the Block.  I feel like a lot of people have a lot to say about these two books and the methods they propose for getting your baby to sleep, and I just wanted to throw in my two cents.  

First, Babywise.  The premise of this book, in case you don't know, is an eat/play/sleep routine and putting your baby down for a nap while they are still awake so they can learn to self-sooth and put themselves to sleep.  No rocking or feeding your baby to sleep, avoid pacifiers, etc.
Seems like a great idea, and really does seem easy and natural at first.  Newborns sleep a lot, so the routine kind of creates itself.  The trick is to start at the same time every morning - something about regulating baby's metabolism or something.  I missed that little tidbit the first time I read the book (the book is pretty vague on how exactly to implement the ideas it proposes, which I didn't really like - I'm the kind of person that really needs instructions for that type of thing).  And with all the problems we had with nursing through the first 4 weeks, I slept whenever I could.  I was not about to set an alarm for 7:30am to wake up a sleeping baby!  
And sometimes, you just need to snuggle with your baby and let them take a nap in your arms because it's just the best thing ever.  I also have never been able to just let him "cry it out."
Maybe for the above reasons, Babywise didn't work for us the way I expected it to.  Liam had a hard time napping long enough to make it to the next feeding (he still takes mostly cat naps during the day, with maybe one longer nap if I'm lucky) which would always throw off the routine.  When we were searching for the right formula he was super gassy and would wake up in the middle of his naps constantly.  

According to Babywise, if you follow the routine, your baby should be sleeping through the night by seven to nine weeks old.  This was not true for Liam.  He didn't start sleeping through the night until about fifteen weeks, and even then it's still a little inconsistent.  

What I did like about the Babywise plan was the idea of waking your baby up to eat every 3 hours during the day and letting them sleep as long as they wanted during the night.  Liam still woke up every 3 hours (on the dot most times) during the night for a long time, but I think it helped him organize his nights and days. 

The Happiest Baby book is all about the 5 S's - swaddling, sushing, swinging, side position, and sucking - to get your baby to go to sleep.  It's especially geared toward colicky babies (which Liam certainly wasn't).  According to Babywise, the 5 S's are "sleep props" and are a big no-no.  
I have had pretty good luck with many of the 5 S's.  We give Liam a binkie because it really helps him fall asleep.  And now that he can keep it in his mouth on his own (which he started being able to do probably sometime around 2 months), it's not a big deal to give it to him.  We also swaddle.  We started out doing it all the time - naps and at night - but now we only do it at night.  It REALLY DOES help him sleep longer.  Sushing also is great - we have a sound machine that plays ocean noise (it also has rain, etc.) that helps him sleep also.  Liam loves background noise - the louder the better, he'll sleep right through it (i.e. pretty loud worship at church, fireworks on the 4th of July,etc.)  The swinging S is a little confusing - it's not just swinging, but also any kind of jiggling motion, and Liam loves bouncing; between being patted on the back and his vibrating bouncer seat, the boy is in heaven.  The BEST nap combination for him has been his vibrating bouncer seat, a binkie, his lovey to snuggle, and lots of background noise - he will be OUT in about 5 seconds.

Another thing that I've really taken from the Happiest Baby book is a bedtime routine.  This has been the BEST thing for getting Liam to sleep well at night.  Around 8:30-9:00pm, we give Liam a bath.  Then we dry him off and snuggle a bit on a blanket on the floor of the nursery with a little music - I also keep the lights low so he knows it's time for sleep.  We get his jammies on and heat up a bottle.  He usually eats a couple ounces and falls right to sleep.  Then I swaddle him and lay him in his bassinet.  I wake him up around midnight to feed him and he usually drinks between 2 and 4 ounces.  Then he goes right back to sleep and usually sleep until about 7:30-8:00.  Even if he does wake up in the middle of the night to eat, he just eats and goes right back to sleep.  Ever since we started the bedtime routine, life has been MUCH easier.

I don't know if I will try Babywise with our next child.  I was SO stressed about doing it perfectly through Liam's first few months, and I couldn't understand why it wasn't working the way it was "supposed to."  Once I finally let it go and quit obsessing about every little thing, life was so much easier.  I know people that swear by the method, but it definitely wasn't for Liam.  
I think the Happiest Baby on the Block is a much more user friendly, to the point book, and I appreciated that.  I also got a lot more useful tips out of it.

When it comes down to it, every baby is different and one method is never going to work like a charm for all babies.  Just don't stress about it or about it working perfectly, because, trust me, it just isn't worth it.