An explanation of the Sears 'attached parenting' training method of getting baby to sleep.
There are many different views regarding the best way to get baby to sleep. Pediatrician William Sears recently offered a unique set of guidelines. It's a method which sits poles apart from Dr. Ferber's controversial system of crying it out.
Dr. Sears encourages 'nighttime parenting' which is supposed to teach baby to view sleep as a pleasant place to be. This is achieved by sleeping close to baby and offering comfort if baby wakes.
During daytime parents are advised to cuddle baby frequently, ideally with the use of a sling, while nap times and bedtimes should be consistent. The thinking is that by fulfilling baby's needs for contact and routine, a nighttime pattern will be more easily achieved.
Parents are then advised to dedicate a set amount of time just before bed to calming baby down. Useful techniques include slow bathing, massaging, rocking down and fathering down. This latter approach involves nestling baby's head in the crook of the father's neck. Other less practical ones include carrying baby in a sling or motoring down which uses the motion of a car to lull baby to sleep.
Dr. Sears warns against setting babies down too early as they are easily awoken in the first stages of sleep. Wait until baby is in a deep sleep, (limp limbs are a good sign) before putting baby down for the night. Having a consistently dark and quiet room for sleep helps the process.
During the night baby ought to sleep close by, in the same room or in the family bed (providing you are aware of how to do this safely). Throughout the night you should be prepared to comfort, soothe, change or nurse baby as they wake.
Drawbacks of this method include;
- Practical problems: If you work or are away from home, the daytime regime is difficult to enforce.
- Parents can become very tired from being regularly woken.
- Some experts and parents believe that babies sleep more solidly and awaken less if they learn to fall asleep independently.
- Using this approach over a period of time makes it harder to teach baby to self-soothe.
Despite this there are positives about Dr. Sears' method:
- Mother's often find it easier than expected to mirror baby's sleep patterns.
- The method can be used from birth, unlike other techniques which involve training.
- Having baby in the same room makes monitoring them easier.
- Since baby is never left to cry-it-out this scheme is a lot less distressing than other methods.
- Frequent contact reinforces the parent-child bond.
Overall the most important aspects of this regime are routine, having a flexible and realistic approach while creating a calm environment. However, it should be noted that Dr. Sears has recently revised his original 1993 method, believing that it placed too much emphasis of the needs of baby, and not enough on the mother. In his more recent work, The Baby Sleep Book (2005) he reminds parents 'What your baby really needs is a happy, rested mother."