Babies and Sleep: Which Sleep Training Method is Right for Your Baby?
How to find the baby sleep book -- or sleep books -- that are right for you and your baby
There are entire bookstore sections devoted to the topic of babies and sleep. So how can you figure out which baby sleep books are most likely to be right for your family, given your parenting style, your baby's age and stage, and your family's unique circumstances? That's the aim of this lens -- to provide you with mini-reviews of the major sleep books on the market today, so you can make an informed choice.
I've also included information about my own sleep book, Sleep Solutions for Your Baby, Toddler, and Preschooler, a book which expands on the material provided in this lens by explaining the science and parenting philosophies behind each of the major sleep training schools of thought; interviewing parents about their experiences with the various sleep training methods; and providing a no-guilt approach to making peace with the issue of sleep as a family.
Ferber: The Sleep Guru Who Gave Birth to a Verb
How many of us can make that kind of claim? That kind of puts Ferber in a league of his own
Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems: New, Revised, and Expanded Edition by Richard Ferber, M.D.: Dr. Ferber's classic guide to sleep training. The Ferber method is one of the few methods to have been studied in clinical trials. It has been proven to reduce the severity of postpartum depression in a group of depressed mothers in Australia. That's not to say the method is good, bad, or the right one for you. I'm just pointing out that we actually have some clinical data about this method. Note: Wendy Hall, a UBC researcher, has pointed out, quite rightly, that we need a lot more research into the relative merits of various sleep training methods. She says it's no wonder we have so much conflicting evidence -- and that parents are so confused. She says we need to treat sleep research as a priority, just as we treat nutritional research.
Karp, Mindell, Weissbluth, and Pantley
Four of the Big Names in Baby Sleep Books
The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep Longer by Harvey Karp, MD: This book provides excellent advice about soothing fussy babies and helping them to get the sleep they need.
Sleeping Through the Night, Revised Edition: How Infants, Toddlers, and Their Parents Can Get a Good Night's Sleep by Jodi Mindell, PhD: Jodi Mindell does a fabulous job of explaining infant sleep patterns and all of her sleep recommendations/tips are solidly backed by research. Her tone is warm and reassuring and her credentials are impeccable. (She is one of America's top sleep experts.) Even if you find the cry-it-out method a bit too tough, you can still pick up plenty of valuable information from Mindell's book.
Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc S. Weissbluth, M.D.: Marc Weissbluth's book has a lot of useful information on how sleep cycles evolve in babies and young children and what parents can do to promote healthy sleep habits. You don't have to agree with everything he says in this book or decide to use his sleep training methods to glean very valuable information from this book that you can then apply to your child/family's situation. Consider this a really solid "sleep science" title.
The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night by Elizabeth Pantley: No sleep book list these days would be complete without a mention of Elizabeth Pantley's bestselling guide to infant sleep. The book's key strength is Pantley's explanation of gentle infant soothing techniques, like helping a baby to be less dependent on the breast for falling asleep. Pantley has done a great job of summarizing a lot of "mother wisdom" on sleep (e.g., pretending to be asleep when baby wants to nurse during the night when you're cosleeping to see if baby will settle on his/her own). The title is a bit misleading, given that Pantley herself allows for crying in the book; and the book encourages inconsistency rather than consistency in sleep training, something that goes against the basic principles of behavior modification. (Pantley repeatedly tells parents that they should go back to what they were doing before if her plan isn't working.) Ideally, it should be considered a sleep-soothing rather than a sleep-training resource (more in the category of a "Happiest Baby" book).
More "Gentle" Sleep Books
From Sears to The Sleep Lady
Sleeping with Your Baby: A Parent's Guide to Co-Sleeping by James McKenna: The ultimate attachment parenting sleep book, James McKenna's book is the first research-based book for parents that is fully dedicated to the subject of cosleeping. McKenna is the director of the Mother-Baby Sleep Laboratory at the University of Notre Dame. See: Interview with James McKenna; My Review.
Good Night, Sleep Tight: The Sleep Lady's Gentle Guide to Helping Your Child Go to Sleep, Stay Asleep and Wake Up Happy by Kim West: This book presents a very realistic gentle sleep solution. I like the fact that "The Sleep Lady" (a.k.a. Kim West) states in her introduction that while she's very much in favor of minimizing crying, she can't guarantee that all crying will be avoidable for all babies. This is a realistic statement and helps to remove some of the unnecessary guilt that has been injected into the sleep discussion over the past few years.
Nighttime Parenting: How to Get Your Baby and Child to Sleep by William Sears, M.D.: This book is a classic -- the book that helped me to gain a perspective on the sleep issue back when I found myself pacing the floor with my colicky first-born!
In Search of Sleep: Straight Talk About Babies, Toddlers and Night Waking by Bonny Reichert: This is one of the more sensible books to be written on sleep over the years, but one that not too many people know about. I really like the down-to-earth, friendly tone and the fact that the author isn't promoting a particular sleep agenda. The author isn't offering a sleep program per se but rather explaining to parents why it takes babies time to learn how to sleep through the night and why this process shouldn't be rushed.
Sleep -- Your Relationship With Your Partner -- And You
Family-centered guides to sleep -- and life in the real world -- don't miss these two
The Sleepeasy Solution: The Exhausted Parent's Guide to Getting Your Child to Sleep from Birth to Age 5 by Jennifer Waldburger and Jill Spivack: One of the newest arrivals on the sleep book shelf. What makes this book stand out is the fact that it's clearly written to both mom and dad (as opposed to just mom). After all, sleep is both parents' problem -- or it will be soon, if mom gets too sleep deprived. The book assumes that the couple is heterosexual (hence the "marriage-saver" advice). It's a great idea to get both partners talking about sleep, ideally before baby arrives, so if you're planning to buy this guide for a friend, make it a pre-baby purchase.
Sleep Solutions for Your Baby, Toddler and Preschooler: The Ultimate No-Worry Approach for Each Age and Stage (Mother of All Solutions) by Ann Douglas: This one is my book. I don't favor any one sleep training method. I think that would be kind of presumptuous of me, given that I've never had the privilege of meeting you or your baby and I don't know anything about your parenting style, your family's circumstances, or your child's age/developmental stage. Instead, I provide you with an explanation of the science behind each of the major sleep training schools of thought (and an indication of how each method might mesh with your parenting philosophies) so you can make up your mind for yourself. Sleep safety (including current guidelines about baby sleep positioners) and sleep disorders such as baby sleep apnea are addressed. The book also features stories, anecdotes, and tips from the more than 200 parents who served as members of the parent advisory panel for the book.They talk about how unprepared they felt for the sleep deprivation of early parenthood, how judged they felt by other parents if those parents made other sleep choices than they did ("You can't talk sleep training with other parents." one mom concluded. "It's like religion and politics."); about co-sleeping (both pro and con), co-parenting (partners who were helpful and partners who were not), and the "high stakes" feeling that surrounds the whole sleep debate.
BOOK EXCERPTS: Sleep Solutions for Your Baby, Toddler, and Preschooler
Written by the author of THE MOTHER OF ALL PREGNANCY BOOKS and THE MOTHER OF ALL BABY BOOKS -- and the creator of this guide
Written by a bestselling pregnancy and baby book author AND the creator of this lens....
Find out more about Sleep Solutions and my other books by visiting The Mother of All Bookstores.
Lesser Known Sleep Books With Plenty to Offer
The Lull-A-Baby Sleep Plan: The Soothing, Superfast Way to Help Your New Baby Sleep Through the Night...and Prevent Sleep Problems Before They Develop by Cathryn Tobin, M.D.: This book -- published last year -- features a 7-day plan that can be used to take advantage of a sleep learning window of opportunity that, according to the author, occurs at around six to eight weeks. If you've missed that window of opportunity, you can still use the book to re-train older babies and toddlers.
Sleep (Johnson's Everyday Babycare): This book provides a concise overview of sleep-related issues. This is a great place to start if you're bleary-eyed and having a hard time concentrating on anything longer than a grocery list.
Sleep: The Brazelton Way by T. Barry Brazelton: A brief introduction to the world of babies and sleep. Again, this book would be a good place to start if you're too exhausted to tackle a "big sleep book" right now.
American Academy of Pediatrics Guide to Your Child's Sleep: Birth Through Adolescence: A medically-oriented guide to children and sleep. Because the book covers a huge age range (birth to adolesence), only a small part of the book focuses on babies. Still, what is there is very useful as long as you aren't put off by the sometimes conservative tone. An excellent resource guide for the more medical-oriented sleep questions.
Sleeping Like a Baby : A Sensitive and Sensible Approach to Solving Your Child's Sleep Problems by Avi Sadeh: Avi Sadeh looks at the science behind infant sleep. He does a good job of differentiating between sleep problems and sleep disorders and provides a lot of reassuring words and helpful advice (via case studies) to parents who are wondering if they'll ever sleep again.
Sleep Solutions for Tired Parents
An award-winning guide to baby, toddler, and preschooler sleep problems -- with advice on parent sleep problems, too -- written by your resident lensmaster. Published by John Wiley and Sons, 2006.
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