Nighttime Parenting: How to get your baby and child to sleep
by Dr William Sears MD

I don’t know whether to describe this book as annoying, or upsetting, or helpful. In reality, it is all three of these.

Annoying because Dr Sears (no, I refuse to call him “Dr Bill” any more than I will call his sons “Dr Jim” or “Dr Bob” – it’s just too cutesy and sickening)… where was I? Ah, yes, Dr Sears and his annoyingness. For one thing, well, just look at the website and you want automatically to stick your fingers down your throat and cease attachment parenting forever. If that’s what AP is about, Dr Bill, then I’d rather not, thanks all the same… In the same vein are suggestions in his book that each night of a pregnancy you and your partner place your hands upon the bump and reaffirm together your commitment to the child and to your life as parents. And as for the closing “bedtime story”… Somebody, save me.

Upsetting because some of his advice really moved me. The chapter on fathering actually had me in tears. Cutesy and insufferable he may be, but I bet he is cracking as a Daddy. Oh, no more of this, or I shall well up again. I don’t criticise anyone who tells it like it is when it comes to a child’s need for a father, for a two-parent family, for a stay-at-home parent… but that doesn’t make it easy listening and I reserve the right to get emotional. [Insert sad smile.]

Helpful because, on the whole, the advice on nighttime parenting – and daytime parenting, come to think of it – was both useful and in its way empowering.

For example, as the mother of the sometimes clingy baby, I felt reassured by some of the passages on whether the attachment parenting style causes babies to be more needy and clingy. If there is any correlation between neediness and attachment parenting approaches, Dr Sears points out that, in fact, the causation is at least as likely to be the other way around. It is not so much that the more you cuddle your baby, the more she will need it. It is more likely to be that the more your baby needs cuddling, the more you will end up giving her cuddles. Mothers of needy babies instinctively understand that their babies need lots of close physical contact, and it is important that we be permitted to trust our instincts rather than undermined by well-meant but harmful advice designed to stop us from “spoiling” our higher need children.

The book was also full of practical help, such as sleep-inducing strategies and information about things like safe sleep-sharing. Although I do not like or agree with everything that Dr Sears writes or advocates, Nighttime Parenting is nevertheless a source of good information and ideas. It is just a shame, in a world that has so many misconceptions about attachment parenting, that one of its better-known advocates is so, so annoying!

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