Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child: Our Review

Healthy Sleep Habits Healthy Child

When you’re talking about baby sleep experts, the name Dr. Marc Weissbluth is pretty legendary. It’s right up there with Dr. Richard Ferber, Elizabeth Pantley, and Nicole Johnson (couldn’t leave Nicole out, now could we? 😉 ). And it’s no wonder; Weissbluth’s book, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child is considered one of the ‘baby sleep bibles’ by the many of people who’ve read it over the years.

But is this book really one of the definitive works on baby and toddler sleep? Is it worth buying and reading cover-to-cover?

We can help answer that; today, Nicole is sharing her take on this incredibly popular baby sleep book, and letting you know whether, in her opinion, this one is worth reading or not.

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child: Nicole’s Overview

So, what’s this book about, anyway – aside from baby sleep? Here’s Nicole’s basic overview:

“Happy Sleep Habits, Happy Child is a thorough look at how a baby’s sleep develops in the first year. The most important thing you can learn from this book is the importance of not letting your baby get over-tired, which actually (counter-intuitively) makes it harder for your baby to sleep. With many other sleep books stressing the importance of a rigid schedule being the key to better sleep, I find this book a lot more realistic in its assertion that some babies don’t do well with rigid schedules until they are older, when it’s more age appropriate.

In addition, the book offers explanations as to why some babies struggle more than others when it comes to sleep. It has some information about different temperaments, which is key in learning how to approach your baby’s sleep.”

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child: The Pros

There are definitely things to love about this book – and Nicole shares a few of her favorites below….

“Overall, I think this is a very helpful book, with a lot of good information about how a baby’s sleep develops at various ages. I really like how informative this book is, in general – Dr. Weissbluth is great about providing you with the facts. Not everyone will like that, but ‘info nerds’ like me sure will! I also like that it talks about temperament, therefore indicating that all babies are different and there is no one size fits all approach. Obviously, I agree with that take on baby and toddler sleep completely!

As for my favorite part of the book…hmmm…I’d have to say that would be the ‘Action Plan for the Exhausted Parents’ section. That’s really helpful if you don’t have time to read the nitty gritty. (And let’s be honest – what exhausted parent has lots of extra time for reading?)”

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child: The Cons

It’s not all sunshine and roses, however; this book isn’t for everyone. Here are the issues Nicole has with the book:

“Plain and simple – this book is just too long for tired parents. I happened to read this before I had my oldest son (did that jinx me that I had the most challenging type of baby Weissbluth described? LOL). Otherwise, I can’t imagine I would have been able to get through it.

Additionally, I think the super early (5:30 or 6:00 p.m. – or even 5 p.m. in some cases) bedtime is impractical for many families, and it’s not always THE answer anyway. The book has an underlying (and unrealistic) assumption that all babies can sleep 12 hours at night and nap for hours during the day, and in my many years of consulting with families, I’ve learned that’s simply untrue. The average sleep needs that he outlines tend to be on the high side as well, in general, which really messes up our families with babies who don’t need as much sleep.

What’s more, although it’s very important not to let your baby get over-tired, this book will make a “worrier” type of mom worry even more about her baby, which isn’t always good for mom’s state of mind! The truth is, not all babies will fall into the sleep averages stated in this book, since they’re on the high side, and that can make anxious moms feel overly worried about their little ones’ sleep.

Finally, this book encourages cry it out, though does give you some alternative methods. It tends to be more pro-CIO, though, which scares some families away, and which can make some families feel unduly pressured to resort to CIO methods, when in fact they’d benefit from a more gentle approach.”

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child: A Great Book For Some (But Not For All)

So, what’s the bottom line? As usual, it’s this – Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child is perfect for some families, but NOT for all. You might really like Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child if…

  • …you love to digest information and really want to educate yourself on the science behind baby sleep.
  • …you have the time (and the energy) to read a lengthy book.
  • …you are not opposed to reading about and possibly trying cry it out methods with your child.

That said, Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child may not be a great book for you to read if…

  • …you are too tired to make it through a lengthy book. (If that’s the case, may we suggest one of our much-shorter and far-more-streamlined baby sleep e-books?)
  • …you want specific, actionable sleep coaching tips and NOT a lot of background information about baby sleep.
  • …you are opposed to trying – or even reading about – CIO methods of sleep training.

Our recommendation to you is to treat this book as you would any other book on baby and toddler sleep coaching – take the information contained within its covers with a grain of salt, and feel free to glean the good stuff while simultaneously ignoring all the info that you know doesn’t apply to you, or that you are opposed to trying in your home. Take that approach, and you really can’t go wrong!

Baby And Toddler Sleep Help That Will WORK For Your Family – Guaranteed!

For some of you reading this, the answers to your sleep challenges will be in a book. But for others – they won’t. Some of you are facing pressing sleep challenges, and will need more personalized help that you can find in any baby sleep book. But not to worry – our team of expert sleep consultants is here to help! We’re ready to create a Personalized Sleep Plan™ just for your family, and to give you the individualized help you need. The plan will walk you through every step of the sleep coaching journey will be 100% personalized to your child’s personality and needs, and will mesh with your parenting goals and philosophies.

Browse our list of consultation package options here.

Once you make your choice and purchase, you will immediately receive an e-mail with your Helpdesk login information. You’ll be able to login and start your Family Sleep History form right away – it’s that simple!

Want more information about how personalized help works? Check out our FAQ page here, and get answers. You can also take a tour of the Helpdesk.

Have you read Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child? If so – what are your thoughts? Share them below – we love hearing from you!

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Ferber or Weissbluth?

We’ve talked about how Babywise may or may not be right for your baby’s sleep, why Pantley’s No Cry Sleep Solution doesn’t always work, and about Dr. Sears and Weissbluth’s online chat about baby sleep. This article will talk about the differences and similarities between Ferber and Weissbluth and which one may be better (or not) for your baby’s sleep.

Who are Ferber and Weissbluth?

Baby Sleep Training books Pantley Weissbluth FerberMost people know Ferber’s name because of the now popular term “Ferberizing,” a method for sleep training your baby, which involves letting him cry while you check on him at intervals. But, actually, if you read Ferber’s book, Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems, there is a lot more information that is useful to know, such as how sleep develops in your baby, how sleep phases and biological/internal clocks work, the difference between night terrors and nightmares, how to deal with bed wetting, and much more.

Weissbluth, author of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, stresses the importance of healthy sleep habits in young babies and children, introduced the term “extinction,” illustrates why an early bedtime is of extreme importance, and theorizes that some children diagnosed with ADHD really simply need more sleep (not all, of course).

Similarities Between Ferber and Weissbluth

For which they’re most famously known, both Weissbluth and Ferber both strongly advocate using a crying method to sleep train your baby. They both provide guidelines as far as how to do so. Weissbluth’s “graduated extinction” is similar to Ferber’s method which I call “check and console.” Neither Ferber or Weissbluth advocate this method for all sleep problems, however. It’s not like Ferber or Weissbluth suggest letting your baby cry it out after a nightmare or wetting the bed, for example. Both primarily discuss allowing your baby to cry in order to change sleep associations and teach your baby how to self-soothe.

Differences Between Ferber and Weissbluth

Ferber and Weissbluth do have some differences in opinion on quite a few things, which is what confuses a lot of people, because almost all of the books contradict each other!

The first big difference is the average amount of sleep your baby needs. If you look at Weissbluth’s averages (~14 hours in a day for a young baby) and then look Ferber’s, Ferber’s are MUCH lower, in general. In fact, pick up 5 books and read this site and we are all likely to have different averages.

Ferber says to go in and check and reassure your baby at intervals and Weissbluth, while offering 4 different methods of sleep training, strongly suggests “extinction” (or not going in at all) yields the fastest results and is least confusing to baby.

Weissbluth strongly urges parents to put baby to sleep early (as early as 5 p.m., if necessary), while Ferber suggests that later bedtimes are often required to avoid your baby waking too early in the morning. Ferber also recommends very strict schedules for inconsistent babies.

Weissbluth discusses how your baby’s temperament will be a guiding factor in your experience with your baby’s sleep, while Ferber doesn’t seem to touch on this much, if at all.

Weissbluth says that many babies will need 1-2 night feedings up through 9 months while Ferber indicates babies need just one feeding at 3 months and none after 4-5 months old.

These are just a few of the differences and there could be more. These are the ones that come up most in personalized consultations.

So, Ferber or Weissbluth for your baby?

First, if I asked 10 of you how much sleep your babies get and then asked another 10 people, I would get different averages from each group. Keep in mind that the sources of averages are based on a finite number of babies and is just a sample. Averages are just those and you should use them as guidelines, not the end all, be all. Your baby has unique sleep needs, so respect those. Log her sleep for 1-2 weeks every so often and you will know how much sleep she needs, on average (every day may not be the same), at that age. In my experience with my own children and thousands of yours, Ferber’s averages are much too low for young babies, but seem exactly right around 2 years old and up.

I am asked the question, on occasion, about whose camp I’m in and the answer is that I’m not really in anyone’s camp. Just like Pantley’s No Cry Sleep Solution will work great for one family, it won’t for another. I can tell you that, in my experience (which is skewed towards a small and select group of children that have sleep problems), it is better to follow Weissbluth’s early bedtime ideas in young babies and young toddlers up to two years old, in many circumstances. I have seen an earlier bedtime make HUGE differences alone in many family’s situations. However, I find a 5 or 5:30 or even a 6 p.m. bedtime not very practical for most families. Even IF your baby can sleep 12 hours (mine slept just 11 to 11 1/2 at a young age), that means a ~5 a.m. wake-up time and you can get yourself into a perpetual early schedule. And, if you’re a working parent, that means either not seeing your baby at night or simply an impossible bedtime. But, after 9-10 months old, the lines start to blur and I really see Ferber’s ideas on sleep phases and internal clocks kick in for many babies and toddlers, along with stricter clock schedules doing wonders. All in all, it really depends on the baby.

I will wholeheartedly disagree with Ferber’s notion that all/most babies only need one feeding at 3 months and none by 4-5 months old, especially breastfed babies. True, maybe a baby won’t lose weight or become unhealthy, but it doesn’t mean he can comfortably go long periods without feeding from that young age, either. I do see some babies do very well without feedings at a young age, but definitely not all. Both my boys and especially my youngest who was a great self-soother, actually, struggled a lot with this!

As far as check and console or cry it out ala “extinction,” I think it’s a lot easier to say “Just let him cry” than to actually see it through, especially as a new parent. It sounds, to some, like it’s an easy way out, but it’s far from that. I have found that many babies can and will make very good progress without either of these methods and I often start with no cry (or limited crying) methods with the majority of our families. Will sleep be perfect? Sometimes, but not always, unfortunately. I am in Weissbluth’s camp that your baby’s temperament will make a BIG difference in what you get to work, and not only that, but your patience level, too. You may be too much of a hare and your baby’s a tortoise or vice versa.

The bottom line? None of these books know you and your baby. You do. And, your approach will be as unique as your family, a big reason why the Personalized Sleep Plan™ here on the site even exists.

What about you? Ferber, Weissbluth, Ferbluth, or Nobluth?

If you’re looking for ways to to get your particular baby or toddler into a healthy sleeping routine, please be sure to pick up your FREE copy of 5 (tear-free) Ways to Help Your Child Sleep Through the Night, our e-Book with tear-free tips to help your baby sleep better. For those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3-Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep (babies) or The 5-Step System to Better Toddler Sleep (toddlers). Using a unique approach and practical tools for success, our e-books help you and your baby sleep through the night and nap better. For those looking for a more customized solution for your unique situation with support along the way, please consider one-on-one baby and toddler sleep consultations, where you will receive a Personalized Sleep Plan™ you can feel good about! Sometimes it’s not that you can’t make a plan. Sometimes you’re just too tired to.