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Stories and thoughts from day to day life in the Bullard Family

Book Review: Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child June 13, 2011

Filed under: Book Review — parentsong @ 8:53 am
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Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth

A thorough book on infant and child sleep written by a pediatrician and father of four.  The book is broken into three sections: 1) How children sleep, 2) How parents can help their children establish healthy sleep habits, and 3) Other sleep disturbances and concerns.

The first section describes healthy sleep, disturbed sleep, sleep problems, and common myths. Five elements of healthy sleep are introduced here and reiterated several times throughout the book. The reader cannot forget this point, as Weissbluth uses this as a building block for how the infant can develop healthy sleep habits; all five must be in place. This section also outlines strategies for getting the infant or young child to sleep. These include soothing methods and sleep methods. The sleep methods include “no cry,” “maybe cry,” and “let cry.” He goes into detail of what these methods look like theoretically and anecdotally.

Like many other sleep solution books, the author gives what he considers to be the ideal and healthy sleep schedule. However, he does not say that it is critical to follow this schedule if you want your child to sleep. He gives many alternative solutions and variations of the sleep schedule, keeping the needs of the family in mind. He gives proposed solutions for almost any kind of problem that could come out of a sleep schedule. Prevention, treatment and action plans are offered as concrete guidance for different sleep issues.

This book also covers the extremely fussy baby, or colic. There is an entire chapter dedicated to it. This information is basically reprinted in Weissbluth’s other book, “Your Fussy Baby.”

The second section focuses on what sleep looks like at different developmental stages. So, for infants aged 0-3 or 4 months, sleep patterns are broken down by week. He also takes into consideration the colicky baby who is not likely to follow this pattern. Months 5-12, 13-36, preschool children, and school-age and adolescents are covered. The author explains what is healthy for that age range, what is “average,” and how the parent can help the child to achieve optimum sleep habits.

The third section discusses other sleep problems and concerns, such as sleep walking, nightmares, bedwetting, the arrival of a new sibling, moving from a crib to a bed, travel, illness, and several other situations that might effect sleep habits. This section is helpful in that it provides enough information of how the issue might disturb sleep, but does not go in to the issue itself. For example, eczema might disrupt sleep because the child may be itching in the night and unable to sleep.

The information in the book is based on research. Studies abound to support suggested sleep methods and he also uses anecdotal evidence collected from his years as a pediatrician. There is almost everything one would need to know about infant and child sleep in this book. The methods for getting the child to sleep are a little weak and is not a focal point in the book. Some step-by-step instructions exist to teach parents how to train the child to stay in his or her crib or recognize when the child is getting sleepy or when he or she is over-tired.

My take on the book:

Weissbluth seems to be trying to provide information, not counsel on how to actually get the child to sleep. I find this helpful, because I can then make an informed decision of how I want to “parent” my child in this area, whether it be co-sleeping or having the child in his own crib and using the “let cry” method of sleep training. The instruction to actually getting your child to sleep is not very clear and I would not feel confident using these techniques with my child. However, it is very informative and educational. I feel like I really understand our son’s sleeping better, though he isn’t actually sleeping all that well. I know we have work to do, but when we do start “training,” it will be much easier because we will not be fighting his biological sleep rhythms.

For specific sleep training techniques, I would recommend the following books:

For the “let cry” or “maybe cry” method, try “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problem” by Richard Ferber.

For “no cry” try “The No-Cry Sleep Solution” by Elizabeth Pantley or a number of books by Dr. Sears, such as “Nighttime Parenting” and “The Baby Sleep Book.”

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