Sweet Sleep

Book review of Sweet Sleep, Nighttime & Naptime Strategies for the Breastfeeding Family, Diane Weissinger, Diana West, Linda J Smith, Teresa Pitman, LLLI, 2014

If you’re struggling with lack of sleep with your new baby or wondering whether it is safe to sleep with your breastfed baby, then this is the book for you. Finally, a sensible book taking normal biology and recent research into account, full of ideas for sweet sleep for both you AND your baby. The fact that it is written in tells-it-how-it-is plain language and comes from the well respected La Leche League International is a double bonus. Sweet Sleep has the same authors (plus one) as The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and is written in a similar style—answering all your frequently asked questions head on with a balance of common sense, mothers’ stories and evidence based research.

Sweet Sleep

The four authors have all been breastfeeding mothers, breastfeeding counsellors and lactation consultants—putting them in a perfect position to understand the confusion and exhaustion surrounding caring for a new baby, and to share tried and tested sleep solutions backed by scientific research.

“Breastfeed your baby… but not too often (you don’t want your baby to use food for comfort or use you as a dummy).” “Hold your baby… but not too much (he needs to learn independence and you don’t want to be manipulated by him).” “Keep your baby close at night… but not too close (you’re a danger to him at night).” “Feed him until he’s full… but take him off if he starts to fall asleep (he needs to learn to self-comfort).” This is mothering at its very hardest.

Chapter one gets straight into the heart of The Safe Sleep Seven—a checklist for safe sleeping for the breastfeeding mother and how to make your bed as “SIDS-safe as a cot”. I like the fact we don’t have to wade through the book to know the jist of the message:

If you and your baby meet the requirements in the Safe Sleep Seven checklist you’ve already eliminated all the biggest SIDS risks.  And if you prepare your bed, then your baby’s overall nighttime risk becomes vanishingly small. It’s like putting your seat belt on and then driving slowly on a deserted (and lovely!) country road. Enjoy having your baby beside you for the journey.

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All the questions you will have about sleeping safely are covered e.g. Is it safe for your baby to sleep on his tummy on his mother or father? How can you check if your mattress is a safe surface? Are sleep positioners safe or a hazard? Is sleep training harmful? Is white noise harmful for tiny ears? Can my partner bed share with our baby? What does research say? What about public health cautions that bed sharing is risky?

Babies are no more manipulative in seeking warmth, breastfeeding, and emotional connection than an adult is in seeking a heat source, dinner, and friendship. Mothers are no more wishy-washy in “giving in” to a baby’s needs than a friend is wishy-washy in giving you a hug when you’re feeling down.

Because the book is quite long (nearly 500 pages) it’s good to know that you can dip in and out of chapters as you need them without necessarily reading the whole. However, by reading the book cover to cover you won’t miss all the fascinating tips and snippets such as ‘two sleeps biology’, why your baby doesn’t need scratch mittens, why breastfeeding pillows could be a hazard, the reassuring table of sleep temperaments and traits or the important difference between Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and Accidental Suffocation and Strangulation in Bed (ASSB). At the back of the book is a “Tearsheet Toolkit” with summaries of the Safe Sleep Seven, The Safe Surface Checklist, Helpful Websites or Bedsharing Talking Points (and much more) to serve as personal reminders or for sharing with your in-laws, doctor or childcare provider. These are also available online at the La Leche League International website.

…we’re recommending that all breastfeeding mothers prepare for bed-sharing whether or not they ever intend to do it, since research finds that most breastfeeding mothers do sleep with their babies at some point and preparing for bedsharing is safer than accidentally falling asleep together.

Even the most passionate protestor against bed sharing will find it hard to argue against the research, logic and common sense within the pages of Sweet Sleep. It’s valuable reading for every mother-to-be, father, health worker, grandparent and not forgetting Daily Mail editor. Because sleeping with your baby is not newsworthy or scandalous, it’s normal.

For more information on sleeping with your baby see Safe Sleep and the Breastfed Baby.

Extracts reproduced by permission from Pinter & Martin

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