This has been a long time coming. It is time for me to post about BabyWise, the method we use to help our children learn how to sleep well.
Now, listen, I have lots of opinions. In sharing these opinions, I am not saying that you are wrong or that your method is wrong or that I don’t like you. Just because I like my method and might disagree with yours doesn’t say anything about how I think you parent. I promise! I can disagree with you and still think you are a great parent! I understand that different personalities dictate different styles and choices. As long as your baby is fed, clothed appropriately, and is healthy, I have no beef with you! So please don’t assume that I am hatin’ on you or your method if it is different than mine. I DO think that BabyWise can work for everyone if you choose to put forth the effort, but that doesn’t mean you are wrong or dumb or effort-less or less than me if you don’t use it. I’m just sharing my thoughts about why it is a good idea here, nothing more, nothing less.
So basically, I think BabyWise is the greatest thing ever. I’ve had a lot of people asking me questions about it, so I’m going to go into detail about why I think it is just the best!
WHAT IS IT?
BabyWise is a method for teaching your child how to sleep through the night from an early age. I could spend a bazillion years answering questions about it, which I am happy to do if you want to contact me, but it would probably be better for you to just read the book (link to amazon here) and see what you think for yourself, although I have a lot of opinions about why I think it is a good idea to help your kid sleep through the night that I am going to include here:
1. Babies do not naturally know how to do anything, really.
I think a lot of parents enter parenthood with this “luck” idea. I know they do, because when Jared was a baby and we were using BabyWise and working out butts off to keep his schedule reasonably consistent, people would always say, “Wow, he’s such a happy baby! You are so lucky!” and I would have to overcome to urge to sock them in the jaw because I am NOT lucky and I had to work very hard to have a happy baby and it is insulting to me to imply that it was just luck that made my kid this way. I think it is silly to enter parenthood with this “luck” idea (thank God for His grace. I’m not the person I wish I was, but He is helping me learn to not react so angrily to people who are just trying to say something nice). Sure, there are some luck factors (or I would say some ways that God is challenging you to find ways to praise Him or ways that Satan is trying to deceive and trick you out) involved in parenting, like temperament or special challenges/blessings or extra fussiness or reflux and gassiness, etc. But don’t enter parenthood just hoping for the best! There is a lot you can do to influence your children and to teach them! I have two kids. Neither kid knew how to do much when they popped out. They were both pretty good at sucking on stuff, including my husband’s nose.
Always entertaining! But other than pooping and sucking on stuff, they did very little. You have to teach your kids stuff. If you enter parenthood with the idea that your kid is going to just figure it out, you are not thinking very well. Kids don’t learn good behaviors by themselves. They learn by watching and copying what you are teaching them. This is pretty obviously true, I think, although I currently don’t have any scientific data to back it up and I’m unwilling to go through the effort, I think it is clear that this is true. Kids who grow up in homes where parents yell tend to have anger management issues (although I’d argue that pretty much all kids have anger management issues until they are taught how to manage anger effectively since it is a learned behavior to manage anger). Kids who are never taught to hold a fork or their own cup don’t know how to do it. Kids who never eat dinner at the dinner table do not know table manners. I’m just saying, don’t be that person who is afraid to PARENT your child. As the parent, you are a built-in teacher, whether you like it or not. You are the person your kid will watch and copy and know better than anyone. I see scary parts of myself coming out in my kids. I lose patience with the dog a lot. I yelled at him to get away from me the other day when he was sniffing around my food, and Jared immediately yelled, “GO ‘WAY DOE-DOE!” in his “mean voice” which is “Go away, Chewy,” in his language. I was so embarrassed. He copies some of the good things but he certainly seems to cling to the bad things. Kids are what you make them in so many ways! I think it is okay to teach your kid how to sleep. I don’t think this is a naturally learned behavior – sleeping well. Obviously, sleeping is a naturally learned behavior. But doing it well is another whole story.
2. Mommy and Daddy need sleep.
Again, I’m lazy with the scientific data, but I can guarantee you there are like a bazillion studies out there about how you can’t effectively function as a human being without good sleep. Sleep apnea is horrible – my husband has it. Not sleeping well or for long enough effects like everything else in your life. People who don’t sleep enough don’t live as long. People who don’t sleep enough are more stressed out. I’m just saying, don’t you think getting good sleep benefits you? Sure, one of the first lessons you learn as a parent is that life is not all about you anymore. Your kid is super important. (Although I would argue that it is very unhealthy behavior to “put your kid first” like everyone always talks about, but that’s a discussion for another day.) However – and here was the kicker for me – how can I possibly be expected to teach another human how to function as a human when I cannot function as a human? I’m not one of those lucky ones who can slide by with little sleep. I like have no brain when I haven’t slept. Things I did when Ellie was first born: put my keys in the freezer, mopped the floor with only water because I forgot to add soap, forgot to cook dinner at all like 8 days in a row and then wondered why I was so hungry, etc. There are most assuredly plenty more things I forgot to do, but my brain was in such a sleepless fog that I can’t think of them right now. And even now, with two kids happily sleeping through the whole night, I find myself completely full of “mommy brain” – I still have to set alarms to remember to feed her at the right times! I’m just saying – having young babies is hard enough whether you are getting enough sleep or not – don’t add “lack of sleep” to the list of reasons why you are dumb and make things even worse! (Obviously, there are about 7-8 weeks there where “lack of sleep” is going to be on the list anyway, but I’m talking about extending the “lack of sleep” excuse far past the points of necessary and making your brain so foggy that you can’t even remember what life was like when your kids are little!) I also want to add here that if you are one of those parents who goes back to work when your kids are still little, God bless you! I was you the first time – I went back when Jared was 12 weeks, so I still got more time than most people do. Don’t you think it benefits those you work with for you to be able to properly function in your job because you are getting enough sleep? Sleep CAN be a priority when your kids are little if you choose to make it that way. It isn’t THE priority, or the highest priority, but it can be on the list without you feeling like you are a poor parent!
3. Routine is good for children.
Okay, again, scientific data. It exists somewhere. Look it up. Routine is undoubtedly, definitely, 100%, absolutely good for children (and grown-ups). Of all ages. At any walk of life. At any given point. Now, I hate routine. I like to be adventurous and spontaneous and mix it up and never do the same things and always be open and free for changing it up. I actually like change. I find it refreshing. I, for the longest time, found everyday repeated tasks super mundane and boring. Unfortunately, whether or not I like something does not dictate whether that thing is good for me or not. I do not like cauliflower. It is still good for me. I do not like exercise. It is still good for me. My change of heart toward routine began when I became a teacher. Here’s the deal. I have spent the last 6 years teaching music every day to elementary-aged kids. When I plan the lesson well, and we have established classroom routines, and kids can predict what is going to be happening and/or kids just know “how it is” in my room, things go really, really well. When there is routine, kids feel safe. Kids need to feel safe in order to have good behaviors and in order to learn and function well. Don’t try to pretend like kids aren’t learning when they are at your home – that is total nonsense. Kids learn in every environment they are in. They either learn that this is a safe, predictable place where they are free or they learn that this is a wild crazy zone where anything goes, which, interestingly, is less freeing in many ways. They learn good, healthy behaviors, or they don’t. Kids tend to put stuff in boxes: black and white, right and wrong. They organize and categorize the world to help make sense of it. Now, we poor jaded grown-ups know that the world is little more gray than that and that there aren’t always clear choices, but kids do not need to learn that when they are children! Give them structure, for goodness’ sake. It is healthy and good for them. It helps them learn what to do and when. You are probably wondering at this point what this rant about routine has to do with BabyWise. The thing is, you can give your kids safe, healthy routines literally from day one. Now, I am not talking about rigidness. The authors of BabyWise even bring this up. Choosing a routine for your family doesn’t mean that you are PsychoNaziMom who has a conniption fit when kiddos don’t exactly follow the minute-to-minute routine you have dictated. It does mean that kids pretty much can predict what’s going to happen next. This is good for children. They like this. It helps them feel safe, and it helps them feel like they have a little bit of control over their world. Additionally, routines are good for YOU. When I have a routine, I tend to get stuff done. For example, my morning routine is to get up at 6, get myself clean for the day, put on makeup and get dressed, make the bed, pump (holla!), take a load of laundry downstairs, let the dog out, change the laundry, let the dog back in, and start breakfast, wake up Ellie, feed her, wake up Jared, feed him and myself, unload dishwasher, put breakfast dishes in, day starts! Look at all that stuff I get done every morning! It is good, whether I enjoy it or not. It is comforting to know that I’ll get the laundry started and make sure the dog is let out and make sure my kid is fed and the dishwasher is empty of clean dishes. I don’t feel as frazzled because I know that I’ve done some things, and I can feel accomplished. There is accomplishment in feeling like my day wasn’t wasted, even though it never goes exactly as I had hoped! I have two kids under two, and I never feel like I can get everything done, but it helps my heart and soul to know that every day, I got SOMETHING done. Additionally, making hair and makeup a part of my routine means that if something does come up where we need to change up the schedule and go somewhere, I don’t have to be embarrassed about the “mom look” because I totally look hot! It helps with self-esteem to have a routine. It helps everything, whether I miss the good old days of flying by the seat of my pants or not.
The biggest reason I’ve adopted the BabyWise philosophy is joy. Jared is twenty months. Ellie is three months. Jared sleeps 12.5 hours every night and takes a 4 hour nap. Ellie sleeps 9 hours at night and takes several naps still. This gives Husband and me some quality alone time in the evenings before he hooks up the giant hose machine to his face and we sleep soundly through the whole night. I am home all day every day with the kiddos in a clean and put together home (most of the time). I have gotten big dents done in big projects each day (although none finished yet). I am by no means perfect, and God is teaching me grace and more patience every day, but I feel, at least 95% of the time, joyous and peaceful and not at all overwhelmed about having such young children. I actually feel blessed and in love with my life.
BabyWise has been a wonderful gift to us, and I will always thank my friends (shoutout to Justin and Katie and Michelle!) for recommending the book to us. Because of BabyWise, when people say to me “Gosh, your hands are full!” I want to answer with, “Yeah, you should see my heart!”