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.”


Book Review: Your Fussy Baby May 30, 2011

Filed under: Book Review — parentsong @ 3:25 pm
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Book Review: Your Fussy Baby by Marc Weissbluth

I am so grateful for this book. It is the only book on parenting that has made me feel okay about my child. The author has raised four children, one of which happened to be “fussy.” He is also a pediatrician and has extensively studied sleep disorders / sleep issues in children. According to this book, about 20% of babies are considered “extremely fussy.” Using the term “fussy” sounds negative and we all know what happens when we label a child: they become the label. But let’s say that you could use the label because the individual fits the definition and the definition helps you feel more sane about what is going on. Weissbluth states  ad nauseam that all babies get fussy for no apparent reason. It is just that some babies fuss considerably more so than others and he calls these babies “extremely fussy” or the old-school label: “colicky.” Ewwww, no one wants to hear this when talking about babies. But the fact of the matter is our little boy fit right into this category.

How is the fussy baby defined? Extremely fussy / colicky babies cry (or fuss) for more than 3 hours per day, at least 3 days per week, for at least 3 weeks duration. That, to me, seems like a mild definition. But this is the criteria for an extremely fussy baby. Now, to the review:

This book, though quite small, is loaded with information about colic. The introduction really caught my attention with two sentences: that the book is “based on the belief that an informed parent is an effective parent” and “Parents are better able to soothe fussy babies when they understand why newborn babies fuss” (p. xxiii). And it is so true.

It opens by outlining several studies that try to uncover what causes such a condition. Basically, all studies on colic over the past 100 years simply show what does not cause extreme fussiness. The author’s wife shed some light on the subject when investigating the role of melatonin and seratonin in extremely fussy babies. This was the only study in the book that found any positive correlation between any variable and the fussy baby.

The idea that temperament might play a part is discussed and clearly explained. There are many variables and possibilities for how nature and nurture interact in this area. Weissbluth gives several examples of how the extremely fussy baby can be soothed, such as rhythmic rocking motions, swaddling, and lullabies.

The part of the book most helpful to me was the presentation of sleep patterns of extremely fussy babies and what the parent or caregiver can do about them. He gives clear advice of how to avoid sleep problems once the colic has ended at around three or four months.

The author presents the information in an objective way, and maintains consistency of his opinion regarding sleep and causes and treatment of colic throughout the book. He gives different options for people to choose to approach the extremely fussy baby based on lifestyle choices and what the research says is most effective. He gives examples of how to breastfeed or bottle feed and co-sleep or use a crib. These are generally the big issues that divide people on whether to use a certain technique or not. He also gives options for using gradual extinction or just extinction (let cry some vs no cry). I found this to be helpful, since one will often act out of character when faced with a desperate situation.

My take on the book:

I liked this book so much, I borrowed his other book, “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child” from the library. I thought “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problem” was the best book, but this one might be better in that it gives you options for how to approach sleep training. This book helped me to accept my fussy baby for who he was and that it isn’t something he can help doing. He isn’t “playing” me; babies don’t know how to do that when they are this young.

Our son has gotten better, aside from his sleep (which is basically horrible). He is happy, smiling and quite easy now at 3 months.