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Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, 4th Edition: A Step-by-Step Program for a Good Night's Sleep Paperback – December 15, 2015
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“I put these principles into practice—with instant results. Dr. Weissbluth is a trusted resource and adviser.”—Cindy Crawford
About the Author
A pediatrician with forty years of experience, Marc Weissbluth, M.D., is also a leading researcher on sleep and children. He founded the original Sleep Disorders Center at Chicago’s Children’s Memorial Hospital (now called the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago) and is a professor of clinical pediatrics at Northwestern University School of Medicine. In addition to his own research, he has written about sleep problems in manuals of pediatrics, lectured extensively to parent groups, is a regular at the 92nd Street Y, and has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Dr. Weissbluth and his wife of more than fifty years, Linda, have four sons and eight grandchildren. They live in Chicago.
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Before I had kids, a colleague of mine said "One piece of parenting advice for you: sleep train your baby. My friends who didn't hate their lives." I took that advice seriously so read this book when my daughter was one month old, after it was recommended to me by my pediatrician, who is himself a father and a very compassionate and rational person. Our baby was incredibly fussy. Most of her waking hours were spent scream crying (she had no physical ailments), so I decided if our kid was gonna scream when awake, she'd better learn to be a good sleeper. At roughly four months of age (the age at which Weissbluth considers it developmentally appropriate to really dive into sleep training), I started sleep training...which basically means teaching a baby to fall asleep on her own and to put herself back to sleep on her own when she wakes. I can say confidently that Weissbluth's methods work IF you commit to them. And there is little reason not to commit to them as he clearly articulates his methods and provides explanations and research findings to support them. If you read this book, you will understand why establishing healthy sleep patterns is so crucial and how sleep problems early on can lead to developmental problems (behavioral, emotional) later in childhood.
As far as I know, we had the only baby and now have the only toddler in our friend group who has had NO problems sleeping (from age 4 months forward)--during naps and at night, and that is because we strictly followed Weissbluth's methods and take sleep very seriously. We schedule activities/outings around naps and bedtime, which has never been a problem. We decided we could sacrifice some adventure and spontaneity for a few years until nap times are a thing of the past, so that we could establish and maintain good sleep habits for our daughter. Everyone else we knew was talking about sleep regressions, etc. Our baby never had any. Even during teething, no sleep problems. Weening off the breast, no sleep problems. After vaccinations, no sleep problems. Sick with a cold or fever, no sleep problems.
It is true that legit sleep training may hamper your social life for a few years while your child requires consistent nap and bedtimes, but for us it was worth the tradeoff to have a healthy, well-rested kid who knows how to sleep. My husband and I have more quality time together than our friends because our kid sleeps.
The method itself: Weissbluth provides different variations on sleep training, but he is clear that "cry it out" is the quickest, most effective, and least traumatic way to teach babies to sleep. Often times, parents see "cry it out" on paper and immediately write it off, thinking it must be inhumane. "Oh, I can't let my baby cry!," they think. However, that assumption is irrational and not based on evidence. Weissbluth does a great job explaining the reality behind cry it out and how it is the most humane and effective way to sleep train. As stated above, Weissbluth has over 30 years experience as a pediatrician, teaches at Northwestern Medical School, and helped found a sleep clinic at a children's hospital that specializes in sleep disorders. He is not a dungeon master. This guy knows kids and sleep and the problems caused by bad sleep habits started in infancy. My husband did NOT take the time to read this book, so when I decided to use "extinction cry it out," (feeding, loving on my baby and then placing her in her crib and walking out) he thought it was cruel. But after I explained the rationale behind it and her crying stopped after only a few days, and our kid slept, he became a believer. Each time we hear friends talk about the sleep problems their kids have and hear how they never let their kids cry or don't think it's important to maintain a consistent sleep schedule, I am reminded how wonderful Weissbluth's method is. My baby cried a bit the first few naps and nights we did cry it out. But then she slept. And at age 3 she still sleeps. And she wakes up happy and full of energy. She feels confident because she has mastered the skill of putting herself to sleep and she trusts her parents because we respect her need for consistent sleep. Meanwhile my friends who refuse a few days of cry it out have suffered through years of crabby, overly tired kids crying or of bed sharing and never getting any quality sleep or alone time. If you're ready to get serious about sleep, this book will change your life.