NCSS as its known in mommyville is the sleep bible for Attachment Parenting families, who as the title says, prefer to go the “no-cry” route. This book should be the first sleep book everyone chooses, and if it doesn’t solve your problems, then investigate medical issues such as food allergies and genetic/nutrition issues before moving onto other options.

Elizabeth Plantley, author and mother of 4, dedicates the first chapter to safety, a must considering that many may choose cosleeping as part of their repertoire for a good night’s rest.

The 2nd chapter dives into the why’s and how’s of infant sleep, the cycles, the multiple wakings, and the biological drivers. This is really important stuff for new parents to understand – 100 years of industrialization doesn’t change the hard wiring of a human infant, they are meant to wake up often for their own safety and survival. The end of the 2nd chapter gets into why the “cry” sleep solutions, known as “Cry it out” or CIO, can be detrimental to infant development and attachment. What the author is setting up here is preparing the reader for the long term commitment to her plan, by emphasizing that the short term rewards of CIO, if they really even exist, are not worth the long term physical and emotional detriments it can bring upon an infant.

The book takes a break in the 3rd chapter to talk about sleep logs. I will be honest. Because we cosleep and I usually don’t have to get out of bed (or if I do its only a minute), and I never fully wake up, I have a hard time filling out the logs because I can never remember the times and frequency of the wake ups. I think the sleep logs can be a good thing, but if you are a tad OCD like myself, you may just obsess over them. You know if you (and the baby) are getting a good night’s sleep. I would personally skip the logs and just go on feelings.

Chapter 4 gets to the meat of Plantley’s plan. She gives solutions for newborns – 4mo, and 4mo – 2yrs and beyond. She talks about learning your baby’s nighttime cry, and ensuring that you differentiate between “I need a cuddle” and “Ma, I’m hungry, gimme that boob now!” By getting to know the child’s cry, she says you can help avoid always using the breast/binkie to soothe and thus, not create the suck-to-sleep association, which is much harder to break as the baby gets older.  She also gives recommendations on creating a cozy sleep environment, with soft sounds that mimic the womb, and favorite smells like a t-shirt mom has slept in. Her best piece of advice is to lower the bar and expect that newborns are going to wake up a lot, and accepting that will help ease the frustration tremendously. From personal experience, I completely 100% agree with this. Once I threw out the expectations, I was a much happier momma.

She then goes into her advice on 4mo – 2 year olds. Again, she talks about expectations, what is reasonable for the age of your baby, and what is the driving force behind you wanting to change your child’s sleep habits. Simply put, she’s asking for a little self examination to make sure you aren’t just being selfish, and that these changes are really in the best interest of BOTH mommy and baby. Her suggestions start with getting more of the total caloric intake during the day, which can be hard once little one’s become active and distractable. She drives home the need for a calm bedtime routine, thus the baby expects that after a series of events, sleep is the next step and the transition to sleep is easier. Since starting NCSS in January, this has been the backbone of our attack on sleep, and it has worked incredibly well. Our routine starts about 45min before bedtime and now looks like this

Tubby with Daddy
fresh Pjs and Diap
Lights down low, white noise on
story time
Momma comes in, twilight turtle on
“Lovie” in hand
lights off, “night daddy, love you”
in the rocking chair
nurse to sleep

Plantley stresses the importance of regular days and regular naps to help your baby set its biorhythms and maximize the potential for nighttime sleep. If introducing the baby to a crib, make sure they know its a friendly place by letting them play in there during the day. The author also suggests introducing a “lovie”, some sort of soft (and SAFE) toy that can be snuggled with. For me, this was a great opportunity for me to make something for our little guy, a crocheted little blankie made of bamboo yarn. Its soft, open stitching, and really cute. Now 2 months later, its integral in our bedtime routine and I kind of freak out if I can’t find it because he loves holding it in his hand and rubbing (ok smacking) his face with it while he nurses. Some mom’s question the idea of a lovie, thinking of it as a mother replacement, but unless you force the “lovie” to be the only source of soothing, I don’t think there is any cause for concern.

Plantley talks about the importance of a sleep cue, a word or set of words used to help babe to bed. Like with the bedtime routine, sleep cues set up the expectation that sleep is the next thing to come, and its ok to go there. For us, its the Canadian National Anthem. Yup, you heard me right. I hum the Canadian National Anthem over and over until he is about to drift off, and then I do the Shhhhshshshshshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. It works for us.

Because she is now addressing the bedtime and sleep associations of older babes, Plantely talks about changing the suck-to-sleep association if it has already been established, and suggests her “Plantley Pull Off” (PPO) plan to help stop the baby from needing something in the mouth to sleep. For me, honestly, I love those sweet nighttime moments, nursing him to sleep, and look forward to it. I also don’t have the issue, unless reflux is acting up, that my son NEEDS a boob in his mouth, and if he did maybe I would change my tune, but I don’t think nursing a baby to sleep is a horrible association to have, rather the contrary. I’ll probably be eating crow in 6months with a walking a talking babe trying to nurse to sleep. Regardless, she gives tips on how to stop this if you want to, though the little I tried of it was fruitless (before deciding that I LIKED the nursing to sleep too much to bother with the PPO).

Her biggest suggestions in this chapter relate to the night wakings, and how to decrease them by changing the association. If you feed every wake, the suck-to-sleep association will stick further, and you may encourage wakings. She suggests alternative soothing, and getting to the frequent waker as quickly as possible so you can soothe them back without them waking up fully. We implemented this starting in January and saw a really great improvement in this department. We have gone from wake and need 10-20min to get back down, with boob, before NCSS, to I hear a squeak at 45min in (a usual wake up time for all infants) and when I check him, he has adjusted his position and gone back to sleep on his own. I no doubt believe that this is due to us intervening and showing him its ok to sleep longer, by getting to him immediately. I know picking up a baby quickly may seem counter intuitive, but it works!

As the reader progresses with her plan, Plantley moves into transitioning the baby to falling asleep and being comforted without being picked up or nursed. For us, I have only been able to “in crib soothe” maybe a handful of times, but it is getting more frequent. This is the slowest development for us in the plan, and I can understand why, its nice to get a snuggle when you are having trouble sleeping!

Chapter 5 has the reader develop their own personal sleep plan, which she has forms you can fill out. I found it similar to the sleep logs – a bit unnecessary and potentially obsessive. You know what you want, you don’t need to write a thesis on it 🙂

Chapter 6 – follow your plan for 10 days. We did. We didn’t see an improvement in 10 days. I say follow your plan for a few weeks. At 10 days I was frustrated and mad that I had seen little to no improvement and really started to question my parenting abilities. Give yourself ample time to see improvement.

Chapter 7 – Do a 10 day log. Again, unnecessary. I am pretty sure if your sleep has improved, you are going to know it.

Chapter 8 – Analyze your success. Again, if you are paying any attention, you will know what parts of your plan are working and which ones aren’t that need changing.

Chapter 9 – follow your plan for 10 more days. How about 9 weeks?

The rest of the book just talks about analyzing your success, being flexible to changes in your plan, going with the flow, and knowing that change will eventually happen and your baby will STTN before college.

All in all, this book is a great reference for ALL PARENTS, not just AP minded ones, and really should be the first step in trying to address any perceived sleep issues. The solutions are easily to implement, and should only be tweaks in your daily routine to set up successful night times. Whether your baby wants to cooperate is another story. This is a long term investment. The changes she claims to have seen in her own son after 10 days have the potential of making a mom who sees ZERO change after 10 days like a failure. If you are considering NCSS, be prepared that it could take a while to see results. Don’t get down on yourself or your baby if things move at a slower (or snail’s) pace. As I said to my hubby the other day, I am really glad we went this route and stuck with it. Never once did we resort to tactics we don’t want as a part of our parenting arsenal, and we have seen major improvements in many different aspects of his nighttime sleep. Mind you, during this time we did have a reflux flare up, so the wakings became more frequent again before we resolved that, but still the ability to go back down to bed quickly and not need boob was greatly improved. Here is a list of our NCSS successes

Time needing to be held after falling asleep – 10min minimum down to 1-2 min
Time needed to soothe back to sleep – 10 min down to 1-2 min
Tool used to soothe back – was always Boob, now it can be shhhh, pat on the back, in crib soothe, or in arms, only the boob if hungry

If you are interested in getting your own copy of the book, click here to buy it on Amazon. Happy reading mommas!