No-Cry Sleep Solution for Newborns by Elizabeth Pantley: A Book Review by Robin Illian, CPMby Your Midwives on 09/12/16
Elizabeth Pantley has been writing about babies, sleep and gentle baby care for years. I read two of her books when my last son was a baby, six years ago. The No-Cry Sleep Solution and the No-Cry Nap Solution. Both were helpful to me in my journey of breastfeeding, co-sleeping and trying to give my baby habits that could be transferred to someone else since I was also an on-call midwife likely to be gone in the middle of the night when he woke for a feed! I have recommended those books to many clients since.
This October, Pantley’s newest book, The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Newborns will be released. I was lucky enough to “qualify” (by being someone in the birth/newborn field AND due to have a baby this summer) to get an advanced copy on my phone so that I could review it. I have to admit that I was a little skeptical at first. I had really loved and connected with the idea that Pantley previously espoused, something that I interpreted as, “Don’t worry about any kind of training or right or wrong way to sleep before your baby is 3 months old.” When a friend of mine first recommended her original book to me, my first son was a month old. She had heard of it from a friend who had 5 babies and told her that it was the kind of wisdom you get on your own after having four babies, but she’d wished she’d known it the first time around instead of having to wait for her fifth baby. I wasn’t thinking much about sleep “training” at the time. I had no interest in trying to do anything but follow my baby’s cues and catch my sleep when I could. She did say that the author didn’t recommend doing anything until after three months, but my friend, who had an 8 month old baby at the time, wisely advised me, “I wish I had read it before 3 months just to start getting these ideas.” I eventually picked up the book at around 7 months and it was super helpful.
So, when I saw the title of Pantley’s new book I wondered why she was changing her tune. Why worry about sleep training of any kind, even if it is “no-cry” with a brand new baby? I was curious. This time, a few weeks after my son was born I was eager for some sleep information. I couldn’t remember how it all worked with a newborn. This time, I was interested in what habits did I want to encourage from this early age, and which ones I didn’t. Still, I wanted to follow his cues, but I knew that him sleeping on my chest for every nap and nighttime was not a sustainable practice. I got my advance copy and read any chance I could.
Pantley has a gentle and informed way that, as a midwife, I really appreciate. This is informed choice for baby sleep. You like to nap with him each time he’s tired? Great! Feel free to do that every time, with the knowledge that that will then be his only sleep association and you’ll be committed to that until you do a little work later on to change those habits. I like how she doesn’t say, “you’re then screwed for life!” because habits are changeable. And, I like how she acknowledges that some effort will have to be made later on and that all babies don’t magically start sleeping on their own if they’ve never done it before. And, it is sweet to hear her acknowledge that indeed, a baby sleeping on your chest is one of the most precious things. She encourages us parents to enjoy those fleeting moments. That said, she recommends at least one nap a day somewhere else; a bed, a bassinet, a crib, whatever. I appreciated that there is no guilt for enjoying those baby snuggles while recommending I branch out and do at least one nap a day on a surface other than my body. Hey, I even learned that he likes to sleep in the rock n’ play and on his sheepskin on the bed!
Parents, I highly recommend reading this book in late pregnancy and then visiting it again in snippets once the baby is born, if not re-reading it entirely. The book is laid out in sections of “keys” to good sleep. In each key are nuggets of info that help you get an understanding of the biology of newborn sleep while applying sleep inducing strategies. It is so important to have realistic expectations for what babies are capable of in terms of sleep. Otherwise, you may be thinking you have a “needy baby”, when, in fact, you just have a “normal baby.” Pantley is great at explaining the normal sleep needs of babies.
The most helpful piece of information I learned from this book was simple, really, but it has given me and my baby such a sense of ease in these first months. Ready? Babies’ awake intervals between sleep times are about 45 minutes to an hour at first, and then about 2 hours at three months. Pantley calls this their “happy awake time”. If we miss their tired cues, thinking, “you couldn’t possibly want to sleep again! You just woke from a 3-hour nap 45 minutes ago!” then we can have a very fussy baby on our hands. I felt like a baby whisperer when I’d notice sleepy cues (which Pantley spells out, in case we don’t know them all) and say, “He wants to sleep,” apply some simple tactics and boom!, sleeping baby again.
I remember after reading her first book, 6 years ago, thinking, “Is this really a solution?”. It is a lot of good information and a lot of strategies to try, but not a magic potion. It is written by someone who understands babies and their physical and emotional needs. If you’re looking for a step-by-step formula, this may not be your thing (because babies are not machines!). But, if you acknowledge that all babies and families are different and we have some biological things in common, this book of strategies may be just the ticket to better sleep for you and your baby.