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9. Book Review -- Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child

Author: Dr. Marc Weissbluth

Year of Publication: 2005

Publisher: Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc.

Pages: 507

Author’s Web-site: N/A

Languages: English

You should read this book if you…

Want your baby to learn to fall asleep and stay asleep on their own.

“In a nut shell”…

Dr. Weissbluth, a pediatrician, presents a well-researched book that explains the importance of adequate sleep and why it is so crucial for a baby and toddler. It describes various methods for teaching your baby to learn to fall asleep on their own.

Key Ideas…

The development of healthy sleep habits do not occur on their own. As parents, our actions can either help or hurt this crucial development.

Lack of sleep interferes with the following: learning, development of social skills, attention, irritability, impulsivity, activity level, and adaptability to change.

The best time to fall asleep is when a baby is just becoming drowsy. Signs of a baby being drowsy include decreased activity, slower movements, decreased vocalizations, slower sucking, disinterested in environment, less focused eyes, and yawning.

Signs of a baby being overtired include fussing, rubbing his/her eyes, and irritability.

Bedtime routines should be formed to help a child relax before bedtime. These things should be done in the same order at every sleep period and can include reading a book, singing songs, rocking in a chair, bathing, feeding, and/or massage.

Well-rested children sleep better than tired ones.

It is trendy these days to make babies “flexible” and take them everywhere at all hours of the day, or to enroll young children in numerous classes and activities that don’t respect the children’s sleep needs. While of course there can be some variation in the daily program, it is much healthier for the child (and ultimately the parents) if he or she is getting adequate, good quality sleep both day and night.

Action Steps…

1. “Let Cry,” Ignoring, or Extinction Method:

After the baby goes to bed, this method requires a parent to allow the baby to cry until they fall asleep.

There will be a short increase in crying when first attempting this method.

Success will occur faster than other methods.

2. Controlled Crying, Partial Ignoring, or Graduated Extinction:

Leave baby for 5 minutes and then return and soothe if baby is still crying.

Leave baby for 10 minutes and repeat the soothing process if baby is still crying.

If the baby starts to cry again after you leave, leave the baby for 15 minutes until you return to soothe him.

Repeat sequence adding an additional 5 minutes each time you return to soothe the baby until the baby falls asleep and does not cry after you soothe him.

This method may also be done by increasing the time you respond by 5 minutes every few days.

3. Check and Console:

When the baby is crying after you leave him at bedtime, parents may return and soothe the baby by rubbing their tummy or rocking the crib, but do not pick up the baby again.

This method is hard because it can be difficult to soothe a baby without picking up the baby.

It could also teach babies to cry longer in order for their parents to return to the bedroom.


“If you start early with sleep training, you will be well along the path to preventing sleep problems.” Pg 12

“Missing a nap here and there will probably cause no harm. But if this becomes a habit, you can expect your child to lag further and further behind in his sleep and to become increasingly difficult to handle in this over-fatigued state.” Pg 23

“A well-rested baby with a healthy sleep habit awakens with a cheerful, happy attitude. A tired baby awakens grumpy.” Pg 57

“Never wake a sleeping baby.” Pg 108

“The more rested you are, the easier it is to fall asleep and stay asleep. The more tired you are, the harder it is.” Pg 118

“Feelings of anger toward your crying child are frightening – and normal. You can love your baby and hate her crying spells. All parents sometimes have contradictory feelings about their baby.” Pg 159

“Letting your baby “cry it out” is not the only way your baby will learn to sleep. Babies and children learn to sleep when parents focus on timing, motionless sleep, and consistency in soothing style.” Pg 229

“The major fear that inhibits parents from establishing an earlier bedtime is that this will cause their child to get up earlier to start the day. In fact, the opposite will occur. An earlier bedtime will allow your child to sleep later, just as a too-late bedtime will eventually cause a too-early wake-up time. Remember, sleep begets sleep. This is not logical, but it is biological.” Pg 280

“Fatigue causes increased arousal. Therefore, the more tired your child, the harder it is for him to fall asleep, stay asleep, or both.” Pg 292

Statistics and Interesting Facts…

20% of babies have extreme fussiness or colic.

“In fact, published research on children between seven and twenty-seven months of age has shown that when parents are instructed not to attend to their children’s protest crying (the technique called ‘extinction’), over time measurements of infant security significantly improved and all the mothers become less anxious.” Pg 275

How this has changed my parenting…

I was beginning to get depressed and was extremely exhausted due to my baby’s difficulties falling asleep, staying asleep, and taking daytime naps. After reading this book (and referring back to it again and again), I feel a lot more confident now about managing his sleep. I know that I can’t control my baby and he still has his share of “bad nights”, but I understand now how to promote good sleep habits and tackle specific sleep problems. We may never achieve perfect sleep, but at least I have some sound and systematic advice to refer to each time we get off track again.

© 2014 The Family Resource Library

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