The 2 a.m. Wake-Up Call
Having a medical degree on the wall doesn't make it any easier for pediatricians to instill stellar sleep habits in their children. "Julian is a horrible sleeper," admits Dr. Mikelait. "He still wakes up in the middle of the night at 15 months. I have all this pat advice that I give parents, but I have trouble letting him cry it out and leaving him in his own bed -- all the things we pediatricians say."
Even though she tells parents not to expect their children to sleep more than six hours at a stretch until 4 months of age, Dr. Brown was frustrated when her own children did just that. "Neither one of them slept. I heard stories at work about babies sleeping through at 6 weeks and I thought, 'Can't I get a break?'"
"I give great advice about sleep, but I don't always follow it," adds Dr. Desrochers. "During the first year, I'm a real softie and nurse the babies when they wake up in the night even though I'm absolutely exhausted." After weaning, however, Dr. Desrochers gets tough. "Reinforcing that their bed is where they sleep is important. We never stay in the room with them until they fall asleep or let them nap on the couch. Sticking to a routine also helps. But with sleep, it's what works for your family."
Dr. Greene tries to stay ahead of the curve, which makes life easier for everyone in the household. "My mom's advice to me was: 'Feed them before they're too hungry; put them to bed before they're overtired.' Be aware of your kids' rhythms and try to be just one little step ahead of them throughout the day," he advises.
Overall, these five pediatricians agree that becoming parents has made them better doctors -- and vice versa. "I'm a lot more understanding of why parents don't do everything the pediatricians think is important," says Dr. Mikelait. "It's much harder than you expect to stay consistent with everything you believe in." And all acknowledge that it's impossible to be a perfect parent. "There's no one decision you make that will mean everything," says Dr. Klass. "You have to work it out as you go."
Michelle Bowers is a correspondent for People and coauthor of How We Met: Real-Life Tales of How Happily Married Couples Found Each Other.