Friday, March 4, 2011

Baby Book Reviews

After my mention of all the baby books in my last post, both Oak and Lesley asked for any recommendations I might have. So, I thought I might do a baby book review post--for them, and for anyone else looking for baby books. I felt a bit overwhelmed at the beginning when I was trying to figure out what books to read, so maybe this will help someone. I also think it will be interesting to come back to this a few months into motherhood and see if I still agree with my own praise and criticism!

So, here are the baby books I have read so far, in order of when I read them.

Sleep Solutions for Your Baby, Toddler, and Preschooler by Ann Douglas
Knowing how many different schools of thought there are out there on how your baby should sleep (and knowing that one's philosophy on sleep affects everything else), I wanted to start with the least biased overview I could find of all the opinions. This was the best I could do. Would we be cosleeping? Crying it out (ie, "Ferberizing")? Feeding or rocking the baby to sleep? Following a strict routine?

And Douglas's book definitely did give a good overview of the different methods, as well as the science of sleep as it relates to babies and various sleep disorders. I wouldn't say she was entirely unbiased--she definitely came down pretty hard against both co-sleeping and controlled crying, though in subtle ways. And the book was actually a bit depressing because she spent so much time talking about how sleep deprived new parents are, and how the sleep deprivation can go on for months and months, and how there really isn't much you can do to control your baby's sleeping habits. After reading other books, I completely agree that you can't control your baby's sleep, but I don't think it's too much to hope that your baby would be sleeping through the night pretty well at some point, and that the sleep deprivation won't last forever.

The Mother of All Baby Books: The Ultimate Guide to Your Baby's First Year by Ann Douglas
We thought Ann Douglas did a decent enough job on the sleep book to buy her baby book, as well. And it was a good, fairly comprehensive overview of everything from labor and delivery through the baby's first year. Good, solid advice and instructions on general care, baby's development, breastfeeding/bottlefeeding, introducing solids, etc. She doesn't really delve much into discipline or behavior issues, though she can't avoid a few pointers here and there.

Your Baby and Child From Birth to Age Five by Penelope Leach
I went into this one with fairly low expectations, mostly because it was given to us by an older couple and I thought it might be dreadfully old-school. But I actually really liked it and might even recommend it over Douglas's book. It's extremely comprehensive, and I only read through the first couple of chapters, covering the newborn phase and the "Settled Baby" (ie, around 1 month to 6 months) phase. She covers all the basics you would expect from this kind of book and is willing to assert a little more opinion and motherly advice than Douglas. She had some great pointers about baby digestive issues, colic, and discerning the difference between the baby's different cries. What I really thought was great about this book, though, was the information she has about a baby's (and child's) mental and emotional development, and ways for parents to encourage that development. So she had some really interesting thoughts about what kinds of toys to buy when, how to play with a baby, etc.

The main thing I disagreed with in Leach's book was her overall premise that a parent's purpose in having children is to maximize pleasure. Since she believes everyone is happier if the baby is happier, she tends to err on the side of doing whatever it takes to make the baby happy. This goes a bit against my core beliefs on childrearing, but I won't go into all that too much here. You can garner what you will based on my reviews of the next two books.

On Becoming Babywise by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam
I'm fairly certain this is the most controversial inclusion on my list! Before I give my opinions on this book, I'll just say that I was a little conflicted on whether to read it or not. I have known several people who've used it with their babies, and they all had fairly positive reviews. But when I looked for it online, I came across all kinds of vitriolic criticism against it and research that supposedly links the Babywise method with malnutrition in babies! So I did a little more research and read through some of the criticism, and I came to a couple of conclusions about the anti-Babywise camp:

  1. Many of them never tried Babywise but were against it for philosophical reasons. These were the La Leche League and Attachment Parenting types, for whom the idea of anything in baby-raising being parent-directed is a bit anathema. The word "routine" sends these people running from the room yelling about how the baby is born knowing what's best, and we need to give it what it needs when it needs it, etc. And how the birth process is a major trauma, and our job as parents for the first many months is to do everything possible to recreate the environment of the womb as much as possible. (I'm not necessarily 100% against these perspectives, I'm just caricaturing them a bit for fun.)
  2. Those who had tried Babywise had either used it incorrectly, usually either by giving up too quickly on it or by becoming too rigid in their routine and using the clock as an excuse not to pay attention to their baby's hunger or sleep cues. Ezzo is quite vehement that hunger and sleep cues always trump the clock, but I think his method can tempt people to become overly formulaic.
So now for my take-aways and opinions on the book, since I obviously decided to go for it and read it. First of all, I found myself very much agreeing with the premises of the book--that parents can't allow their lives, marriages, friendships, etc to be completely taken over by their children. I honestly believe children feel more secure if they see their parents existing as full human beings outside of themselves. I could write a whole blog post about the difference between the way my husband was raised (by parents who sacrificed everything for their kids but whose marriage was often on the brink of falling apart) and the way I was raised (by parents who were always very clear that they loved each other the most and who didn't believe that loving us meant sacrificing everything) and the clear results of each method. Suffice it to say that while I definitely believe that parenthood is all about selfless sacrifice, I think sacrifice rarely means letting your kids dictate your life.

On a more practical level, I found Ezzo's method very intriguing. He essentially advocates for a 2.5-3hr routine with young babies which rotates through feeding, awake time, and sleeping. He believes it's very important to follow feeding with awake time rather than falling into the trap of feeding to sleep. The book offers specific recommendations about how to go about this routine, how to make sure your baby's getting enough nutrition, growth spurts, milk supply, napping, and nighttime sleeping. According to Babywise, if you follow their method, your baby should be sleeping at least 5 hours straight most nights by 6-8 weeks. I'll let you know if this happens for us :). The book also offers some advice on encouraging emotional, mental, and physical development (such as introducing independent playtime), but since it's mostly focused on the first 6 months, it doesn't delve into those issues too much. I guess you have to get Babywise II to get the 6-12 month advice.

Ezzo is an advocate of controlled crying-to-sleep when necessary. He says you shouldn't even have to do that if you follow his methods from the beginning (your baby should be a good sleeper), but often, the routine gets disrupted, needs to be introduced, etc, and you find your baby's ability to put himself to sleep needs some help. He doesn't believe babies are emotionally scarred by being left to cry in their cribs for a short period of time, and he says that after a few times, they should be putting themselves to sleep without much crying.

Conclusion: yes, I recommend the book, especially if you are someone who tends to thrive on routine. A happier mama makes a happier baby, for sure! Also, it's a fairly short book, so not too much of a commitment to read. More of a commitment to utilize, though!

Since I generally liked Babywise, I decided to give this book a try, since it was supposedly a similar method and I felt like I still needed more details. And in most ways, Hogg is in agreement with Babywise (not that they ever reference each other). She calls her routine E.A.S.Y.--Eat, Activity, Sleep, You Time (you get You Time while the baby's sleeping). She also believes this should follow a 2.5-3hr pattern through the day, and that babies should be sleeping at least 5 hours straight at night by 6-8 weeks. What I really liked about the book was that it gave way more details and answered way more questions--like how to "tank up" when your baby's going through a growth spurt, how to tell if your baby is really hungry or just needs comfort, how to increase your milk supply if you find it needs it, etc. She's also much more comprehensive in her scope, going all the way through the first couple of years, and giving advice on different baby temperaments and behavioral issues.

The one big issue on which she disagrees with Ezzo is on crying it out. Hogg believes that babies should never be left to cry on their own--that doing so breaks the very important bond of trust between the baby and her parents. She instead advocates for the "4 S's"--Setting the stage, Swaddling, Sitting, and Shush-patting. For babies over 3 months old, she has a method called "Pick Up/Put Down" that you use if you find yourself needing to retrain your baby to put herself to sleep. Her biggest concern is that you don't fall for quick fixes that quickly become sleep props, so she gives tons of advice on how to train your baby to put himself to sleep without becoming dependent on anything (even, eventually, your presence until he falls asleep). 

I might actually recommend this book over Babywise because it has so much more detail and practical advice. She is a bit less flexible on her routine, while Babywise is always clear that the routine should serve you and others around you, rather than vice versa. 


I hope all that is actually helpful for someone! If not, I guess it helped me clarify my thoughts on these books. I can't wait to actually have a baby to try all this knowledge out on!

Anyone else have any baby book recommendations? I've heard good things about The Happiest Baby on the Block, but I've chosen not to read it thus far because it sounds like its best contribution is the 5 S's, and we had those covered in our Newborn Care class. Anyone out there think I should read it--or another one?


Nico said...

I thought Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child was a pretty good book too, and fairly useful - although I think the number one take home message for the early months is that a baby should not be awake for longer than two hours at a time at the beginning, including feeding time. I know quite a few people who have not gone with that, and their kids are horrible sleepers. I followed that pretty closely and have had good sleepers from the get go. Not necessarily related, but I have seen the overtired baby not napping after two hours (even though he clearly NEEDED it) first hand and it was not pretty. I also read/followed baby whisperer, although if the kid wakes up before the 2.5-3 hour mark, you *can't* always feed first, so there definitely were times when I would end up nursing to sleep. That was never a problem for us, maybe because I wasn't doing it all the time? Anyway, I think that one *key* thing is not to get too rigid about whatever you do - going with the flow to some degree I think ends up being good for everyone - I have a couple of friends whose kids would *only* nap at home - and that ends up really constraining you. My kids on the other hand, would and have napped pretty much anywhere, which gives me a lot more freedom. Done babbling :)

Anonymous said...

Hi, I have an 11 week old who won't sleep in the crib. I've read hogg & have tried easy but it is not so easy! I don't like how she blames parents so much. I would avoid Sears--he advocates codleeping, boobs on demand as night, etc. Also tried Pantley--seemingly good advice but hard to implement. Still searching for a solution...

Lesley (and Eric) said...

Thanks Ceejay-- I'll be interested to hear which ones you think work. I've been trying different things. It's hard because you want to give up when something doesn't work right away, but who knows if you just have to stick it out a little longer?

I have the No Cry Sleep Solution, and I'll let you know how that one pans out.

It seems unfortunate that things either don't work as advertised, or they do, but only to have repercussions later! Like, yeah, suddenly you got 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep (yay!) but then baby refuses to go BACK to sleep (uh oh...). Suddenly 2-3 hour chunks of sleep don't seem so bad, if it means you aren't up at 3 AM commenting on blogs :).

roadtomotherhood said...

I'm so glad you posted this! As you know I've been experimenting to try to establish a daytime routine (she is sleeping great at night!). I was frustrated with Babywise at first, but then took what I wanted from it and am now doing well with the 2.5-3 hour blocks. Which I realize (now that I'm reading the baby whisperer based on your advice) I'm actually doing more of her method - E.A.S.Y.!
I'm also going to read the No Cry Sleep Solution next.

As for The Happiest Baby on the Block - I recommend renting/watching the movie. He goes through everything he discusses in the book, but you can actually watch him do the 5 "S's" and see how he's swaddling, holding, how loudly shushing, etc. And it's only 25 minutes! His swaddle has saved me - (The DUDU wrap). With her arms so snug she sleeps much longer. We started swaddling immediately at the hospital and she hasn't resisted it since!
I've also read "What to Expect the First Year" and I've enjoyed having it on hand. It's nice to have another book broken up month by month.
Keep me posted! I'm an avid reader as well and love to research stuff like this!!!

Josey said...

Since I can't reply by email to your comment ... :P ... ;)

YES, it really is that warm! When we've been below zero for ages and lately in the 10s and 20s, we hit 50s and 60s and it's pretty much tropical here! Plus, it doesn't hurt that we're so high in elevation - the sun is honesty much stronger up here!

Oak said...

I came back and re-read your reviews on these since I'm in the thick of it now. I'm using the babywise method with Mac and so far so good. I'll keep you posted though! :)