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You'll either like it or hate it, no middle ground.
on February 15, 2012
Conner Herman and Kira Ryan, <strong>The Dream Sleeper: A Three-Part Plan for Getting Your Baby to Love Sleep</strong> (Jossey-Bass, 2012)
Full disclosure: this book was provided to me free of charge by Amazon Vine.
I don't want to say this book has talismanic properties, but I will mention that the baby, who was just shy of three months old at the time, began sleeping through the night the day the book arrived in the mail, days before I began reading it. Coincidence? Most likely. But still, desperation will drive people to absurd lengths. And as I'm on my second trip through having an infant, I can attest that there are few quotidian things that can drive a parent to desperation with the speed and efficiency of a baby who won't sleep through the night. (My older child is now sixteen. She still doesn't sleep through the night, but she can at least amuse herself.)
As the authors of the book tell you, there are basically two camps (though like any problem approached with almost religious fervor, there are any number of variations on the basic themes) when it comes to trying to teach your kid to sleep through the night: there's the cry-it-out camp, and there's the crying-is-bad camp. The authors are up front about being of the former denomination. (One thinks that perhaps they could have saved themselves some bad reviews by noting this information somewhere in the jacket copy; I can personally attest to being unaware this was a cry-it-out book, and a few of the reviews I skimmed when I was about to start reading it also mentioned this particular lack.) The simple, and somewhat flip, answer is this: if you are of the cry-it-out camp, grab a copy of this at the library and see if there's sufficient new info for you to want to add it to your permanent library; after all, it is far from the first cry-it-out book out there. If you're not, avoid it like the plague, for you will find the information contained herein anything from counterproductive to your style of parenting to flat-out offensive (the latter is conjecture based on one particularly scathing review...). All of this being a long-winded way of saying that this review is going to be somewhat cavalier in ignoring the crying-is-bad folks from here on out, because the book is obviously aimed in a different direction. The rest of you lot can stop reading now and safely avoid this book.
As for the rest of you: while I was obviously joking in the opening paragraph about the book having magical properties, I wasn't joking about the fact that the baby DID start sleeping through the night the day the book arrived, and so I haven't actually had the chance to put any of this to the test yet. (Also, the kid is not quite four months old yet, so I haven't actually gotten to the point where I COULD, as of the writing of this review.) Even more damning to anything I would have to say about this, I come from a mixed marriage: my wife is of the crying-is-bad camp. This is my second kid, her first, and when I had my first kid, I was of the crying-is-bad camp too, so I get that. I also know my wife well enough to know that Herman and Ryan's advice for dealing with mixed marriages would be a dead issue (and even if it weren't, her, shall we say, more strong-willed relatives would not react in ways predicted by the "here's how you get the relatives on board" sections) in my household. So I can sit here and spout theory all day, but at no point will I ever be able to give you practice. So I'm not even going to try and go down that path. Instead, I'll tell you it's quite a well-written book, with all the attractive qualities of a good how-to guide: it's well-organized, doesn't mind taking a detour every once in a while for interesting-if-not-entirely relevant info (note: I do know that's a matter of personal taste and drives some folks up the wall, so be aware), and communicates the basic tenets of its system in simple, easy-to-understand language that the average sleep-deprived parent will have no trouble at all digesting.
On the other hand, the fallout of the religious-fervor debates is to be found everywhere here, most notably in the not-so-subtle manipulation that sounds more like an ideological sales pitch than inspirational writing. I can't remember all the testimonials with perfect clarity, but all of those I remember were of the sales-pitch variety. Folks, you're preaching to the choir, and if you're not, you're going to change as many people's minds on crying as you would proselytizing the virtues of steak tartare at a PETA convention. After a while, it gets tiring.
So, given all that, a summation: by no means a perfect book, with the codicil that it's not possible to write a perfect book (in the sense of one-size-fits-all) for this topic. But for those who will find it of use, it is clear, well-organized, and thoughtful. ***