Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child

Paperback | April 22, 1999

byMarc Weissbluth

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One of the country's leading researchers updates his revolutionary approach to solving--and preventing--your children's sleep problems

Here Dr. Marc Weissbluth, a distinguished pediatrician and father of four, offers his groundbreaking program to ensure the best sleep for your child. In Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, he explains with authority and reassurance his step-by-step regime for instituting beneficial habits within the framework of your child's natural sleep cycles. This valuable sourcebook contains brand new research that

- Pinpoints the way daytime sleep differs from night sleep and why both are important to your child
- Helps you cope with and stop the crybaby syndrome, nightmares, bedwetting, and more
- Analyzes ways to get your baby to fall asleep according to his internal clock--naturally
- Reveals the common mistakes parents make to get their children to sleep--including the inclination to rock and feed
- Explores the different sleep cycle needs for different temperaments--from quiet babies to hyperactive toddlers
- Emphasizes the significance of a nap schedule
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Rest is vital to your child's health growth and development. Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child outlines proven strategies that ensure good, healthy sleep for every age. Advises parents dealing with teenagers and their unique sleep problems

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From Our Editors

A child’s sleeping patterns should be the concern of every parent. It is as vital to their health as vitamins, proper diet and sound exercise. In Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, Dr. Marc Weissbluth updates his step-by-step program for instituting healthy habits within the framework of a child’s natural sleep cycles.

From the Publisher

One of the country's leading researchers updates his revolutionary approach to solving--and preventing--your children's sleep problemsHere Dr. Marc Weissbluth, a distinguished pediatrician and father of four, offers his groundbreaking program to ensure the best sleep for your child. In Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, he explains wit...

From the Jacket

“I love Dr. Weissbluth’s philosophy that the most important thing to have is a well-rested family. And fortunately, thanks to this book, most days (and nights) we do!”–from the Foreword by Cindy CrawfordFrom the Hardcover edition.

A pediatrician with forty years of experience, Marc Weissbluth, M.D., is also a leading researcher on sleep and children. He founded the original Sleep Disorders Center at Chicago’s Children’s Memorial Hospital (now called the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago) and is a professor of clinical pediatrics at Northwest...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:528 pages, 8.21 × 5.49 × 1.1 inPublished:April 22, 1999Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0449004023

ISBN - 13:9780449004029

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from This is my sleep bible! This book was recommended to me by my doctor (a mother of 2) and it has become my bible. I read it when my first son was a few months old and he slept through the night at 3.5 months. I read the book again when I had my second son, and he slept through the night at only a few weeks old. It is also extremely helpful when developing a nap schedule, as this can be tricky and evolves as your baby gets older. The advice given is sometimes counter-intuitive, but it is explained so thoroughly you understand the rationale. Most importantly, it works. I've given this book to every new mom I know, as a sleeping baby means a sleeping mommy! I would caution that some people find the amount of information overwhelming, or find it difficult to apply the concepts to their own child. I tended to skip through the stories and personal accounts which often got much too specific, and focus on the larger ideas. We still apply these concepts whenever there is a blip in the sleep routines, and we are always able to get back on track.
Date published: 2013-06-30
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good info, bad organisation This book was recommended to me by parents and doulas as the "go to" book for child sleep. I am glad I read it, but it certainly had some significant short falls. (please note that I read it from cover to cover, I didn't just skim it) The biggest "Pro" (and why I think it is such a highly regarded book) is that it looks at sleep as a day-long process, addressing both napping and night time sleeping and how they interrelate. The biggest "Cons" were: - it was very difficult to find specific information. Some topics (such as sleep training) seemed to be dealt with, fragmentedly, in different sections of the book. -I had a hard time trying to figure out what techniques were applicable to which age groups. My child was on the cusp of being age appropriate for sleep training, so this caused me particular stress. The book suggested that the extinction method was the best, as it yielded the quickest results and was hardest for parents to "cheat" and thus sabotage the training. Reading other literature, I found that this was NOT appropriate for a 4 month old, but from what I read in HSHHC, I thought it was. (luckily I didn't try it!) -There was very little practical information on how to implement sleep training methods. As I learned, the devil is in the details...and there were many situations where this book left me hanging. For example, it gave advice for training methods to deal with the first sleep of the night, but did not give information on how to deal with nighttime wakenings. My recommendation to parents: Read this book when your child is very young, maybe before they are born, because you can use the information in it to set the foundation for good sleeping. Then, hopefully, you won't have any sleep problems at all. If you have a kid who isn't a good sleeper, like I did, also read "Solve your child's sleep problems" by Richard Ferber. I had been under the impression that this book would just say to "cry it out", but in fact its message and procedures for sleep training were far more gentle than what I took from HSHHC.
Date published: 2012-12-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent sleep training book! I've read several sleep training books and this is by far the best one. It's method is simple and yet very effective. My son now naps regularly and sleeps pretty much throughout the night. The best part is that it works the minute start. The read is slightly dry, but nothing too dull. However if you want a zero cry sleep solution, this may not be for you. The best thing I can pull from the book is if your timing is right; there is no crying (for both baby and mum!). I highly recommend this book to anyone who has a new baby and wants some regularity in their lives. My son's naps are now consistent throughout the day and he is a very happy three month old little boy!
Date published: 2011-06-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best Book for Sleep Ever I bought this book after trying a few different options when my first son was 8 months old and refused to sleep...After two nights following this book he was sleeping 10-12 hours, and now at 3 he is still an awesome sleeper. His 7 month old sister sleeps 12-14 hours a night because we followed this book. I am so thankful and recommend it to everyone I know.
Date published: 2011-05-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Best book on sleep i read so far This book has alot of scientific facts that help understand how good naps and night sleep are important for a baby. Give tips for different age of babies and child. If you dont have time to read the whole book, you can go directly to your babie's age. I would recommend it.
Date published: 2011-03-18
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Worst money spent since the birth of my baby! I purchased this book on the recommendation of a few others and even though I read the poor reviews, I figured that the majority of the positive reviews had to be correct...that this book was in fact work purchasing. WRONG! I read everything...I mean everything. I could not get through this book. Dr. Weissbluth was unbearably repetitive and unbelievably contradictory in his advice. Everything the reviewers said who gave this book poor reviews is true. Thankfully I have a baby who always slept fairly well...I can't imagine having one of the described "fussy" babies and having to get through this book. If you absolutely must read this book because you think that my review is wrong too, please borrow it from the library instead. The $20+ I spent on this book could have purchased quite a few baby items instead of this oversized door stop I'm now stuck with....or better yet...would you like to purchase it from me???
Date published: 2010-05-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Only parenting Book I recommend Most sleep books are anecdotal and not research based. Dr. Weissbluth explains why children need sleep, and what norms are appropriate, and why it shouldn't be negotiable - similar to proper food habits and the use of carseats. Contrary to some posts, he doesn't say you have to let them cry it out, he explains different methods of sleep training and why extinction crying is the easiest. I believe he also notes that about 10% of children are outside of the norms of sleep and may not follow his schedule. We have referred to this time and again when it was time to "retrain" our girls after interrupted sleep patterns. The trick with this or any other book, is it use it with common sense and adjust your approach as it fits your child.
Date published: 2009-07-24
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Pretty good This was a pretty good book, it explored napping and bedtime sleep which was appreciated. However, it is a little dry and not easy to read. Lots of evidence and studies as to why sleep and naps are important, which I didn't find very useful.
Date published: 2009-01-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great help for sleeping my naturopathic doctor recommended this book. My 4 month old was not naping during the day. He was sleeping through the night but would not nap. I read the information in the book and now he is 6 months old and is on a regular nap schedule and goes down without any soothing and/or crying. I am so relieved and happy to have found this book. Some parts are a little repetitive but overall I would recommend this book to anyone needing help with sleeping for their baby.
Date published: 2009-01-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Extremely Valuable Book The information contained in this book is so informative. I purchased the book when my eldest was 4 months old because he wasn't a good daytime napper. The book gave me the confidence to do what I knew was best for him and within a few days he was on a consistent nap schedule. With my daughter, I started sleep training at 6 weeks and within a week I was able to put he down for naps awake but drowsy after only a few minutes of soothing and she would fall asleep. My family was amazed at how easy of a sleeper she was. The book is a little disorganized with the information so it is best to read the beginning chapters and then go to the specific age of your child.
Date published: 2008-09-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The most important book I bought and read I read this book first while very sleep-deprived and then re-read it later when not so wiped. It helped us enormously. The earlier you read it, the better because it helps you put your baby to sleep so she can learn to fall asleep on her own (not be rocked to sleep). The second most important thing I learned was how to recognise your baby is tired and to put her to bed, for naps and the night, before she is overtired and cannot fall asleep easily. There are many more important things I learned from this book, too many to mention here. I cannot recommend this book enough.
Date published: 2008-01-17
Rated 1 out of 5 by from "Disappointing" I bought this book because so many people seemed to rave about it. But, in my case, it failed dismally to live up to my expectations. My daughter is the type of child Weissbluth labels as "extremely fussy" and "difficult" (which is true, although I would describe it as "spirited" and eager to laugh when pleased and shout when not). She sleeps 12 hours straight at night but refuses to take naps. Weissbluth's advice - basically a fancy way of saying "let her cry it out" (for up to an hour for each nap! - that's 3 hours a day of "crying it out"). Don't buy if if you are the type of parent who refuses to let your child cry endlessly. The book also contains lots of inconsistencies - for example, he states as a fundamental principle "never wake a sleeping baby" but 5 pages later says to "wake a baby up at 7 am" and "wake a baby up after a 1 hour nap". I'm sure his principles work for many children but certainly not mine.
Date published: 2007-06-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from worked for us After trying 4 different books, this is the one that finally worked for us. It was recommended to us by our community health unit and it is the most comprehensive reference we have read on the subject of sleep. It takes into account not only ages but temperaments as well, which I think is just as important. After reading the parts that pertained to us our daughter finally started to sleep through the night. It really gave us confidence in the methods we were trying. Totally recommend it.
Date published: 2007-03-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great book - very helpful I found this book to be very helpful when I was having problems with my childrens napping and sleeping. It's really a great resource and I'd definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants to get their children on some sort of sleep schedule.
Date published: 2007-02-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best Sleep Book! I purchased this book after the arrival of our second child and wished I had it for our first. After many mistakes with our first born I was determined not to do it again. I had read many other books on sleep since I hadn't slept through the night for 4 years and then found this one. I must have been reading a different book than the other reviewers because I found the author to be compasionate and understanding for each age level. I didn't have to read every page of the book - just the beginning and then I went to the specific chapter addressing the age of my baby. He explains how to look for the clues when you're first starting out and I found him to be spot-on. I can see these same signs in other babies as well - he's definitley done his research. He clearly states that every child is different and there are always exceptions and to find what's best for you and your baby. Dr. Weissbluth is encouraging and for people like me who want to understand the 'why' about sleep patterns, he explains it. I learned a lot and now have a happy and well-rested baby (and family). I recommend this book to all parents with young children and especially expectant mothers - take time to read at least the first half of the book before the baby comes because you'll be too tired after!
Date published: 2007-02-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from It worked for me!!! I had read many books to try and educate myself on my childs sleep habits. For months I was lucky if my child was sleeping a couple of hours in a row at night. My child was 4 months old when I bought this book. After reading a few chapters that concerned what I was going through, I fully understood everything. I started following what was described in the book. My child started sleeping 12 hours straight in no time!! I couldn't believe it. I thought it would never happen. My friends and family to this day are amazed. My child is now 17 months old and its great. I have recommended this book to 4 other mothers (with children ranging from new born to 3 years) all if them went out and bought the book. All who continue to thank me as their children are all now sleeping well at night and their families are well rested. All of our children have early bed times and we all have time for ourselves to take a breath of fresh air.
Date published: 2006-12-02
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Not worth the money My husband and I both tried to read this, and both gave up. The author goes on and on with statistics - they don't help me get my child to sleep! He was often contradictory, and very repetitive! But the most confusing thing was that his "strategies" for sleep were all lumped together regardless of your child's age. I know I can't tell a 3 month old to look at the clock before getting out of bed - but it's hard to determine which of the other strategies are age-appropriate. Instead of reading this book, I should have tried to grab some extra shut-eye.
Date published: 2006-11-30
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Still sleepless Harsh, unforgiving, poorly written, contradictory. This book could've been about a third the length, had the editors done their job. If there's a concise way to say something, Dr.W says anything and everything else possible. Did it help me get more sleep? Not even a wink. As another reviewer noted, he contradicts himself. He takes a very harsh stand, essentially writing that the only way is to let them cry all night and not answer their calls and you're a fool if you try anything else. Ugh. No-THANKS. I'm not yet that sleep deprived.
Date published: 2006-11-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Get This Book! This is by far the best parenting book I have ever read. The book is well researched and Weissbluth is smart, knowlegable, and compassionate. This program works. We had four people recommend this book to us. We read the book when our baby, Rachael, was born, and we followed all of the advice in the book. Rachael has been an excellent sleeper, and the whole family is well-rested. People actually don't believe us when we tell them how well our child sleeps. Everyone comments on how happy Rachael is. It is just an incredible book and will put a lot of things into perspective for you. I highly recommend this book.
Date published: 2006-07-05
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Very boring reading. It is a lot of repetitive sleep "facts". A lot sounds like maybe he is not really that sure of the subject. States in one part.."never wake a sleeping baby" and then goes on in another part that you have to control their wake up time to ensure healthy sleeping. Has not been helpful and some stuff I've even laughed at, like when he stated something to the effect that their may be no proven benefits of breastfeeding vs. formula. You can tell he has no idea about breastfeeding and talks about supplementing for sore nipples, like its normal to have sore nipples while BF? Any ways its so boring that each page is antagonizing to get through. Ignore your childs cries at night? Nothing like a lot of insecurity and abandonment to help your child sleep. Ridiculous!!
Date published: 2006-06-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An essential read for parents and babies alike. Twins. We had not slept a full night in almost 8months before discovering this book. After a careful read, the first day included several real naps, an early to-bed routine, and we experienced the first complete night since their birth. Even with both crying babies in the same bed-crib (as recommended) they managed to sleep. The four of us (especially the sleep deprived parents) are thankful to have invested in this book.
Date published: 2006-03-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Heidi This is an excellent book. A must read for all parents. I found the information to be practical and sensible. Having read pretty much all other books on the subject I can honestly say that this is the best. It is not gimmicky in any way. Also, since the author is a doctor and a father, he is speaking from both personal and professional experience. The doctor offers a wide variety of sleep options and ideas to assist you in dealing with sleep issues. I really like this book and will reccomend it to all my friends.
Date published: 2005-08-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Excellent Book! Before reading this book I had a 6 month old who would wake 8-12 times a night and seldom napped. Sleep deprivation was having a profound negative effect on myself and the rest of my family. This book changed my life! I learned about how sleep works, and discovered strategies to help my daughter sleep better. Within two days my daughter slept eleven hours straight! We couldn't believe it! We have now established a sensible, workable sleep routine for our daughter that works for all of us! It's amazing how different the world looks when you've had a good night's sleep!
Date published: 2005-04-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A MUST This is a must read for parents. It gives many ideas for solutions to sleep problems. I started it when my son was 9 months old and a horrible sleeper. He is now a happy healthy sleeper at 16 months. I highly recommend this book.
Date published: 2005-03-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from It worked for us We got this book (recommended by our daughter's doctor) when our daughter was 8 months old as we were at our wits end. She had started to sleep for 6-8 hours in a row but at weird times of the day and we tried to keep her up later so she would sleep later in the morning (late being past 5am) etc.. then it became worse she would be up every 2-3 hours. Within 2 weeks of getting the booking and following the advice she was sleeping through the night we just had to learn that she was an early riser. She's now 3 years old and sleeps great 12-14 hours, goes to sleep on her own, it's an amazing difference. We'd still be tired if we didn't follow the advice in the book. It's truly worth your time to read and put in to practice.
Date published: 2005-01-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A MUST READ FOR ALL PARENTS! What an excellent book! Explains the vital necessity of appropriate sleep of babe, toddler, child, & adolescent. Troubleshooting sleep issues discussed. Respecting & protecting baby's sleep is explained well. Baby needs sleep to develop well. An excellent baby shower gift! Good idea to read while pregnant.
Date published: 2004-10-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child Easy and convincing reading. I put into practice all the recommendations from this book and my 2 year old has had excellent sleep habits since she was 4 months old. A colleague of mine swears by the techniques in this book too. Well rested child, well rested parents.
Date published: 2000-02-16

Extra Content

Read from the Book

Infants and children who are still of tender age [may be] attacked by . . . wakefulness at night. —Aulus Cornelius Celsus, a.d. 130Sleeplessness in children and worrying about sleeplessness have been around for a long time.Healthy sleep appears to come so easily and naturally to newborn babies. Effortlessly, they fall asleep and stay asleep. Their sleep patterns, however, shift and evolve as the brain matures during the first few weeks and months. Such changes may result in “day/night confusion”—long sleep periods during the day and long wakeful periods at night. This is bothersome, but it is only a problem of timing. The young infant still does not have any difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. After several weeks of age, though, parents can shape natural sleep rhythms and patterns into sleep habits.It comes as a surprise to many parents that healthy sleep habits do not develop automatically. In fact, parents can and do help or hinder the development of healthy sleep habits. Of course, children will spontaneously fall asleep when totally exhausted—“crashing” is a biological necessity! But this is unhealthy, because extreme fatigue (often identified by “wired” behavior immediately preceding the crash) interferes with normal social interactions and even learning. You should not assume that it is “natural” for all children to get peevish, irritable, or cranky at the end of the day. Well-rested children do not behave this way.Before electricity, radio, television, computers, or commuting long distances to work, children went to sleep earlier than children do today. Our current popular late bedtimes may be no more “natural” than the outdated “natural” belief that fatter babies are healthier babies. Commonly held or popular beliefs about what is natural, normal, or healthy are not always true. In addition, when you think of child rearing, it may appear “natural” for you to consider parenting practices performed in traditional cultures. That is, breast-feed frequently day and night and sleep with your baby, wear your baby in a sling or soft carrier, always be close to your baby, and always respond to your baby. This is not always practical for some families, and even for those families who choose this “natural” style, their baby’s extreme fussiness/crying/not sleeping or “unnatural” factors can interfere.Dr. Christian Guilleminault, who along with Dr. William C. Dement was the founding editor of the world’s leading journal of sleep research, taught me to consider five fundamental principles of understanding sleep:1.      The sleeping brain is not a resting brain.2.      The sleeping brain functions in a different manner than the waking brain.3.      The activity and work of the sleeping brain are purposeful.4.      The process of falling asleep is learned.5.      Providing the growing brain with sufficient sleep is necessary for developing the ability to concentrate and an easier temperament.Sleep is the power source that keeps your mind alert and calm. Every night and at every nap, sleep recharges the brain’s battery. Sleeping well increases brainpower just as lifting weights builds stronger muscles, because sleeping well increases your attention span and allows you to be physically relaxed and mentally alert at the same time. Then you are at your personal best.As you will discover as you read this book, when children “NATURAL” VERSUS “UNNATURAL”“Natural”All babies have spells of fussing and crying.These spells distress all parents.All parents want to soothe their baby.The more the baby fusses or cries, the less she sleeps.The less the baby sleeps, the less the parents sleep.The less the parents sleep, the harder it is for them to soothe their baby.Relatives and friends want to help soothe the baby and are expected to assist parents.Breast-feeding and sleeping with your baby are powerful ways to soothe your baby.“Unnatural”Urban stimulation (noises, voices, delivery trucks, shopping trips, errands) may interfere with baby’s sleeping.Day care (not being able to put your child to sleep when just starting to become tired or too much stimulation) may interfere with baby’s sleeping.Social isolation forcing only the mother to be wholly responsible to take care of soothing and sleeping may cause intense stress for the mother.Busy modern lifestyles means that parents have many things to do and little time to do them; sometimes they have to take their baby with them even at sleep times.Mothers have to work outside the house, miss playing with their baby, and keep their baby up too late at night.Fathers or mothers have a long commute and return home from work late, want to play with their baby, and keep their baby up too late at night.Grandparents interfere with sleep routines.learn to sleep well, they also learn to maintain optimal wakefulness. The notion of optimal wakefulness, also called optimal alertness, is important, because we tend to think simplistically of being either awake or asleep. Just as our twenty-four-hour cycle consists of more than just the two states called daytime and nighttime, there are gradations—which we call dawn and dusk—in sleep and wakefulness.In sleep, the levels vary from deep sleep to partial arousals; in wakefulness, the levels vary from being wide awake to being groggy.The importance of optimal wakefulness cannot be overemphasized. If your child does not get all the sleep he needs, he may seem either drowsy or hyperalert. If either state lasts for a long time, the results are the same: a child with a difficult mood and hard-to-control behavior, certainly not one who is ready and able to enjoy himself or get the most out of the myriad of learning experiences placed before him.With our busy lifestyles, how can we keep track of nap schedules and regular bedtime hours? Is it really true that I can harm my baby by giving him love at night when he cries out for me? How can I be sure that sleep is really that important? Am I a bad parent if my child cries? If he cries at night, isn’t he feeling insecure? These are questions many parents ask me. Parents will often mention that articles or books they have read seem to support different ideas, and so they conclude by saying that since this whole issue is “so controversial,” they would rather let matters stay as they are. If you think your child is not sleeping well and if you disagree with the suggestions in this book, then ask yourself how long you should wait for improvement to occur. Three months? Three years? If you are following the opinion of a professional who says you must spend more time with your child at night to make him feel more “secure,” ask that professional, “When will I know we are on the right track?” Don’t wait forever. Consider what Dr. Charles E. Sundell, the physician in charge of the Children’s Department in the Prince of Wales General Hospital in England, wrote in 1922: “Success in the treatment of sleeplessness in infants is a good standard by which to estimate the patience and skill of the practitioner.” He also wrote: “A sleepless baby is a reproach to his guardian, and convicts them of some failure in their guardianship.” So don’t think that worrying about sleeplessness is just a contemporary issue.The truth is, modern research regarding sleep/wake states only confirms what careful practitioners such as Dr. Sundell observed over eighty years ago. He wrote:The temptation to postpone the time for a baby’s sleep, so that he may be admired by some relative or friend who is late in arriving, or so that his nurse may finish some work on which she may be engaged, must be strongly resisted. A sleepy child who is kept awake exhausts his nervous energy very quickly in peevish restlessness, and when preparations are at last made for his sleep he may be too weary to settle down. . . .Regularity of habits is one of the sheet-anchors by which the baroque of an infant’s health is secured. The reestablishment of a regular routine, after even a short break, frequently calls for patient perseverance on the part of the nurse, but though the child may protest vigorously for several nights, absolute firmness seldom fails to procure the desired result.Each baby is unique. They’re like little snowflakes. Babies are born with individual traits that affect the amount of physical activity, the duration of sleep, and the length of periods of crying they will sustain. But babies also differ in more subtle ways. Some are easier to “read”; they seem to have predictable schedules for feeding and sleeping. These babies also tend to cry less and sleep more. Regular babies are more self-soothing; they fall asleep easier, and when they awaken at night they are more able to return to sleep unassisted. But don’t blame yourself if you have an irregular baby who cries a lot and is less self-soothing. It’s only luck, although social customs may affect how you feel about it.In those societies where the mother holds the baby close all the time, and her breasts are always available for nursing and soothing, there are still great differences among babies in terms of fussiness and crying. The mother compensates by increasing the amount of rhythmic, rocking motions or nursing. She may not even expect the baby to sleep alone, away from her body. As she grows up, a child might share the bed with her parents for a long time. This is not necessarily good or bad; it’s just different from the expectations of most middle-class Western families.So not only do babies sleep differently, but every society’s expectations condition parents’ feelings in different ways. Remember, there are no universally “right” or “wrong” ways, or “natural” versus “unnatural” styles, of raising children. Less-developed societies are not necessarily more “natural” and thus “healthier” in their child-rearing practices. After all, strychnine and cow’s milk are equally “natural,” but they have altogether different effects when ingested.How much we are bothered by infant crying or poor sleep habits might partially reflect our own expectations about how to be “good” parents. Do we want to carry the baby all the time, twenty-four hours a day, or do we want to put the baby down sometimes to sleep?Here’s a true story. A Saudi Arabian princess came to my office for a consultation, accompanied by her English-trained Saudi pediatrician, her English-trained Saudi nanny, and two other women, to discuss sleeping habits for the royal family’s children. The pediatrician described child care arrangements that had been popular among British aristocrats in the nineteenth century. Like trained baby nurses in nineteenth-century England, the Saudi Arabian nanny was always able to hold the princess’s baby while the child was sleeping for the simple reason that the Saudi nurse had her own servants! These subordinate nannies were not as well trained and were assigned the menial domestic chores associated with child rearing.The majority of parents do not have child care staffs. They have to rely on their own skills. So if we are greatly bothered by our baby’s crying or our guilt about not being “good” parents, this may interfere with our developing a sense of competence. We may feel that we cannot influence sleep patterns in our child. Unfortunately, this way of thinking can set the stage for future sleep disorders.Sleep problems not only disrupt a child’s nights, they disrupt his days, too, by making him less mentally alert, more inattentive, unable to concentrate, and easily distracted. They also make him more physically impulsive, hyperactive, or lazy. But when children sleep well, they are optimally awake and alert, able to learn and grow up with charm and humor. When parents are too irregular, inconsistent, or oversolicitous, or when there are unresolved problems between the parents, the resulting sleep problems converge, producing excessive nighttime wakefulness and crying.Please do not simply assume that children must pass through different “stages” at different ages, and that these stages inevitably create sleep problems. The truth is that after three or four months of age, all children can begin to learn to sleep well. The learning process will occur as naturally as learning how to walk.The bad news is that some parents create sleep problems. The good news is that parents can prevent sleep problems as well as correct any that develop.Parents who favor a more gradual approach (controlled crying or graduated extinction) over an abrupt approach (ignoring or extinction) often complain of frequent “relapses.” The general reason why a gradual approach tends to be less successful in the long run is that it takes longer and there are always natural disruptions of sleep, such as illnesses or vacations. The subsequent reestablishment of healthy sleep routines using a gradual approach becomes very stressful to the parents. Several days or weeks of a gradual approach often wear down parents, so they give up and revert to their old inconsistencies. Parents who have successfully used extinction know that they might have one, and only one, night of crying after they return home from several days on vacation or from a visit to a relative’s house.The truth is that some parents swing back and forth between firmness and permissiveness so often, they cannot make any cure stick. They often confuse their wishful thinking with the child’s actual behavior. This is why a sleep log, which I will describe later, can be an important tool to help you document what you are really doing and how your child is really responding. After all, short-term “successes” might only reflect brief periods when your child crashes at night from chronic exhaustion. Or the actual improvement in sleep habits may be so marginal that the normal disruptions of vacations, trips, illnesses, or other irregularities constantly buffet the still-tired child and cause repeated “relapses” in which he wakes often during the night or fights going to sleep.In contrast, parents who successfully carry out an abrupt retraining program—the cold-turkey approach—to improve sleep habits see immediate and dramatic improvement without any lasting ill effects. These children have fewer relapses and recover faster and more completely from natural disruptions of sleep routines. Seeing a cure really “stick” for a while gives you the courage to keep tighter control over sleep patterns and to repeat the process again if needed.I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for parents to start early to help their child learn to sleep well.PRACTICAL POINTIf you start early with sleep training, you will be well along the path to preventing sleep problems.When you start early, there are no long bouts of crying and no problems with sleeping. The process of falling asleep unassisted is a skill, and as with any other skill, it is easier to teach good habits first than it is to correct bad habits later. Also, as with any other skill, success comes only after a period of practice.The many personal accounts in this book, contributed by a variety of caring, thoughtful parents, should add extra incentive to teach healthy sleep habits early or to make a change to correct your child’s sleep problems right now, so that you can all get on with the best part of having children—enjoying them! Some parents may need professional help to establish reasonable, orderly home routines, to iron out conflicts between parents, or to help an older child with a well-established sleep problem. To maintain healthy sleep for your young child, you need the courage to be firm without feeling guilt or fear that she will resent you or love you less. In fact, the best prescription I can offer is to create a loving home with a well-rested child and well-rested parents.There never was aChild so lovely but hisMother was glad to see him asleep.—Ralph Waldo EmersonWhat a difference healthy sleep can make in our children!

From Our Editors

A child’s sleeping patterns should be the concern of every parent. It is as vital to their health as vitamins, proper diet and sound exercise. In Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, Dr. Marc Weissbluth updates his step-by-step program for instituting healthy habits within the framework of a child’s natural sleep cycles.

Editorial Reviews

“I love Dr. Weissbluth’s philosophy that the most important thing to have is a well-rested family. And fortunately, thanks to this book, most days (and nights) we do!”
–from the Foreword by Cindy Crawford