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Sweet Sleep Book Review PDF Print E-mail
Written by Laura Maxson LM   


Babies are babies. Mothers are mothers. But together, breastfeeding babies and their mothers are something unique. La Leche League International’s new book, Sweet Sleep; Nighttime and Naptime Strategies for the Breastfeeding Family is a real validation of just how important this special relationship can be when it comes to sleep.


A nursing mother’s body is working hard behind the scenes to help her get as much sleep as possible — with a little hormonal support. Just ask any sleepy mom what happens when she starts to feed her baby. Zonk! Those breastfeeding hormones really kick in. Planning on it or not, most nursing mothers will fall asleep breastfeeding at some point, whether for a few seconds followed by an adrenaline filled jerk back to consciousness or an unintentional drop into deep sleep. These moments, intended by nature to be relaxing and recuperative, can instead become dangerous and scary when moms and babies aren’t in a safe place to fall asleep together.


Directives for infant sleep safety tend to fall into the one-size-fits-all category, not taking into consideration each family’s individual circumstances. Sweet Sleep follows La Leche League’s 58-year tradition of supplying information that allows each parent to make the best decision for his or her own family. Exploring the many components that make up safe sleep, parents are given an opportunity to thoroughly explore the research, not just the blanket recommendations, often aimed at the lowest common denominator. Public health leaders generally believe that they can only give one directive, so it might be aimed at protecting the most at-risk baby or living situation.


What parents will find after reviewing the research, is that breastfed babies are at much less risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) than formula fed babies. Mother-baby sleep studies give insight to the complex, instinctual interactions that give breastfed babies an advantage during sleep. SIDS research often lumps together deaths due to suffocation, entrapment, illness and other reasons or situations that can make accurate recommendations on bedsharing problematic. Using the Safe Sleep Seven Check-List, Sweet Sleep provides parents with the tools to make choices based on their baby and the level of risk in their own specific situation.


Written for the expectant parent looking into sleep options before birth, as well as the desperate mom at the end of her sleep-deprived rope, Sweet Sleep offers answers, options and a place to begin. There is the Quick Start, 10-Minutes to a Better Sleep Tonight chapter, which is essentially an emergency plan for a breastfeeding mom who is not currently bedsharing, and needs to sleep tonight. Only two pages long — it’s intended to get this mom through one night so she can read more tomorrow.


Instructions on proper preparation of any sleep surface, whether baby crib or adult bed, makes for a safer night’s sleep anywhere. Sweet Sleep gives examples of sleeping situations including co-sleepers, cribs, mattresses on the floor and many other options. It touches on multiples, preemies, and shared custody, as well as logistical issues such as bed types and sizes, placement, sleep-aid devices and sleeping positions. The section on Sleep-Training Concerns gives an overview of the many techniques so called “experts" have devised over the centuries to try to change basic biology that tells us babies generally wake and feed in the night and there is good science behind why that is normal and beneficial.


Sweet Sleep is more that just a nighttime book. It is full of tips and wisdom from experts and everyday parents. There’s information about napping, siblings and going back to work. The Tearsheet Toolkit in the back of the book provides detailed information that can be pulled out to tack on the refrigerator or share with a friend or care provider. The chapter on defusing criticism helps parents be ready to tackle naysayers from doctors to in-laws. Sweet Sleep speaks to the normalcy of breastfeeding, the protection inherent in the nursing dyad and the trust in the basic instincts of mothers and babies.


Note: As part of the editing/review process for this book (look I’m listed on page 444!). I began reading chapter drafts more than a year ago. It has been a long wait for the finished product, but I am so happy to be able to recommend this book to parents as they make informed decisions about where their baby sleeps.


Laura Maxson, LM, CPM, the mother of three grown children, has been working with pregnant and breastfeeding women for over 20 years. Currently she is the executive director of Birth Network of Santa Cruz County and has a homebirth midwifery practice. Contact her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


Side Bar:

Free tearsheets online - LLLI.org/sweetsleepbook/tearsheets

Order online from La Leche League - LLLI.org/sweetsleepbook

Sweet Sleep is available at local bookstores or download for ebooks

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