Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth

Read: 9 September, 2011

There’s a trick to reading parenting books: Never read them reactively.

It’s a rule I’m normally really good at following, but I broke it when I picked up Health Sleep Habits, Happy Child. To make a long story short, my son sleeps wonderfully at night but is a terrible day napper. This often leads to some horrific bouts of crankiness, so I looked up infant sleep books at my local library to see if I could find something to help.

The central advice of Healthy Sleep Habits is to have babies take regular naps (and he does emphasize the “regular”). Great! I agree! Now how do we accomplish this?

Well, that’s where the book starts to fall apart. Weissbluth recommends a sleep routine that may include things like reading a bedtime story (which excites my son because books are OMGWTFAWESOME!!), a bath (which excites my son because water is OMGWTFAWESOME!!), a massage (which excites my son because physical contact is OMGWTFAWESOME!!), and a lullaby (which… Yeah, I think you get the point).

I realize that my son is a bit weird. The grandson of two professional track-and-fielders (one of whom held a world record for a year) and a professional mountain climbing instructor, he’s predisposed to some rather heightened energy levels. Not only is he an unstoppable force, he’s also hitting all of his physical milestones on the very early end of the spectrum.

So Weissbluth’s advice doesn’t seem to work for our family (and I refuse to even try the cry-it-out method that he says may help if the stable bedtime routine fails). Ordinarily, that wouldn’t be a huge deal. I don’t know any adults who need nipples in their mouths to fall asleep, so I can reasonably assume that TurboKid will eventually grow out of his sleep problems, like I did. I could just keep trying with the routine and that would be the end of it.

The problem with Weissbluth is that he peppers his book with comments like:

I think it possible that unhealthy sleep habits contribute to school-related problems such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and learning disabilities.


Warning: If your child does not learn to sleep well, he may become an incurable adult insomniac, chronically disabled from sleepiness and dependent on sleeping pills.

These sorts of friendly reminders are helpfully printed apart from the text, presented in bold and segregated in little boxes, lest you fail to notice that you are irrevocably breaking your baby.

There were aspects of the book that I enjoyed, such as the breakdown of strategies by age. But these were so overshadowed by the fear-mongering that it’s hard for me to write anything other than a negative review. It’s bad enough that I’m dealing with a cranky baby and that I can’t get the method to work. To add a level of desperation, to make my failure something that will turn my precious babe into a disabled drug user, is just cruel.

Bad, Weissbluth. Bad.

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