Sweet Sleep is a La Leche League publication, written by some of the well-known names in the LLL world: Diane Wiessinger, Diana West, Linda J. Smith and Teresa Pitman; and as such it sets out a very definitely baby-centred philosophical position, as you might expect. It very nearly does manage to achieve a balanced tone with regard to the fact that not all families breastfeed, and even includes a chapter on how to cope if you don’t have this powerful parenting tool available to you (adoptive families, for instance), but its subtitle clearly states “for the Breastfeeding Family” and this is where its real strength lies.
There is a wealth of advice available online, from health professionals, and among families and friends, for parents who want techniques to “train” their babies to sleep. Sweet Sleep fills a gap for the parents who want to work within their babies’ normal development, with gentle nudges from stage to stage, but allowing for kind and responsive parenting.
Sweet Sleep is packed with practical suggestions, and sensibly begins with a chapter full of immediate ideas for getting more sleep tonight. It focuses straight away on the Safe Sleep Seven, which are rules for emergency bedsharing. Given that statistics show unplanned bedsharing to be far riskier than planned bedsharing, helping parents to plan for it is a really good place to start.
It goes on to explain normal sleep, drawing on anthropology, biology, and worldwide cultural practices. This is followed by safety information, gentle nudges for different ages and stages, and suggestions for different scenarios such as premature babies, twins and so on. The chapter on SIDS and suffocation is comprehensive and well-explained; and finally the book offers suggestions for talking to supportive and non-supportive people about an attachment parenting approach to coping with nights.
This book is well-referenced throughout, and illustrated with quotes from the authors’ own stories and from other families. Once too often I found myself frustrated that the authors touch on a point and promise to explain it more in a later chapter, making me dip about in the book rather than reading it through as I wanted to. I was not particularly surprised that the section on Getting Help/Giving Help only mentions La Leche League, when there are quite a number of other organisations, including NCT, who could also support parents in these situations.
On the whole I found this book useful both in terms of practical help for parents of co-sleeping/breastfeeding babies, and ways of thinking/talking about risk and responsiveness, which I find a lot of new parents and parents-to-be worry about. It’s good to have a book that supports parents to follow their instincts and find their own rhythms.
DISCLOSURE: I was sent a free review copy of this book by Pinter and Martin Publishers. To order your own copy with a 25% discount, just follow the link and use the discount code KH25 at the checkout.