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I was telling my husband today that I wanted to send flowers to the author of this book. If you are reading this because you think your baby may even possibly need help sleeping, get this book. If you have read the books on attachment parenting and cry-it-out and neither one really works for you and your child, get this book.
My baby was a great sleeper. From about 3 months on she slept all night. I didn't care that she wanted to be rocked or nursed or cuddled to sleep, because it was a tiny time investment in exchange for hours of peace. Then at around 7 or 8 months she started waking up every couple of hours. As I got more impatient with her sleeping habits, she got more resistant to bedtime, and even naps. I had previously been a fan of the attachment parenting style, and in many ways still am, but as a medical student I was quickly running out of energy.
I actually tried the cry-it-out method once. I realize it works well for some kids, but my baby (who did eventually go to sleep) was so upset in the morning that when she got up (at the usual time when she wants to get up and play) she curled up in my arms and just wanted to cuddle and sleep.
So I bought a couple of new books, and read the first chapter of both. This one seemed very practical, and so I kept reading. Some of the things this book suggests seem so much like common sense it is unbelievable that no one thought of them sooner.
Now, a week later, my baby is sleeping like a pro. I can't believe it. It was easy, painless, involved zero screaming, and no more time commitment at bedtime than I was already doing. Tonight we are visiting my mother. The baby is in a different house, different room, different bed, and still went to sleep very easily. I am completely amazed by this.
As long as we know I'm a fan, I'll also say I like how the book is laid out. I appreciate that I can read some chapters on general theory of sleep and some chapters on practical steps in an organized fashion. I also like that statistics given include whether the information is from surveys or trials. I am often suspicious of claims about how most babies do things, so it is good to see the sources referenced.
Perhaps it is the extreme relief of having a sleeping baby, but right now this book seems like the most valuable thing I have purchased in a very long time.
Ok. This book made me cry. Not sad tears, but tears of relief and appreciation.
See I am a Buddhist when it comes to child rearing. Or Goldilocks. I think there are interesting ideas and points in the extremes, but from a totally practical place extreme ideas never get implemented in my life. I am not an all or nothing kind of girl. I cannot be touching my baby 24/7 cause Mama's got to pee--and let's face it: the times I try to pee and hold a 7 week old squirming to be fed were never the smartest moments of my young mama life! I also HATE hearing her cry. I know she wants me to understand something. Just WTF it is can blow my mind sometimes. (That's where the "this is what this grimace means" charts in the Baby Whisperer books came in totally handy!)
Dr. Karp's book is a book of the middle way. There is no extreme here. There is gentle child-centered/parent respecting counsel. There are a lot of ideas for you to work with. You find your own path for your own child. Sure, he can be repetitive, but the book was not made to read cover to cover in one sitting (even if Type A Mama Me did). Who cares! I am too tired to remember everything as it is. And talking about why we go crazy when we are sleep deprived from our kiddos really helped me offer myself some more grace.
But ultimately what made me cry was the respect he shows children. His toddler ideas--which are over a year away for us to implement--were right at the level of a toddler's mind and understanding, while still empowering parents to gently guide their kiddos towards healthy sleep habits that help the whole family.
A quick note for any parents with highly spirited little ones: We found that his companion CD worked well the first 6 weeks of our girl's life, but then it was a bust. We started one night chanting with her "OM" and it really helped. I downloaded some low register chanting of "OM" off of iTunes (sorry Amazon, but I bet you could get some here too), and that has WORKED. We have a very spritely daughter who is so nosy she does not want to sleep. Add to that the pain of reflux and we were having sleeping issues. This book really helped us, but we also benefited from the chanting, good reflux management, and realizing that respecting our daughter's learning curve gave breath and hope to all of us.
We had a fussy newborn who SCREAMED when sleeping alone...so, we let her sleep in our bed and nurse on demand (i.e., whenever she woke up) throughout the night. The problem was that we never got her out of our bed and she STILL, at 17 months, woke up 6-10 times per night to nurse herself back to sleep (which means so did I!). We are expecting another baby in January, so we needed her to sleep in her own bed, and most importantly, to sleep through the night.
Because she had learned such bad habits, I was convinced we would have to do cry it out all night long. I was against this idea, especially because she is so old and remembers so much from her day. The Happiest Baby provided an alternative option, even for an older child with TERRIBLE sleep habits. After reading this book, we made the following helpful changes:
1: White noise: amazing! my daughter is a light sleeper so this really helps drown out the noise. I can even do the dishes when she sleeps without waking her (I was never able to before)
2. Lovey and a nightlight: we didn't use either before, so we bought Twilight Turtle based on a friend's recommendation. LOVE IT and recommend it. We put it in her crib so that she can turn it on whenever she needs it.
3: Later bedtime: moved from 7:30 to 8:00; made a huge difference!
4: Longer and longer: Using this approach, my daughter still cried a little but it's not as cruel as cry it out
5: Suggestions from Happiest Toddler on the Block
My daughter had NEVER slept in her crib and hadn't learned to put herself back to sleep, so I thought the transition to the crib was going to be HORRIBLE But...it wasn't. The first night, she woke up only 3 times and fell asleep after 5, 10, and 5 minutes. It only got better from there. She was sleeping in her own crib through the night in only 5 days. So for the first time in 17 months, my daughter and I both got a full night of sleep. WOW! Looking forward to using this book to avoid bad sleep habits with baby number 2.
Additionally, I recommend Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child. His methods to get baby to sleep are cry it out and not very helpful, but he outlines sleep schedules for birth through school aged children that I found very helpful.
I was very resistant to considering sleep training. I believe in attachment parenting although I am certainly not an extremist. My son was 10 mo old when I purchased this book and I did so b/c he was waking 6-8 times a night and I was concerned about his quality/quantity of sleep for his health/development. So I read this book and my on was sleeping through the night in 2-3 weeks. Harvey Karp gives you many gentle tips to promote sleep in your little person that were not sleep training. There are so many tips that I cannot remember them all so you will have to read the book. But I did the white noise, dark room, adjusting bed time, coming up with a consistent bed time routine, "dream feeding," "wake and sleep," identifying sleep cues, attachment to a "lovey," ... I did all of these things plus more that I know I am forgetting for 2-2.5weeks and I still wasn't getting anywhere with my son. So I started the plan for sleep training. Harvey laid out many different ways to do this and his approach was gentle. But I can tell you if I didn't try those 2-2.5 weeks, the thought of sleep training would still have had a negative connotation in my mind. So knowing that I tried everything that I could made the idea of sleep training soooooo much easier and actual made sleep training way more bearable. Sleep training was cake actually. It took my son 3 nights and he slept through the night. The first night was the hardest. He cried 3 times and they lasted 15-50 min each. The second night it was 3 times as well but lasted 2-45 min and the third night he didnt wake up at all. He just cried for 2-3 min at the start. Then for the next few days he did the same. Then after that I could put him in his crib awake but tired and no crying. And when I say crying, it was mostly "fussing." Hope this helps a lot of people. I read this book a year ago but I felt compelled to spread the word.
We found The Happiest Baby on the Block to be so helpful when our son was about 6 weeks old, not only in offering techniques that worked for him, but for giving us confidence in ourselves as parents as we learned better what to do. There are so many books out there, but ironically, in following this one, we actually gained confidence to trust ourselves and our instincts.
So, when we headed into the 5 month sleep "regression," we wanted to consult Dr. Karp again in this new book as we knew we didn't want a rigorous "sleep training" method, but could see if there were any "tips" we could integrate into our family life. Once again, we were given gentle guidance and flexible suggestions to try that have helped us make our own steps in teaching our son how to sleep better and longer. This book helped with our transition to helping him fall asleep on his own, with weaning from some of the comfort and sleep cues that were no longer working, and (probably due to Dr. Karp's gentle style) once again with our confidence.
There is also plenty of information in the book explaining children and sleep and what helps them most, not only for the immediate (which sometimes is about all a sleep-deprived person can think of) but for later in life. In other words, it didn't let us "off the hook", but encouraged us to work now to create good habits and coach our son on good sleeping for the long run, even when on our most exhausted nights it might have felt easier to cheat just to catch some more sleep of our own.
Finally there are helpful summaries of some various levels of "sleep training" approaches should we need them in the future -- enough of an overview of methods I've encountered on blogs and in conversation to help us better understand them and to choose further resources should we need them.
We found the book has given us a common vocabulary and understanding
LIFE. SAVER. Used the techniques outlined in this book, and both my kids are amazing sleepers. After bringing our first home from the hospital (now 3.5 years old), we looked at each other, crying, exhausted, in pain, not knowing what the heck to do with this tiny, screaming, starving human that wouldnt sleep. This was recommended to us by a friend who said "read it BEFORE you have the baby", but we didn't, and that was a HUGE mistake. So, while trying to breastfeed and dealing with the pain of a rough delivery and 30 hours of labor, and after not having slept for about 6 days, got this for the kindle and sort of read it while in a stupor, and seriously, this changed our lives. Used the same techniques for my second (now 14 months) and he still resists naps, but both of my kids started sleeping through the night at a young age. And really, my second would be a terrible sleeper if it wasnt for the techniques in this book. He takes a 2-3 hour morning nap, a 1-2 hour afternoon nap (usually), and sleeps about 11-12 hours at night. My first still takes an awesome 2-3 hour nap in the afternoon and sleeps about 11 hours at night. If you need to know what the essentials are for a new parent, this is one of them! I now buy this for every baby shower I go to. All a new parent needs is this book, a crib, a swaddle or sleep sack, a white noise machine, a wubbanub, a few onesies & footy pajames, loads of diapers, and boobs/formula. All the other stuff they tell you to get is really just for fun! :) Good luck!
This book covets the basics of the 5 S's as well as the 4th Trimester theory championed by Dr. Karp. As a postpartum doula I find this book so valuable that I gift it to all my new families. Sleep is such an important topic of consideration for little ones and their caregivers. All too often authors try to sell a system that ignores the reality of the biology and psychology of wee ones and their parents but Dr Karp avoids that trap even while outlining some important key information and offering strategies and tools that really do work to help support the natural and healthy sleep of babies and thus the entire family.
The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep has given our son a great foundation for sleep. I first skimmed through the book when he was about 4 weeks old and I was desperate for sleep. I focused specifically on the chapters pertaining to his age at the time. Within a few days of implementing the 5 S's I noticed a huge difference in the quality of my son's sleep. He slept for longer stretches and was less restless. This was great as he shares a room with my husband and I. Recently we went through a period of sleep struggles (3 1/2 months old). I went back to The Happiest Baby, this time reading the chapters for babies 3 months+, and realized that I had fallen out of using many of the strategies Dr. Karp advocates. I went back to swaddling, rumbly white noise, and putting my little guy down drowsy but awake. The difference was almost immediate, and we are all sleeping better.
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to teach their child healthy sleep habits without harsh sleep training. There is no need to let your little one cry it out when you teach good habits from the beginning. Even if you're a little late to the game, a few days of using Dr. Karp's strategies will sort out most sleep problems.