You are your own expert

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At our last MOT club support meeting, one mom mentioned how she was having major sleep problems with her kids.  So much so that she managed to get an appointment with the one and only Dr. Ferber, who practices here in Boston.  I was intrigued, as I have been a vocal defender of the good doctor ever since we “Ferberized” at 6.5 months.  I know a lot of people object to his CIO method, but I thought it was wonderfully effective.  Then, I heard the advice he gave my friend and thought it was so far off the mark that I actually had a viceral, physical reaction.  I almost felt betrayed.

The specifics of the advice aren’t important, and I’m no pediatrician or sleep expert.  But it was illuminating nonetheless.  It really reminded me how we all have to pick and choose our experts, and what advice we choose to ignore and what we choose to accept.  There’s a million “experts” out there. Could be someone with a published book in paperback and a lot of acronyms after their name.  Could be your mom or a neighbor or even a blogger you read.  I think we all wish it was as easy as picking up a single book or asking a single person for advice, and having all of the answers nice and neat in one place.  But no matter how complete a theory someone claims to have, it never works 100% for every kid.

For instance, while I’m a huge believer in Ferber’s ideas about sleep associations and his CIO methods, I also think his suggestions for bedtimes and naptimes are ridiculous.  Maybe I’m more of a Weissbluth person… I follow his nap schedule almost to a T, and am strongly in favor of early bedtimes.  But I think he ignores sleep associations, and sometimes I think newborns just need to sleep in bouncy seats or swings and it’s not the end of the world.

And that leads me to the second thing I was reminded of: how strongly we sometimes hold to some of our core parenting beliefs. While I don’t think strict rigidity is the ideal, I do think it’s important to have a few things in which you believe strongly, that you prioritize over other things.  For some it might be a commitment to frugality or “going green” or positive discipline.  For me, I think the thing I hold to more strongly than almost anything else is a regular nap schedule and early bedtime.  Any suggestion of infants or toddlers going to bed later than 8PM is likely to give me heart palpitations.  (Mine are in bed by 7, religiously.)

Do I think an early bed time is the “right” thing?  Of course, or I wouldn’t do it.  But it’s not the only idea out there, and there’s people who aren’t going to place the same priority on that as I do.

Anyways, my point is this: you are the expert on your kids.  By all means, read up on the different theories.  See what the “experts” have to say.  See what your mother has to say.  See what your fellow MOT’s have to say.  But know that you’ll probably pick and choose.  You might love half of what someone has to say, but blatantly object to the other half.  Parenting and the millions of theories out there are just a big smorgasbord.  Think it all through, but only take what works for you.

So, readers, who are your favorite experts, and why?  And what bits of their advice have you completely thrown by the wayside?

Mom and two kids

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Sleep Plan: 6 months

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Following is copied and pasted directly from an email to a MOT friend of mine. She has been asking me sleep advice, and wants to do CIO with her nearly-6-month-olds but doesn’t have the time to read Ferber (you all know how I feel… read the book!).  I’m no guru, but I’m opinionated.  So, here’s my epic email to her (verbatim, just with added links), with my mish-mash, cliff’s-notes version of Weissbluth and Ferber.  All in what we deemed her “sleep plan.”  Maybe it’ll be useful for someone else out there in the blogosphere.  And remember, this is my opinion and what worked for my kids. Not sayin’ it’s the only solution or the right thing for everyone…

[cross-posted at Goddess in Progress]

— — —

Alright, this might be the longest email I’ve ever written.  Sorry.  I just felt like I had to explain things.  Let me know if you have any questions.  And let me just say: this is what worked for me and my kids.  I’m no expert, I’m no doctor. Not all kids are the same, and there’s no one perfect solution that will have your kids sleeping until 8AM every day for the rest of their lives. (ha!) But, overall, this is what worked really well for us.

6:30am (or later, yeah right!): wake up
8:30-9:00: go down for morning nap, depending on how tired they seem or how early they woke up
12noon-1:30pm: go down for mid-day nap, depending on how late AM nap went
3:30-4:30pm: go down for late-afternoon nap, again depending on how mid-day nap went
6:30-7:00pm: start bedtime routine
7:00-7:30pm: lights out

Here’s my philosophy: well-rested kids with a predictable routine are going to sleep better (good sleep begets good sleep), wake up happier, and be generally easier and more receptive to their world than those who are over-tired or unpredictable.  Since that is my starting philosophy, I pretty much think that 95-99% of days should revolve around their sleep schedule.  Yes, sometimes you can play with it. But you won’t know how and when to take that risk until they’ve settled into it. So my advice is to stick like krazy glue to a schedule for at least a week or two and see how it goes before you try fudging things around. It can feel restrictive at first, and some people give you grief for it. But, honestly, I eventually found it sort of freeing, because I knew ahead of time what were good and bad times of day for my kids (more or less) and could plan accordingly.  If you don’t know when your kid is going to nap, how can you know whether or not to sign up for that 3pm class? And it does mean you need to be careful with outings, because you don’t want them falling asleep in the car when you’re on the way home for their nap, and things like that.  Not always super flexible, but it pays off.  And yes, I always did the same thing for both kids at the same time.  One may wake up earlier than the other, but I always put them down at the same time.

Now, for details…

Continue reading Sleep Plan: 6 months

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