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When my oldest son was a newborn, I quickly realized how ill-prepared I was for the realities of sleep deprivation. The first few months of his life I was mentally and physically exhausted, attending to multiple night wakings which often required a couple of hours of rocking or singing before he would go back to sleep. He would then be up for the day at 5 a.m., at which point my husband would take over.  My son seemed wired to be more active and need less sleep than other babies, and, much to my chagrin, his night wakings continued well into his third year, at which point we had another newborn to deal with.


My mom, who came to help out when both babies were newborns, offered her take. “You need to put that baby on a schedule,” she said, as I nursed him for the second time in two hours. “Mom, it’s not like how it was when I was a baby,” I snapped blearily, opening my well-thumbed copy of Dr. Sears’ The Baby Book. “We aren’t going to let him cry it out.”

Was I doing it wrong? Were our assumptions about how to get our kids to sleep–and how much sleep we were entitled to, as their parents–the products of new scientific knowledge, or simply of an ever-more-demanding “parenting” culture? Now that my kids are older and I’m past the trauma of years of sleepless nights, I’m able to revisit these tenderest of questions. What better place to start than a review of 250 years’ worth of advice for getting your baby to sleep?

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The first parenting guides were written by physicians and took a decidedly medical approach toward the advice they offered. Infant mortality was high, and the quality of a baby’s sleep was thought to correlate to health and life outcomes. William Cadogan’s 1749 An Essay on the Management of Children from their Birth to Three Years of Age urged mothers to take control from the moment of birth:

“By Night I would not have them fed or suckled at all, that they might at least be hungry in the Morning. It is this Night-feeding that makes them so over-fat and bloated. If they be not used to it at first, and perhaps awaked on purpose, they will never seek it; and if they are not disturbed from the Birth, in a Week’s time they will get into a habit of sleeping all, or most part of the Night very quietly; awaking possibly once or twice for a few Minutes, when they are wet and ought to be changed.”

In The Physicial Life of Woman: Advice to the Maiden, Wife and Mother, written in 1878, Dr. George H Napheys shared this dire warning about the dangers of co-sleeping:

“A foolish mother sometimes goes to sleep while allowing her child to continue sucking. The unconscious babe, after a tune, looses the nipple, and buries his head in the bed-clothes. She awakes in the morning, finding, to her horror, a corpse by her side, with his nose flattened, and a frothy fluid, tinged with, blood, exuding from his lips. A mother ought, therefore, never to go to sleep until her child have finished sucking.”

And Pye Henry Chavasse wrote this poetic prediction about the unhappy lifelong consequences of not letting a baby sleep alone in Advice to a Mother on the Management of her Children (1878):

“If, whilst in cradled rest your infant sleeps.

Your watchful eyes unceasing vigil keeps

Lest cramping bonds his pliant limbs constrain,

And cause defects that manhood may retain.”

But what about the practical issue of babies crying at night? Luther Emmett Holt, the pediatrician who first promoted the concept of “crying it out” in his 1894 book The Care and Feeding of Children: A Catechism for the Use of Mothers and Children’s Nurses  simply advised mothers to use a knitted band to protect the infant’s abdominal organs during extended crying sessions. In answer to the question “What should be done if the infant cries at night….Is it likely that rupture will be caused from crying?” Holt writes, “Not in young infants if the abdominal band is properly applied…It should simply be allowed to ‘cry it out’ This often requires an hour, and in extreme cases, two or three hours.”

By the early 20th century, families were living further away from each other, and moms began to turn to books and magazines for support. A primary directive of parenting advice at this time was to avoid spoiling a child, especially by any sort of interference in their sleep. Sleep was increasingly being described as a key parental battleground, and it was up to the mother to triumph over the baby hellbent on winning. William and Lena Sadler’s 1916 book “The Mother and Her Child,” is emblematic of advice from that era:

“We have seen so many beautiful babies go to sleep by themselves without any patting, dangling, or rocking, that we encourage and urge every mother to begin right, for if the little one never knows anything about rocking and pattings he will never miss them; and even if the baby is spoiled through extra attention which sickness often makes necessary, then at the first observance of the tendency on the part of the child to insist on the rocking, or the presence of a light in the sleeping-room, or the craving for a pacifier, we most strongly urge the mothers to stick to the heroic work ofletting him cry it out.

Parenting guides of this era were highly influenced by the Efficiency Movement, whose intention was to identify and do away with wasteful practices, and whose values extended into the parenting realm. As a result, mothers were encouraged to create rigid timetables for feeding and sleeping from the moment of birth.

“Plan a clock for baby,” instructed Helen Kinne and Anna M. Cooley in their 1917 textbook for homemakers, The Home and the Family. “He will grow and have better systematic care. This might be his clock, or schedule, for the first six months, after he is a few days old…A physician should recommend the schedule.”

Ignore the advice of these experts at your child’s own peril. If you disturb baby’s sleep, you are “laying the foundation for future nervousness, neurasthenia, and possibly hysteria,” wrote the Sadlers. Put him to sleep past six and “he will, before his time, become old, and the seeds of disease will be sown,” warned Chavasse. Sleep advice even extended into the appropriate type of light a baby should have in it’s room. In 1804, William Buchan shared these alarming warnings: “Care should be taken not to expose infants in bed to an oblique light, or they will become squint eyed. If the light come upon them from one side, their eyes will take that direction, and thus they will get the habit of looking crossways.”

Rigid approaches to parenting persisted until the arrival of Dr. Spock’s “The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care,” which was first published in a more relaxed post-World War II America, and which for 52 years was only outsold by the Bible. Although Dr. Spock promoted a more responsive relationship between mother and child, urging mothers to follow their intuition, his advice concerning sleep was fairly standard: “put the baby to bed at a reasonable hour, say good night affectionately but firmly, walk out of the room, and don’t go back.  Most babies who have developed this pattern cry furiously for 20 or 30 minutes the first night, and then when they see that nothing happens, they suddenly fall asleep! The second night the crying is apt to last only 10 minutes. The third night there usually isn’t any at all.”   

In 1986, Richard Ferber’s Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems ushered in a new era of sleep training for a growing population of households with two working parents by systematizing the “cry-it-out” method, which promoted a technique of allowing babies to cry in lengthening intervals before intervening.

By the time I had my kids, attachment parenting à la Dr. Sears-style had grown in popularity and was being touted as the best way to bond with your child. Sleep, attachment parenting-style, meant sharing a bed with your baby and nursing on-demand through the night, sometimes for years.

Today, “sleep training” has become a cottage industry consisting of books, blogs, homeopathic remedies and even sleep consultants offering conflicting advice. Science plays a role now, as it purportedly did two hundred years ago, in much of the new advice related to sleep. Some sleep scientists are particularly interested in examing the role that cortisol, the stress hormone, plays when an infant is left to cry itself to sleep. Does an infant experience trauma because they associate a parent leaving its bedside with abandonment? Are the long-term health effects of poor sleep worth the potential risks associated with having a baby cry itself to sleep? The arrival of each new book is a talisman for parents, offering its own cozy promise of a baby, freshly bathed, massaged, read and sung to, sleeping peacefully through the night.

Here’s what happened to me. As new parents, my husband and I found ourselves unable to follow the attachment parenting methodology of sleep without going completely insane. With our oldest son, we ineffectively cobbled together advice from different places, becoming bewildered and exhausted travelers looking for a mythical land of sleep. In the end, all the sleep advice in the world seemed to boil down to two simple options: you let your baby cry, whether in intervals or not; or you soothe it to sleep. By the time our second son was six months old, we had had it. We decided to follow the advice of all those rigid parenting guides of yore: we let our baby cry.

Within two days, he was sleeping through the night. I guess I should have listened to my mom, after all.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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As mamas, we naturally become the magic-makers for our families. We sing the songs that make the waits seem shorter, dispense the kisses that help boo-boos hurt less, carry the seemingly bottomless bags of treasures, and find ways to turn even the most hum-drum days into something memorable.

Sometimes it's on a family vacation or when exploring a new locale, but often it's in our own backyards or living rooms. Here are 12 ways to create magical moments with kids no matter where your adventures take you.


1. Keep it simple

Mary Poppins may be practically perfect in every way, but―trust us―your most magical memories don't require perfection. Spend the morning building blanket forts or break out the cookie cutters to serve their sandwich in a fun shape and you'll quickly learn that, for kids, the most magical moments are often the simplest.

2. Get on their level

Sometimes creating a memorable moment can be as easy as getting down on the floor and playing with your children. So don't be afraid to get on your hands and knees, to swing from the monkey bars, or turn watching your favorite movie into an ultimate snuggle sesh.

3. Reimagine the ordinary

As Mary says, "the cover is not the book." Teach your child to see the world beyond initial impressions by encouraging them to imagine a whole new world as you play―a world where the laundry basket can be a pirate ship or a pile of blankets can be a castle.

4. Get a little messy

Stomp in muddy puddles. Break out the finger paint. Bake a cake and don't worry about frosting drips on the counter. The messes will wait, mama. For now, let your children―and yourself―live in these moments that will all too soon become favorite memories.

5. Throw out the plan

The best-laid plans...are rarely the most exciting. And often the most magical moments happen by accident. So let go of the plan, embrace the unexpected, and remember that your child doesn't care if the day goes according to the schedule.

6. Take it outside

There's never a wrong time of year to make magic outside. Take a stroll through a spring rainstorm, catch the first winter snowflakes on your tongue, or camp out under a meteor shower this summer. Mother Nature is a natural at creating experiences you'll both remember forever.

7. Share your childhood memories

Chances are if you found it magical as a child, then your kids will too. Introduce your favorite books and movies (pro tip: Plan a double feature with an original like Mary Poppins followed with the sequel, Mary Poppins Returns!) or book a trip to your favorite family vacation spot from the past. You could even try to recreate photos from your old childhood with your kids so you can hang on to the memory forever.

8. Just add music

Even when you're doing something as humdrum as prepping dinner or tidying up the living room, a little music has a way of upping the fun factor. Tell Alexa to cue up your favorite station for a spontaneous family dance party or use your child's favorite movie soundtrack for a quick game of "Clean and Freeze" to pick up toys at the end of the day.

9. Say "yes"

Sometimes it can feel like you're constantly telling your child "no." While it's not possible to grant every request (sorry, kiddo, still can't let you drive the car!), plan a "yes" day for a little extra magic. That means every (reasonable) request gets an affirmative response for 24 hours. Trust us―they'll never forget it.

10. Let them take the lead

A day planned by your kid―can you imagine that? Instead of trying to plan what you think will lead to the best memories, put your kid in the driver's seat by letting them make the itinerary. If you have more than one child, break up the planning so one gets to pick the activity while the other chooses your lunch menu. You just might end up with a day you never expected.

11. Ask more questions

Odds are, your child might not remember every activity you plan―but they will remember the moments you made them feel special. By focusing the conversation on your little one―their likes, dislikes, goals, or even just craziest dreams―you teach them that their perspective matters and that you are their biggest fan.

12. Turn a bad day around

Not every magical moment will start from something good. But the days where things don't go to plan can often turn out to be the greatest memories, especially when you find a way to turn even a negative experience into a positive memory. So don't get discouraged if you wake up to rain clouds on your beach day or drop the eggs on the floor before breakfast―take a cue from Mary Poppins and find a way to turn the whole day a little "turtle."

Mary Poppins Returns available now on Digital & out on Blue-ray March 19! Let the magic begin in your house with a night where everything is possible—even the impossible ✨

After a pregnancy that is best described as uncomfortable, Jessica Simpson is finally done "Jess-tating" and is now a mama of three.

Baby Birdie Mae Johnson joined siblings Ace and Maxwell on Tuesday, March 19, Simpson announced via Instagram.

Simpson's third child weighed in at 10 pounds, 13 ounces.

Birdie's name is no surprise to Jessica's Instagram followers, who saw numerous references to the name in her baby shower photos and IG stories in the last few weeks.

The name Birdie isn't in the top 1000 baby names according to the Social Security Administration, but It has been seeing a resurgence in recent years, according to experts.

"Birdie feels like a sassy but sweet, down-to-earth yet unusual name," Pamela Redmond Satran of Nameberry told Town and Country back in 2017. "It's also just old enough to be right on time."

At this moment in time, Simpson and her husband, former NFL player Eric Johnson, are probably busy counting little fingers and toes , which is great news because it means Simpson's toes can finally deflate. She's had a terrible time with swollen feet during this pregnancy, and was also hospitalized multiple times due to bronchitis in her final trimester.

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We're so glad to see Simpson's little Birdie has finally arrived!

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Spring is officially here and if you're looking for a way to celebrate the change in the season, why not treat the kids to some ice cream, mama?

DQ locations across the country (but not the ones in malls) are giving away free small vanilla cones today, March 20! So pack up the kids and get to a DQ near you.

And if you can't make it today, from March 21 through March 31, DQ's got a deal where small cones will be just 50 cents (but you have to download the DQ mobile app to claim that one).

Another chain, Pennsylvania-based Rita's Italian Ice is also dishing up freebies today, so if DQ's not your thing you can grab a free cup of Italian ice instead.

We're so excited that ice cream season is here and snowsuit season is behind us. Just a few short weeks and the kids will be jumping through the sprinklers.

Welcome back, spring. We've missed you!

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The woman who basically single-handedly taught the world to embrace vulnerability and imperfection is coming to Netflix and we cannot wait to binge whatever Brené Brown's special will serve up because we'll probably be better people after watching it.

It drops on April 19 and is called Brené Brown: The Call to Courage. If it has even a fraction of the impact of her books or the viral Ted talk that made her a household name, it's going to be life and culture changing.

Announcing the special on Instagram Brown says she "cannot believe" she's about to be "breaking some boundaries over at Netflix" with the 77-minute special.

Netflix describes the special as a discussion of "what it takes to choose courage over comfort in a culture defined by scarcity, fear and uncertainty" and it sounds exactly like what we need right now.

April 19 is still pretty far away though, so if you need some of Brown's wisdom now, check out her books on Amazon or watch (or rewatch) the 2010 Ted Talk that put her—and our culture's relationship with vulnerability and shame—in the national spotlight.

The power of vulnerability | Brené Brown

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If Marie Kondo's Netflix show got people tidying up, Brown's Netflix special is sure to be the catalyst for some courageous choices this spring.

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My husband and I recently had a date night that included being away from our son overnight for the first time since he was born three years ago (but don't let your heads run away with a fantasy—we literally slept because we were exhausted #thisiswhatwecallfunnow). It was a combination of a late night work event, a feeling that we had to do something just for the two of us, and simple convenience. It would have taken hours to get home from the end of a very long day when we could just check into a hotel overnight and get home early the next day.

But before that night, I fretted about what to do. How would childcare work? No one besides me or my husband has put our son to bed, and we have never not been there when he wakes up in the morning.

Enter: Grandma.

I knew if there was any chance of this being successful, the only person that could pull it off is one of my son's favorite people—his grandmother. Grammy cakes. Gramma. We rely so much on these extended support systems to give us comfort and confidence as parents and put our kids at ease. Technically, we could parent without their support, but I'm so glad we don't have to.

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So as we walked out the door, leaving Grandma with my son for one night, I realized how lucky we are that she gets it...

She gets it because she always comes bearing delicious snacks. And usually a small toy or crayons in her bag for just the right moment when it's needed.

She gets it because she comes with all of the warmth and love of his parents but none of the baggage. None of the first time parent jitters and all of the understanding that most kids just have simple needs: to eat, play and sleep.

She gets it because she understands what I need too. The reassurance that my baby will be safe. And cared for.

She gets it because she's been in my shoes before. Decades ago, she was a nervous new mama too and felt the same worries. She's been exactly where we are.

She gets it because she shoos us away as we nervously say goodbye, calling out cheerfully, "Have fun, I've got this." And I know that she does.

She gets it because she will get down on the floor with him to play Legos—even though sometimes it's a little difficult to get back up.

She gets it because she will fumble around with our AppleTV—so different from her remote at home—to find him just the right video on Youtube that he's looking for.

She gets it because she diligently takes notes when we go through the multi-step bedtime routine that we've elaborately concocted, passing no judgment, and promising that she'll follow along as best as she can.

She gets it because she'll break the routine and lay next to him in bed when my son gets upset, singing softly in his ear until she sees his eyelids droop heavy and finally fall asleep.

She gets it because she'll text us to let us know when he's fallen asleep because she knows we'll be wondering.

She gets it because just like our son trusts us as his mom and dad, Grandma is his safe space. My son feels at ease with her—and that relaxes me, too.

She gets it because when we come home from our "big night out" the house will be clean. Our toddler's play table that always has some sort of sticky jelly residue on it will be spotless. The dishwasher empty. (Side note: She is my hero.)

She gets it because she shows up whenever we ask. Even when it means having to rearrange her schedule. Even when it means she has to sleep in our home instead of her own.

She gets it because even though she has her own life, she makes sure to be as involved in ours as she can. But that doesn't mean she gives unsolicited advice. It means that she's there. She comes to us or lets us come to her. Whenever we need her.

She gets it because she takes care of us, too. She's there to chat with at the end of a long day. To commiserate on how hard motherhood and working and life can be, but to also gently remind me, "These are the best days."

After every time Grandma comes over, she always leaves a family that feels so content. Fulfilled by her presence. The caretaking and nourishment (mental and food-wise) and warmth that accompanies her.

We know this is a privilege. We know we're beyond lucky that she is present and wants to be involved and gets it. We know that sometimes life doesn't work out like this and sometimes Grandma lives far away or is no longer here, or just doesn't get it. So we hold on. And appreciate every moment.

As Grandma leaves, I hug her tight and tell her, "I can't thank you enough. We couldn't have done this without you." Because we can't. And we wouldn't want to.

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