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The Happy Sleeper: The Science-Backed Guide to Helping Your Baby Get a Good Night's Sleep-Newborn to School Age Paperback – December 26, 2014
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"The Happy Sleeper makes happier parents by unleashing their child’s natural ability to sleep with a sensitive, structured approach based on the authors' combined twenty years of clinical experience."
—Dr. Mehmet Oz
"Clear a space on your bookshelf! You'll be consulting this friendly, research-based guide to the blessings of sleep for you and your little ones for many years to come."
—Adele Faber, co-author of How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk
“Compassionate, courageous, and creative. . . Heather Turgeon and Julie Wright have written a user-friendly, scientifically-informed, practical guide that provides the information and intention you need to cultivate healthy sleeping habits not only for your child, but for yourself as well! Give your children the relationship security they need while also providing them the structure they require to sleep well and thrive.”
—from the foreword by Daniel J. Siegel, MD, New York Times-bestselling author of Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain
“An important resource for parents seeking to give their children a lifetime of quality sleep. Good sleep habits are vital to child development and overall health, and The Happy Sleeper offers real-world strategies for getting children the sleep they need.”
—David M. Cloud, CEO, National Sleep Foundation
“Solid information on children’s brain development and physiology supports a clear and systematic “attunement” philosophy that strikes a happy balance between “cry it out” and “over-helping.” Turgeon and Wright’s compassionate but firm system reminds parents that even the smallest infants are already learners, and to be cognizant of what they want to teach.”
About the Author
Heather Turgeon, MFT, is a psychotherapist who writes about child development and parenting. She is a science writer for the National Sleep Foundation, and her work has appeared in The New York Times and The Washington Post. She and Julie Wright have a sleep consultation practice and class series based in Los Angeles and available to families all over the world.
Julie Wright, MFT, is one of Los Angeles’s best known parenting group leaders and has taught thousands of moms in her popular Wright Mommy and Me program. Julie is a licensed psychotherapist working with infants, children, and adults, exploring attachment, mindfulness, parenting, and empathic communication. She and Heather conduct sleep consultations with parents in the LA area and remotely.
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First and foremost, the important lesson to take away from all these sleep books is that you as a parent need to do what feels right for you, and if allowing your baby to cry at all is too painful for you, you need to listen to that. Some of the advice in this book didn't work for us, and I am relieved I didn't feel like I had to follow it. But overall, this book made a lot of sense to me. Other reviewers criticize it as cry-it-out ("CIO") in disguise, but here's why I strongly disagree. CIO--whether leaving your baby to cry for an hour without checking on her, or ferberizing (patting and soothing after consistent time increments)--risks leaving your baby scared or confused. Full-blown CIO means your baby is alone for a long stretch of time until she stops crying and is forced to learn to fall asleep independently. All my friends who have done this say it's very effective and it happens fast. But to me, I felt like my baby would feel scared, like I abandoned her and was never coming back. Ferberizing seemed like an acceptable alternative, but the Happy Sleeper makes a compelling case for why it's actually harder for your baby: you leave her for five/seven/whatever minutes and she protests, then you come in and pat and shush her so she gets a glimmer of hope that you'll take over and make it all better, then you leave again. So, even though she's not feeling abandoned, she's confused, and you're actually actively preventing her from self-soothing.
Enter the sleep wave. Your baby sees you there every five minutes and does not feel abandoned, yet does not get confused (as she does with Ferberizing), because you're telling her she is responsible for teaching herself to sleep. I know in my case the first two or three nights were torturous, but it was clear to me that my baby was not scared, just MAD. Within just a couple days of implementing this method, my daughter became a visibly and palpably happier baby. Now she's 16 months old, and although she's super attached to me and cries when I leave for work, she sleeps through the night consistently and always is very happy when I put her in her crib. She has very strong sleep skills, and I owe that to this book. I wish we'd had it for my older daughter too, who still has night wakings and is almost 5!
I do want to note that, at least for us, the baby learned the sleep skills she needed for nighttime sleep very quickly, but solid napping did not happen for a few months. I don't think this has anything to do with the book; just know that consistent naps tend to take longer.
I do have a few critiques of this book. First, the 0-4 month chapter (the soothing ladder, I think they called it?) is pretty unrealistic. The first few steps on the ladder never ever worked, and I imagine most people will have the same experience, unless they have a remarkably chill baby. Second, if you are a nursing mom who works outside of the home, I'd read the section about night weaning with healthy skepticism. While your baby might not need the calories in the middle of the night, you and your baby might need the connection; moreover, shaving off one minute every other night seems like a great idea to prevent a drop in milk production, but ultimately if your body is connecting to a pump most of the day and not nursing the baby at night, your milk supply will drop. Finally, I found the sections on dropping naps to be unhelpful and underdeveloped. I had a really hard time navigating the 3- to 2-nap transition, as well as the 2- to 1-nap transition, and was disappointed to find this book had little advice.
Then came the dreaded words. Sleep Training. Everyone was urging me to pull the plug. Make him cry it out. Stop spoiling that baby. Just let him cry until he exhausts himself. These were the things I refused to do. My baby deserves more. I could suffer with sleep deprivation. Right?! This is a temporary stage. Right? WRONG!
This book is gentle and caring. It’s not about pulling plugs or crying out of control. I tried to wean my baby of night feedings but he wanted more so I decided enough was enough. Last week we moved baby to his nursery next door (probably not recommended but I swear he could smell my milk supply). We got our iPhone timers ready and got out the Kleenex. Except a miracle happened instead.
Baby cried for 15 minutes total. Every 5 minutes we said our mantra which made him cranky that we weren’t picking him up and that was it. After 15 minutes he was sleeping. For hours! Now he wakes up about once a night for a few seconds and is back to bed before we even know it. I thought he would starve to death skipping all his night feedings. Nope!
For the first time in a LONG time I slept. Uninterrupted for hours and hours.
Thank you Happy Sleeper. My baby was not as stubborn as expected and he goes to bed and all his naps without crying. It is a miracle. All it took was 15 minutes. Mind blown! Your gentle caring approach made me feel this was the right thing for us. No one who has seen what I used to go through believes this baby is a big boy now. Sleeping for a solid 9 hours. We will work towards 11 hours but I had to say thank you!
This method was a compromise that we could both handle. It's not a one-shot deal, of course. We've had to start fresh a couple of times because we occasionally let bad habits creep back into the nightly routine, but this works for us whenever we need to get back to where my son sleeps most of the night without waking and crying.
Sleep training is not one-size-fits-all. I still hate hearing him cry whenever we have to get back to basics, but I know my child enough to trust that he responds well after the few nights of adjustment. Reassuring him every 5 minutes helps so much.