…that is truly the question. There are so many schools of thought in regard to this debate. The “cry-it-out” philosophy, “on-demand” philosophy and various mixes of the two.
From the beginning, I truly thought I’d follow one particular book and just make it work. I chose “The Conteded Little Baby Book” on the advice of my sister-in-law and liked its no nonsense approach and clear reasoning. I read some excerpts of other books but just couldn’t identify with them. My first piece of advice is to choose a method or book that makes sense for you and your goals as a parent.
Many people are frightened away from this book because it seems very rigid and tends to support the “cry-it-out” way of thinking. I can assure you that I did not employ those methods (I’m a total wimp who can’t let my baby cry for more than a few minutes!) and I used a flexible approach when “enforcing” the schedule.
The best thing the book did was provide a structure that was developmentally appropriate for my baby and gave me ideas on how to help her acclimate to the schedule. The philosophy was to create an environment in which you and your child know the routine and are comfortable with the balance of sleep, feeding and activity. That way, if your baby is upset…it’s fairly easy to determine the cause. Once the baby is on a rough schedule, you can typically anticipate a problem and deal with it before your baby becomes frantic. Obviously, babies change a lot during the early stages so this process needs quite a bit of flexibility. I found that as long as I used my schedule as a guideline and not a rule, generally I’d do ok.
Growth spurts throw everything for a loop! I eventually learned to just let my baby tell me what she wanted for a few days. If she had just woken up and been changed but started to get fussy, I’d move up her feeding time to keep her content. Then adjust the next stages as well and just follow her lead. As long as she was happy, I could cope with a few days of sleep deprivation. Once the spurt was over, she’d naturally return to our old routine and off we’d go until the next spurt.
It took a while before I learned how to interpret her signals but we do fairly well now. Don’t give up and don’t be discouraged if it feels like you aren’t making progress, you are! Every day is a learning process and I always try to remember that as long as she’s content, nothing else matters.