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Guides for Helping Baby Sleep

As with most parenting advice, experts hold vastly different opinions on the best way to lull infants into la la land. But they all seem to agree on one thing: A happy family is a sleeping family. While bedtime rituals may vary, it’s clear that babies fall into patterns as they grow, learning to doze off a certain way through repetition of circumstances. So it’s best to establish good sleep habits early on. We’ve rounded up a few guides, each suggesting different methods for achieving that elusive shut-eye.

The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep Longer
Harvey Karp, M.D.; Bantam Books (2003) $13.95
Newborns who have trouble sleeping through the night are often suffering the trauma of the “4th trimester,” according to Karp of the UCLA School of Medicine. Because the first three months of life are radically different from the previous nine spent in the uterus, Karp developed his “5 S’s” to help ease newborns into the world. Swaddling, side/stomach position, “shhh” sounds, swinging and sucking are all devices intended to simulate life in the womb and help babies drift into a sound pattern of sleep.

Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems
Richard Ferber, M.D.; Fireside Books; revised edition (2005) $14
As the director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Children’s Hospital in Boston, Ferber has come to be regarded as the foremost expert on children’s sleep issues. The newly revised 2005 edition of Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems is the same indispensable guide for weary parents with 16 pages of updates. Ferber’s methods, commonly called “Ferberizing,” suggest that babies can learn to sleep on their own by “crying it out” for specified intervals.

The No-Cry Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night
Elizabeth Pantley; McGraw-Hill (2002) $14.95
The No-Cry Solution derives its name from its opposition to the Ferber Method of letting babies cry themselves to sleep. Pantley advocates working with your baby’s biological sleep rhythms, creating a custom, step-by-step bedtime routine and adhering to the “persistent gentle removal system” to get your baby to sleep without feedings or pacifiers. She also suggests watching out for signs that your baby is sleepy (they can’t yet understand their innate feelings of tiredness) so you don’t miss out on valuable sleep opportunities for both of you.

Good Night, Sleep Tight: The Sleep Lady’s Gentle Guide to Helping Your Child Go to Sleep, Stay Asleep and Wake Up Happy
Kim West and Joanne Kenen; CDS Books (2005) $22.95
The Sleep Lady’s technique falls somewhere between Ferber’s and Pantley’s on the scale of parent attachment at bedtime. With her emphasis on routine, West is in agreement with other authors who stress sleep as a learned behavior in young infants. Although it doesn’t recommend letting babies “cry it out,” the “Sleep Lady Shuffle,” as the method is termed, does allow for some tears at the onset of its implementation. West’s strategy is gentle, involving measured separation and soothing in decreasing intervals until bedtime becomes tear-free and sleep is regular.

Sleep Baby Sleep: An Incredibly Simple and Gentle Plan to Get Your Baby and You Sleeping Through the Night
Tammy Hussin; Sleep Baby Sleep (2005) $17.95
Hussin uses her own expertise as a mother to simplify the process of putting baby to bed. Her sleep-separation techniques are best implemented as early as possible so that babies learn to sleep independently. By teaching your baby to fall asleep without your help, you can set the stage for a sound sleep schedule and invaluable peace of mind, according to Hussin. The former corporate attorney had her own three sons sleeping through the night at just eight weeks. Critics say the book lacks scientific support, but proponents praise Hussin’s straightforward, mom-to-mom approach.

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
Marc Weissbluth, M.D.; Ballantine Publishing (1999) $14.95
As founder of the Sleep Disorders Center at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Weissbluth has developed a program encouraging parents to instill healthy sleep habits in their children from an early age. He suggests that parents focus on timing, motionless sleep and consistency with their infants. To help your baby sleep regularly, Weissbluth suggests that when baby wakes up, you should begin to soothe him soon after to help prepare him for the next nap. Motionless sleep is ideal for quality rest, so avoid letting babies sleep for long periods of time in strollers or swings. Finally, consistency in soothing methods will help your baby learn to fall asleep on his own.

The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems: Sleeping, Feeding, and Behavior — Beyond the Basics From Infancy Through Toddlerhood
Tracy Hogg and Melinda Blau; Atria (2005) $25
E.A.S.Y. is the name of the game in Hogg’s follow-up to her previous three Baby Whisperer books. Hogg’s philosophy calls for creating a routine that involves eating, activities, sleeping and time for you — and sticking to it with little deviation. Hogg does not advocate letting babies “cry it out,” but, rather learning to interpret their cries to address sleep issues. Hogg died of melanoma in 2004, but she intended for her final book to answer any remaining questions and to impart her volume of knowledge to parents in need for years to come.