How have you learned about sleep training babies?
July 1, 2019 6:54 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to learn all about the various methods of sleep training babies and toddlers. Obviously, there is a ton of information online which is difficult to filter for quality. Plus, it's something people get very emotional about so it's hard to seek unbiased opinions from e.g. parent communities. Can you point me to the blogs and books you've found most useful, comprehensive and research-based?
posted by guessthis to Education (18 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Correct on the emotional aspect - people seem to take the view that any different approach than what they used is a direct commentary on their parenting. My suggestion is to never tell people what kind of method you use or comment on theirs, unless specifically asked.

To that end, my wife and I used Gina Ford (though in a somewhat 'interpretive' fashion) and it worked extremely well for us - 12 hours of sleep from 7 till 7 by about 6 or 7 months old.

Whatever approach you go with, I think sticking with it is key, to establish a routine for your baby. And again, do your best to keep it to yourself unless someone specifically asks for help/advice.
posted by modernnomad at 7:01 AM on July 1

It covers a lot more than "sleep training", but I found Why Love Matters by Sue Gerhardt to be a very helpful resource when our kids were babies. It is very much research-based.
posted by rd45 at 7:05 AM on July 1

It's the obvious answer, but we did the Dr. Ferber book (Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems). The combination of getting advice from an actual doctor who specializes in pediatric sleep issues and his use of patient examples made me confident we were getting actually good advice. The most recent version also are (to my understanding) different in some noticeable ways from the original, which I think speaks to be willing to form genuine opinions based on data rather than an agenda. We also like his focus on parental health/well-being as part of the equation, as opposed to the "see what happens when babies cry for days without end in Romanian orphanages? YOU'RE DOING THAT TO YOUR BABY" thing that a lot parenting sites, etc. push.

It was hard (at least one time I went in to check on our daughter, and picked her up, and then she put her arms around my neck and it was all over for Ferberizing for that night), but worth it. Our daughter has slept like a champ for years and it's made all our lives better.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:10 AM on July 1 [2 favorites]

Seconding the super emotional aspect, both in folks' investment in what worked for them as well as in the parent-in-the-moment who is desperate to figure out solutions. (It's been 18 years and I still remember the depths of my sleep-deprivation.) We started out with Sears and attachment parenting, but by 4 months I was unable to sustain that method for my kid, who would "sleep" through the night as long as he was directly attached, which meant that I was not sleeping much at all.

We ended up with Weissbluth Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, which boils down to sleep-time rituals and consistency. Honestly, those principles (rituals, consistency) have helped a lot with a number of transitions over the years. [Weissbluth is a pediatrician and researcher on sleep and children.]
posted by correcaminos at 7:10 AM on July 1 [5 favorites]

Precious Little Sleep (the blog and the book) is particularly popular right now. It is very similar to the Ferber method.
posted by rossination at 7:30 AM on July 1 [6 favorites]

Our family used different techniques for each child, starting out with attachment parenting and moving to Weissbluth. They all seemed to work fine as long as you were consistent from night to night.

What I wanted to add was that sleep techniques are as much about what works for the parents as the baby. Pick the technique that works for the adults in your family; the kid will be fine.
posted by q*ben at 7:40 AM on July 1 [3 favorites]

BASIS is my go-to source for evidence-based baby sleep info. Their parent information sheets are okay but there’s a lot of useful more in-depth stuff in their research summaries (scroll down).
posted by Catseye at 7:53 AM on July 1 [1 favorite]

All techniques work eventually. That's why people swear by whatever technique they have -- their technique worked and they only have a limited data set, so they think their technique is the One True technique. But they all work.

That said, Emily Oster is basically the gold standard for data-driven research-based child rearing stuff these days and she has a new book out - Cribsheet. It's about more than just sleep, but includes stuff on sleep.
posted by Betelgeuse at 7:53 AM on July 1 [6 favorites]

We did a combo of Precious Little Sleep and Weissbluth with our 6 month old. The Weissbluth has a lot of good information, but is (1) not well organized, and (2) kind of gender essentialist-y/judge-y in spots. It's good to have on hand as a reference, but PLS does a nice job of distilling the information into a more useable form. PLS also gives an overview Ferber, and gives some suggestions for stuff to try before full on cry it out.

Oster apparently went to Weissbluth's clinic, so her information on sleep is mostly drawing from him.
posted by damayanti at 8:02 AM on July 1

nth Weissbluth, "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child." Agree it's dry, but it makes sense and it saved us. I was far too tired by the time we bought it to notice any judginess!
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:02 AM on July 1

I found the summary in Cribsheet to be pretty helpful. She lists these as key books:

Weissbluth, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child

Ferber, Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems

Ezzo and Bucknam, On Becoming Baby Wise

Pantley, The No-Cry Sleep Solution

Hogg, Secrets of the Baby Whisperer

Waldburger and Spivack, The Sleepeasy Solution

Mindell, Sleeping Through the Night

Giordano, The Baby Sleep Solution

Turgeon and Wright, The Happy Sleeper

As she explains, the advice is similar, with the key difference being whether / how often to check in. She covers (rebuts) the arguments against sleep training and outlines some of the research on its benefits.
posted by slidell at 8:09 AM on July 1 [3 favorites]

Adding another vote in support of Weissbluth. It is not well organized, but it worked for both of our children. Weissbluth presents a number of alternatives; extinction worked for child #1, and 'drowsy but awake' worked for #2.

My experience was that I was able to easily find a number of other books/blogs which were very sure of themselves but not applicable to our children. (One co-worker laughed at me when I said the phrase 'dream-feed'). Because each situation is so unique, I found books by pediatricians/child sleep scientists to be the most helpful.
posted by Comrade_robot at 8:12 AM on July 1

Nthing the summary in CribSheet.
posted by k8t at 8:25 AM on July 1

I valued the Possums Sleep Program, which has a film rather than a book, though it is linked to the Discontented Little Baby book. I very much wish I had found this before I had my baby. The program is linked to a research lab on breastfeeding and baby behaviour.

I also liked The Gentle Sleep Book and it helped me immensely.
posted by kadia_a at 11:21 AM on July 1

Another voice here for Precious Little Sleep, which was actually recommended to me here when I came in desperate for answers to why my 4 month old wouldn’t nap (answer: because babies) (you can look in my profile for the question, sorry too hard to link on my phone).

We actually started with the check in method but realised pretty soon that this just does not work for our baby. It actually just wound her up more! We switched pretty quickly to basically CIO and haven’t looked back. But my main point with that is that you know your baby best. You know you best. I think the most important thing is to find a method that works for those two factors and stick with it.
posted by like_neon at 11:33 AM on July 1

I liked Precious Little Sleep. Emily Oster has a decent section on this in her new book, Crib Sheet. She’s an economist who researches pregnancy/parenting topics.
posted by pintapicasso at 2:24 PM on July 1

Sleep Easy Solution is a check-in method and worked really well for our first child. They have both a book and a dvd. I read a few of the other books in this thread but couldn't make sense of them. I chose this book because it was very step by step, with suggestions about outlier situations.

It did not work at all with our second child, and as much as we did solid routines etc etc etc we ended up with a less-than-ideal CIO situation. It put our whole family on edge for months. I wish I'd had a different method in my back pocket but being sleep-deprived already I wasn't able to put together a better plan. Long-story short I ended up moving my 3yo into my room.

He has always napped just fine at school, and now that he's more verbal he's been able to tell me that he gets scared being his room alone, and he gets scared of the dark (all along, as part of our nighttime routine we did tell him that we were still in the house and were always watching him in the monitor and how he wasn't alone; we also had various nightlights - we didn't just chuck him into a dark room and shut the door.).

The attachment between us was a wreck before I brought him into my room; he seemed to have a hard time trusting us, and that was the major factor that caused me to bring him in. I wish I'd never stopped co-sleeping with him in the first place, but my other responsibilities made that difficult. At least now he sleeps very well at night, and our attachment is in a significantly better place.
posted by vignettist at 10:38 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]

We like(d) Baby 411 and its toddler variant. We also followed our pediatrician’s advice and once we were down to one feeding overnight and then later none, little vkxmai started sleeping through the night in a crib in their own perfectly dark room and 18 months later, still does.
posted by vkxmai at 9:37 AM on July 3

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