The Happy Sleeper: The Science-Backed Guide to Helping Your Baby Get a Good Night's Sleep-Newborn t o School Age

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9780399166020: The Happy Sleeper: The Science-Backed Guide to Helping Your Baby Get a Good Night's Sleep-Newborn t o School Age

Many parents feel pressured to “train” babies and young children to sleep but kids don’t need to be trained to sleep, they’re built to sleep. Sleep issues arise when parents (with the best of intentions) over-help or “helicopter parent” at night—overshadowing their baby’s innate biological ability to sleep well. In The Happy Sleeper child sleep experts Heather Turgeon and Julie Wright show parents how to be sensitive and nurturing, but also clear and structured so that babies and young children develop the self-soothing skills they need to
 
·       Fall asleep independently
·       Sleep through the night
·       Take healthy naps
·       Grow into natural, optimal sleep patterns for day and night
 
The Happy Sleeper is a research-based guide to helping children do what comes naturally—sleep through the night.

The Happy Sleeper features a foreword by neuropsychiatrist and popular parenting expert Dr. Daniel Siegel, author of Parenting from the Inside Out and the New York Times bestseller Brainstorm.
 

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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.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Foreword

Compassionate, courageous, and creative, The Happy Sleeper is a book for every parent of a young child to savor in its magnificent exploration of effective strategies for helping children get to bed smoothly and sleep well through the night. 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!

Why is sleep so important? It is during sleep that we secrete the growth hormones our bodies need to grow and replenish themselves well. Sleep also allows our body and brain to rest and recover from the day’s activities. Recent studies have revealed, too, that during sleep our brains in effect clean themselves up—removing unhelpful by-products of the day’s neural activity—so that we can function well when we’re awake. Given all of this, it’s no surprise that babies and children need so many hours of sleep as they grow. Infants and toddlers sleep half their day or more! In childhood the amount of optimal sleep gradually decreases, but school-age children still need roughly 10 hours of sleep. Even as adults, we should spend about a third of our time sleeping!

Without the proper amount and quality of sleep, science reveals, we will have difficulty focusing, remembering, and calming our emotions. When we haven’t slept well we don’t learn or operate as effectively because our brain hasn’t had the necessary sleep time to optimize its functioning. Even more, without proper sleep, our immune system does not function well, and so we can become vulnerable to infectious diseases. And our metabolic system doesn’t function optimally, so we can be prone to overeat and not process food well, putting us at risk for obesity and diabetes. For each of these reasons, sleep is one of the most important “activities” we humans participate in. And as parents, helping our children develop good sleep hygiene is one of the most important contributions we can make to their well-being.

In this fabulous guide, you’ll learn to take important findings from sleep research and combine them with a crucial working knowledge of attachment research so that you’ll optimize not only your children’s sleep habits, but also their attachment to you. Attachment is all about providing security for your children through anticipating their inner needs, making them feel safe, and communicating with them in a soothing manner. Heather Turgeon and Julie Wright are brilliant sleep whisperers with decades of experience helping parents cultivate secure attachment while simultaneously shaping healthy sleep habits. That’s exactly the combination studies suggest is the win-win-win of effective parenting: give your children the relationship security they need while also providing them the structure they require to sleep well and thrive. And all this while you, too, get some important rest.

You’ll learn in these pages what science and clinical wisdom have to tell us about how to keep the relationship with your child filled with compassionate communication while also structuring healthy sleep strategies. You’ll discover how you can nurture emotional understanding between you and your child while at the same time implementing behavioral strategies that ensure they get the sleep they need. The authors provide you with a framework that will leave you feeling confident in the positive outcome of your approach. This is a plan that works.

Parenting is one of the most challenging roles one can play in life. It’s tricky to know when to hold our children close and when to let them venture out on their own to learn important skills, such as the self-soothing techniques that will help them be Happy Sleepers for the rest of their lives. Having this book as your companion, you will gain the clarity and conviction necessary to build a secure relationship with your child and, in turn, to help them build a secure relationship with themselves and their broader community. Read on, connect with compassion, creativity, and courage, and sleep well!

—DANIEL J. SIEGEL, MD

Introduction

Your baby already knows how to sleep.

Our clients are always shocked when they hear this. They’ve been breaking a sweat rocking their baby into a deep slumber, waking up every 2 hours to feed throughout the night, or wringing their hands in frustration with a wide-eyed, nap-resistant toddler.

But it’s true. Sleep is a basic action that babies are naturally born to do. Their bodies crave healthy sleep, and their brains are wired for it. By 5 or 6 months of age, almost all babies are capable of sleeping well without much assistance from Mom or Dad.

So why do so many families struggle at night? The answer is that most parents do what works today, don’t notice when it’s no longer needed tomorrow, and then keep pushing even harder when it’s become a hindrance the day after that. They work overtime with all kinds of fanfare and tricks to put their babies to bed. We’ve heard it all: parents feeding, rocking, and bouncing on a yoga ball for 45 minutes every night, lying down with kids, re-tucking, and refilling water glasses endlessly—one couple even told us they found themselves putting on a full music show with guitars, singing, and lights every night before bedtime.

Over time, parents’ “helping ways” overshadow their baby’s natural sleep abilities. Children get confused as to whether they or their parents are doing the soothing, and parents aren’t sure when and how much to back off so their little ones can take over the job.

The Happy Sleeper is the guide to doing just that. We will give you a clear, easy-to-follow system for transferring the role of independent sleep to your baby or child, as we’ve done for thousands of families in our practice. If you’re consistent in how you apply the methods in this book, your baby or child’s sleep will improve dramatically within one to two weeks.

Good Sleep Is in Their Genes

Kids don’t need to be trained to sleep; they’re built to sleep. Think about it: sleep is like other areas of development, and you know how quickly your baby learns. Within a year, a baby can sit, pull to stand, and maybe take her first steps. She understands language and soon she’ll speak in sentences. Almost overnight, she’s a master in all realms.

So why should sleep be any different?

For many babies, skills in other domains grow and improve, but sleep skills stall or regress.

But over and over in our practice, we see that it is. Children take off in their motor, social, cognitive, and language skills, while sleep skills stall and even decline as the months go on. It’s a common course for little kids—they show robust, thriving development in all other domains but actually regress in their ability to sleep.

In the early months, this happens when a soothing technique like nursing or rocking to sleep works and becomes your go-to habit (and we don’t blame you!). The problem is that while newborns often need these soothing devices, they outgrow this need quickly as their natural self-soothing abilities grow—sometimes within a matter of days or weeks. With toddlers and kids, the same idea applies. We know that they can sleep, but milestones and life transitions (learning to climb out of the crib, starting preschool, or having nightmares) rock the boat just enough to warrant a new trick (like lying down with them until they doze off) that kids quickly become reliant on.

As parents get stuck in a habit of soothing their little one to sleep, it masks the child’s natural abilities and makes it look as if she can’t sleep on her own.

Imagine your child was capable of walking, but you still carried her everywhere instead of letting her practice this new skill! This overhelping is the crux of family sleep problems. Eventually parents become exasperated, while baby’s sleep potential has actually been stifled.

Why We Wrote This Book

We wrote this book to help solve a dilemma. Over and over in our parenting groups, we’ve seen moms and dads work diligently to be responsive and nurturing around sleep, only to become frustrated, exhausted, and confused as their baby’s sleep gets worse instead of better. These parents feel stuck, and many reach the end of their rope and turn to a harsh, shut-the-door-and-don’t-go-in approach.

We know that sleep is a natural, hardwired function that shouldn’t be so difficult. As clinicians who follow science and new thinking on child development, we realized why sleep was stumping so many families—it’s the same overhelping or “helicopter parenting” dilemma that parents find themselves in elsewhere. Logic tells us (and research confirms) that overhelping doesn’t work: When we do things for our babies and kids that they are capable of doing for themselves, it keeps them from developing to their potential (in this case, their sleep potential). The problem is that, as parents, we don’t know how to stop overhelping, while still being warm and supportive to our kids.

The topic of baby sleep needs a fresh perspective. It’s been bogged down in old-school notions like “training” and misunderstandings of basic concepts like attachment. In this book, we take an integrated approach that is sensitive, simple, and truly effective. We don’t want anyone suffering sleep deprivation unnecessarily, nor do we ever want a baby to feel alone or fearful. Happily, neither of these ever needs to happen.

Our methods are based on two logical, research-based ideas. One: babies and little kids need warmth, sensitivity, and a sense that the world is a safe place. Two: they thrive best (and sleep best) when they have structure, routine, and clear expectations. When we work with parents to fix a sleep issue, we always locate the solution in one of these two places. If one of these is missing, a child’s sleep ends up falling short of what she’s developmentally capable of: a 10-month-old baby waking every 1 to 2 hours at night (you’d be surprised how many we’ve met!), an 18-month-old who only naps in a stroller, or a child refusing to fall asleep unless Mom or Dad snuggles up too.

These parents swear that their child’s not capable or is just a bad sleeper. But when we craft a sleep plan together (as we’ll do in this book), within a week or two their baby is sleeping eleven hours straight, their toddler is taking a beautiful 2-hour nap in her crib, or their child is kissing them good night, grabbing his stuffed animal, rolling over, and falling asleep on his own.

Sleep affects virtually every part of your child’s life. Well-rested babies and kids are emotionally balanced, flexible, and creative; they’re healthier; they think clearly and retain information better. When your child sleeps well, she (and you) feel the ripples of this everywhere. It’s amazing to see how good sleep transforms a family.

How to Use This Book

Chapter 1 is an introduction to childhood sleep issues, including information about how much sleep your baby or child needs.

Chapter 2 outlines the Happy Sleeper approach to good sleep for all ages (babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and young school-age kids). This chapter explains the underlying ideas that all of our methods are based on.

Chapters 3 to 5 have all the practical information, steps, and methods you need for your child’s particular age, and for any issue or goal you have with sleep.

Chapter 3 is for babies 0 to 4 months old.

Chapter 4 is for babies 5 to 24 months old.

Chapter 5 is for children 2 to 6 years old.

Chapters 3 to 5 are organized this way:

1. HEALTHY SLEEP HABITS

This is the foundation for good sleep. If you put these habits in place, your child will have the best chance of sleeping well, both now and in the long run. Even if you’re looking for the answer to a specific problem, don’t skip over this section—these habits strongly influence the quality of your child’s sleep.

2. SLEEP SOLUTIONS

For every sleep issue in your child’s age range, we have a solution that is responsive and supportive and keeps your baby or child in charge of soothing and independent sleep (with the exception of little babies ages 0 to 4 months, who are gradually growing into this capacity).

3. TROUBLESHOOTING

What to do about teething, motor milestones, potty training, sleep regressions, and more? The last section of each chapter answers common questions that arise for your child’s age.

Chapter 6 addresses special situations like bed sharing, traveling, and other arrangements and circumstances that can change the way your child sleeps.

Chapter 7 will help you, the parent, sleep well. We see too many parents sacrificing their own sleep needs. We want to help you make sleep a priority for you, not just your child.

Chapter 8 explains the science of sleep and how sleep develops over the first years of life.

The Appendix has tools for creating your child’s schedule, tracking progress on your sleep plan, and more. You’ll find more helpful tools on our website, www.thehappysleeper.com.

1.

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?

You feed or rock your baby until she’s fast asleep, lower her gently into her crib, and tiptoe out of the room. Two hours later, she’s awake and calling for you.

It’s past bedtime, but your toddler runs when you try to put pj’s on him, breaks down in tears over brushing teeth, and summons you back into the room repeatedly for more water, another song, and different stuffed animal configurations.

You have to lie down with your little one until he falls asleep, which can take up to 45 minutes and, sometimes, you doze off, too.

Your baby will only nap in the stroller, car, or with you carrying her.

Your child stays up too late and you suspect he’s not getting enough sleep, but you can’t figure out how to get him into bed earlier.

Your child calls out to you at night and needs you to sleep with her, or to join you in your bed.

You and your partner are so exhausted you can barely function, much less be present or happy with your baby during waking hours.

•   •   

Sleep is a basic building block of your family’s health and happiness—just like good food and regular exercise. Sleep is about as natural as it comes; in fact, kids are literally built to do it. Their brains are programmed to develop good sleep from the time they’re babies.

Your child wants to sleep; and with the right patterns in place, her natural abilities will surprise you. Naptime, bedtime, and sleeping through the night—they don’t have to be a big struggle or a source of anxiety. As easy as it is to disrupt sleep and create unhealthy sleep habits, it’s achievable and often quick to get back on the right track. Consider this scene:

You help your baby wind down after her last feeding. You give her a bath and put on her pjs. After a few stories, a few cuddles, and a song, you kiss her good night, lower her into her crib, and leave the room. Your happy sleeper rolls over, grabs her lovey, moves into a comfortable sleep position, and drifts off until the next morning. You have time to yourself to eat dinner, read a book, or spend time with your partner before going to bed and getting a full night’s sleep.

If your baby is at least 5 months and you follow our approach consistently, you can go from one of ...

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