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 many 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. Over-tiredness 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. It asserts 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.
- …if you have the time (and the energy) to read a lengthy book.
- …if you are not opposed to reading about and possibly trying cry it out methods with your child.
That said, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child may not be a great book for you to read if…
- …you are too tired to make it through a lengthy book. (In this case, may we suggest one of our much-shorter and far-more-streamlined baby sleep e-books?)
- …if you want specific, actionable sleep coaching tips and NOT a lot of background information about baby sleep.
- …if 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!
Hope this help you decide if you’d like to read Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child!
2 thoughts on “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child: Our Review”
i have read the sections of the book that so far apply to us. Months 1-4, and now starting on month 5-11. As a whole, I think this is a great book as a reference point. However, there are a few statements he makes that leaves a lot to be desired. For example, my 4.5 month old daughter is a chronic catnapper, and has been since she was 5 weeks old. He does not mention until Months 5-11 that many babies will not have a regular nap schedule possibly until 6 months of age because they aren’t biologically ready to do so. He also mentions in Months 1-4 that the most common reason for a missed or short morning nap is overtiredness. And though I do agree to an extent, this is not always the case. I have been like a hawk making sure my daughter doesn’t get overtired. She still has to take 4-5 naps a day just to get us to bath/bed time. I was beating myself up over that latter statement always wondering “how is my baby overtired after sleeping 11 hours and having only 1-1.5 hour wake time in the morning. It wasn’t until I read the statement about some babies maturing later than others they i thought, “you couldn’t have said this is the previous chapter?” So I try to take it all with a grain of salt. My daughter goes down awake, self soothes, doesn’t get overtired (sometimes she does, but it’s hard not too with catnaps), and still takes 30 minute naps. I have done and provided every thing for her I’m supposed to, and I know now I just have to wait until she does it on her own. I also wish he mentioned cat napping in his book, since it is SO common.
@ Chelsea – this point of yours – “I try to take it all with a grain of salt” – is perfect! All moms should apply that philosophy to any reading they do on baby sleep!
Also, a big yes to the catnapping point – there’s such an emphasis in this book on long naps, but catnapping is really common in the newborn stage, AND during a nap transition.
Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on the book with us, Chelsea! 🙂
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