Losing sleep is one of the hardest parts of becoming parent. This is a time when you need it the most, but also a time when you have erratic schedules. To help us with sleep tips we have been reading The Happy Sleeper, an interesting book thatdirectly addresses (and resolves) the controversy over “crying it out” and “attachment parenting” sleep methods, and argues that getting a child to sleep doesn’t have to be a struggle, and that parents of infants do not have to be sleep deprived.
Using new thinking and a modern perspective on child development, this book settles this heated parenting debate and gives a clear path to good sleep and a happy child. Check out our interview with authors Heather Turgeon and Julie Wright on how you can raise a happy sleeper.
Momtrends: What are some of the biggest misconceptions that parents have when they are trying to get their babies to sleep through the night?
Heather Turgeon and Julie Wright:
- That babies should be able to sleep through the night at 3 months or younger
- That it’s ok to just shut the door and not go in at bedtime, leaving baby alone to figure it out. Many doctors still advise this, which is alarming.
- That baby needs their help to fall asleep beyond the age of 5 months.
- That a full night’s sleep for a baby is less than 11-12 hours
- Parents often don’t realize how helpful a consistent pattern of response is, after the age of about 5 months.
Momtrends: What is the ideal to start sleep training?
Heather Turgeon and Julie Wright: We actually don’t call it ‘training’ because sleep is a natural, hard wired ability. By the age of roughly 5 months, almost all babies are capable of self-soothing to sleep, which is the biggest predictor of optimal, healthy sleep.
Momtrends: What are some common frustrations for parents during this time?
Heather Turgeon and Julie Wright: By far the most common frustration we see is when babies’ sleep begins to regress at about 4-5 months, having gradually improved during the first 1-3 ½ months. This can be incredibly disappointing and surprising to parents. The reason it happens is that babies are much more alert and aware by 4-5 months and become even more reliant on unhelpful sleep associations (anything parents do to help a baby fall asleep such as feeding, rocking, bouncing, swinging, stroller or car rides, you get the idea).
Momtrends: How is your method different?
Heather Turgeon and Julie Wright:
1. Sleep books are polarized into “cry-it-out” methods or “attachment” methods. The Happy Sleeper ends this unneeded and outdated debate by giving parents a new, modern perspective on sleep. The books out there now are either very structured/consistent (and end up being harsh or make parents feel bad and insensitive), or they weigh too heavily on responsiveness (and so parents end up over-helping, and their child becomes dependent on this help and unable to sleep independently).
The Happy Sleeper doesn’t see baby sleep as either/or. We know that babies need both structure and responsiveness, and we bring both of these essential elements together for good sleep not just as a quick fix right now, but through all the years of a child’s development.
2. We don’t leave out newborns. Many sleep books have a short section on newborns—saying more or less “do whatever you want in the first 3-4 months and you can fix it later.” We have a whole chapter dedicated to 0-4 months, and to PREVENTING sleep issues down the road by working on emerging sleep capacities in the first 4 months of life.
3. We don’t skimp on preschoolers and older children. Most sleep books focus on babies, but in the ages of 3-6 there are MAJOR problems for a lot of families, when kids start stalling and negotiating at bedtime and being very resistant to sleep. A big part of our book is dedicated to the preschool and school age child, with specifically tailored strategies for helping with bedtime resistance, parents lying down with their child until they fall asleep, nightmares, potty training, etc.
Momtrends: What are the core methods on how parents can get their babies to sleep?
Heather Turgeon and Julie Wright: At the core of all of our strategies is showing parents how to back off from helping a baby or child fall asleep independently, beyond the point where they are capable of doing it themselves. The focus is to hold the importance of the need to feel safe and nurtured, along with strategies for how to step back, become curious about what your baby is capable of and in essence, hand over the soothing role to your capable baby. Creating a consistent pattern of response from the parent is key for the 5 month and older babies.
Momtrends: How would you define a Happy Sleeper?
Heather Turgeon and Julie Wright:A Happy Sleeper has the relationship security babies and children require, (which is the HAPPY part) along with the structure and support they need to sleep well and thrive (which, of course, is the SLEEPER part).
We are also trying to help families change their attitude around sleep. Think of sleep as something welcome and lovely that we get to do, rather than something undesirable that we have to do. Children who go into their beds at night feeling confident, capable and cosy will have the gift of a positive association around sleep for life, along with the practiced natural ability to fall asleep solo. This is a Happy Sleeper!
Momtrends: Is there really one sleep training method for all babies?
Heather Turgeon and Julie Wright: Our book is not a “cookie cutter” method (one-size fits all), but rather an approach, which adapts to each individual baby and child. Our starting place is always baby or child’s age, developmental level and parent’s goals for sleep. For example, we include methods for keeping a feed in place while turning over the role of soothing to sleep to baby, as well as how to improve sleep if baby and parents are sharing a bed.
Momtrends was not paid for this post. We were given a sample for review.