We’ve finally had success after our epic struggles with getting Jacob to sleep, and now he is ‘sleeping through’ . Most of that success is down to a book that was recommended to me by another mum who had been having the exact same problem with her baby. After her glowing recommendation, I downloaded The Blissful Baby Expert* to my Kindle then and there and greedily read it as quickly as humanly possible!
So what did I think of it?
The Blissful Baby Expert
The Blissful Baby Expert is written by Lisa Clegg, who is a full-time maternity nurse and mum of 3. Although I’ve focussed on sleep, it’s not just about that. It covers pretty much all aspects of having a new baby.
I can’t fully vouch for all the advice, as I didn’t get the book until Jacob was around 5 months old, but I’ve had a browse through the early bits and most of it looks useful. The section on equipment to buy is pretty sensible. It suggests which things are essential and which are helpful but not absolutely necessary, as well as things that are not needed. I agreed with almost all of it.
The book has a good section about what to take in your hospital bag, and talks about birth plans. The chapter on coming home from hospital looks good and has a lot of information I didn’t know before I had Jacob. The chapter on common problems and illnesses is also really helpful.
I did find the book quite hard to navigate. The feeding and sleep sections are very inter-linked, and refer to each other, and I had to do a lot of going backwards and forwards to find what I needed.
If you are like me, the idea of a routine for a baby felt too restrictive initially. I planned to be an ‘earth mother’ type mum, and I wanted to follow Jacob’s lead. Although, if we followed Jacob’s lead now he’d never feed in the day because he’s too busy exploring and he’d spend all night breastfeeding and dozing on me! The book focuses quite strongly on routines, and now we’ve implemented one, I wish we had done it sooner.
When I thought about it, I realised that my usual life does have a routine. Before baby, I’d go to bed at pretty much the same time every day. I’d be up for work at the same time every day. My body worked quite well in that routine. So it makes sense to me now that a baby needs a routine too. Particularly for sleep. The body clock is a wonderful thing and I’ve realised that the routine has helped set his clock. If he goes to bed later than about 7pm, he now gets really grumpy because he’s actually exhausted. I really think he’s a happier baby because he’s less tired.
The book goes into quite a lot of detail about breastfeeding (it also talks about bottle feeding with absolutely no judgement and the information looks useful—including how to make up and sterilise bottles. I’m focussing on the breastfeeding part because that’s what I did). I think it has helpful and not so helpful parts. Lisa does talk about the fact that it isn’t always easy, which I think is helpful. I think one of the things that puts people off breastfeeding is finding it hard at the start, so preparing people for the downsides is useful. There is good information on latching the baby on, with diagrams.
I wasn’t convinced by the advice to breastfeed babies on a schedule from birth, rather than on demand as I did. That flies in the face of my understanding of establishing breast milk supply and NHS advice. If I ever have another baby, it’s unlikely I’ll follow that advice until I’m confident breastfeeding is well established.
With that being said, I believe it was sorting out the feeding routine that helped us to get Jacob to sleep better. By 5 months, he’d fallen into the habit of snack feeding and sorting this out meant he could go longer between feeds. It also meant I didn’t stop breastfeeding, which is something I was seriously considering as I was so tired. *Update: I actually continued breastfeeding until 16 months, so it was excellent that I didn’t stop feeding at 5 months. This book definitely helped me with that.
The information on storing expressed breast milk was really handy. As was the idea to get a breastfed baby established taking a bottle of expressed milk from a young age (2–3 weeks). After being lulled into a false sense of security when Jacob took one at 2 weeks we got lazy with this, and then had terrible trouble trying to get him to accept one. This caused me a lot of stress as I felt so trapped!
Now we get to the really controversial bit. Sleep training. Initially, I never thought I’d try any form of sleep training, but now I’ve done it I have no regrets.
Before you get down to the training part, there is lots of useful information on sleep position, swaddling etc. I read some reviews that criticised this part of the book, because Lisa recommends deviating from some of this advice. But when I read it, I thought she provided quite a balanced view. She explains what she did with her babies, and I didn’t feel like she advocated that everyone did it. She directs readers to the advice and tells them to read it and decide for themselves. I think her approach is actually sensible.
It was her discussion about how breastfeeding mothers are told their baby will eventually settle into a routine, but that most are still feeding two or three times a night at 6 months if left to their own devices that really made me listen to her. That’s exactly what Jacob was doing. Her theory that they snack feed because they’ve got used to falling asleep on the breast made a lot of sense to me.
Pre-The Blissful Baby Expert, Jacob hardly napped. The book strongly advocates on the importance of napping and particularly the lunchtime nap. We worked on day time naps before tackling the nighttime ones.
The book talks about the pat and shh technique, sleep associations, cot mobiles and white noise (we have a Ewan). Getting Jacob to settle himself has been hard, but worth it. Previously we would hold him until he fell asleep then put him down. Now we always put him down awake.
There are two options for the proper sleep training part: full on cry it out, or timed comforting. We used timed comforting. I’m not going to lie. It was hard. But it very quickly improved. I found the instructions provided really useful.
The book also covers the topic of weaning. It’s quite a useful section, that I’ve referred to a fair bit. I’ve found the book particularly useful for working out when I should be giving him food and how much. She covers baby-led weaning and spoon-feeding. It’s probably not the only resource you’d want for weaning, but it is helpful when trying to work out how to slot food into the milk feed routine.
Would I recommend it?
I appreciate The Blissful Baby Expert approach isn’t for everyone. Until I reached rock bottom with sleep deprivation I wouldn’t have considered any form of sleep training, but if you are at the end of your tether, it can really help.
Overall, I’d definitely recommend the book. I think it would have been useful for me to have it from before Jacob was born. I might have avoided some of the mistakes I made if I’d read it earlier. Like all parenting books, I think it’s worth reading it and discarding the parts that don’t fit with your philosophy. I can’t imagine I’d ever find a book that I completely agreed with (unless I wrote it myself… now there’s an idea!). If you know you would never try a routine or consider controlled crying, then I wouldn’t buy it. If you are open to it, then yes, I’d go for it!
You can buy the Blissful Baby Expert book from Amazon using the link below.
*This is an affiliate link. I receive a small commission for any sales, but the opinions stated are all my own.