Review: The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep

Monday, April 22, 2013

I was given a copy of The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep by Harvey Karp, M.D. to review. You’ve no idea how great it was to read many of the things presented in this book. I wish I would’ve checked it out during my pregnancy just to prepare myself for different outcomes. I didn’t read the entire book. I skipped straight on to Part III: Sleep Solutions in the Toddler and Preschool Years: One to Five Years.

Here’s a little background information on us: If you were to ask someone who knew us well about our sleep schedules, they would tell you, “Oh them? Yeah, they don’t sleep much. They like sleep, but they just don’t seem to do it as much as everyone else.”

When I was a teenager, I would sleep with the best of them. Oh yessiree! I was known to sneak away 5 minutes here and there. Some time in my later college years, I became a full-fledged insomniac. I’d go weeks on end sleeping only 3 hours a night, if that. And then it would catch up to me and I’d sleep for what seemed like days.

Then, I became a mother. The Sugarbean was never like most kids in that regard. She has always been very independent at sleeping, demanding her own bed and space around 4 months. This was fine, because at the time, our Queen size bed was a tight fit with me, her, my Beloved, and Guapo. It was a long while (like more than a year) before she slept through the night. Our definition of sleeping through the night was anything longer than 6 hours. Now that she’s older, she will sleep between 9 and 10 hours a night. We ask that she have a nap at school, but I’m told she doesn’t always sleep. (probably should say, she doesn’t usually sleep…but she knows the value of quiet/rest time, which she will take the opportunity to read her books). Like me, she has a window of opportunity for sleep. If it is missed, then she becomes rambunctious and out of control. She will scream, yell, jerk around, and eventually, leads to a full-on breakdown fully of tears and drama. “Myth 6: Kids naturally fall asleep when they’re tired. …some toddlers actually get more awake! The become giddy and start running in circles…” That is our Sugarbean to a T! I was happy to read that, knowing it was “normal” for her to experience it. And knowing that we had naturally learned to cope how they suggested.

Before I was pregnant with the Sugarbaby, I can tell you that my biggest anxiety had to do with the lack of sleep. Not the labor and delivery, not the healing, not the weight gain, not having another mouth to feed, but the lack of sleep I would be getting. Similar to how she was when she was inside of me, as long as she could snuggle in with me, she would sleep. Unless hunger drove her awake. Unlike her sister, she was quite attached. She also awoke every 4 hours, like clockwork. You think, hey, 4 hours isn’t so bad. Well, here’s a typical scenario for the first year: She sleeps at 7. I’m tired at 10, but do I sleep for an hour or stay awake? I’ll stay awake. Nurse her, change her, get her back down close to midnight. Go to sleep close to 1 because I’d lost my window of opportunity for sleep. A few nights out of the week, wake up at 2 because Guapo had to go out or the Sugarbean needed us. Pass out at 2:30, then awake again at 3 to nurse and change the baby, asleep by 3:30 if I was lucky. Alarm goes off at 6. I was so happy once we broke through that threshold and she was sleeping 5 hours at a time. I felt so refreshed with 5 hours of continuous sleep!

Coffee had become necessary and a best friend. I had to have some bonafide time-outs because I had begun hearing voices from the lack of sleep I’d been getting. Not just me, though. My Beloved was suffering from sleep, too. Right before her first birthday, we were all thrown off at the death of our best friend, Guapo. You see, he was the best napping buddy. He sensed when I needed to sleep and would crawl in my lap and before I knew it, I’d be passed out. After his death, I wasn’t sleeping.

At 16 months, we made the decision to stop co-sleeping and transition her to her own bed. After a month, we gave up. Then at 18 months, we moved her crib into big sister’s room. Our thinking was that she might do better having big sister around, plus, big sister would be happier having sister and not have the extreme night terrors. That first week, we hadn’t considered that they would be keeping each other awake, one with the crying from the fear of the dark, the other from crying because she wasn’t sleeping with us. *sigh*

After two weeks, we figured out a night-time routine that seemed to suit us all. Any experienced parent will give you the advice: ROUTINE, ROUTINE, ROUTINE…don’t break the routine. You know, they are right. You want your kids to be flexible, but honor their routine and you will be rewarded. What they don’t tell you is that routines are easily interrupted around the holidays. You know, when you travel out of town, when you have parties to attend…all of those social things that you could make the choice to not participate or spend the next several months trying to get back on a schedule, in spite of your best efforts of maintaining the night time routine. But still, the routine lives on and we try. It’s only about 15 minutes, but very much worth it. I really love that everyone close to us knows and recognizes the routine and in our absence (like if we have a date night), the girls will still sing their songs, say their prayers, get tucked in, and all the other little things we do will get done. The Sugarbaby will pass out immediately if you give her a warm bottle of milk and her pacifier*. The Sugarbean, on the other hand requires reassuring, time to soothe her brain, her powerful sleep friends who will protect her while she slumbers, and magic spells before her mind is quieted to sleep.

For us, the routine continued, but any time between 2AM and 4AM, the Sugarbaby will zombie walk down the hall to our room. Bang on the door like a zom-baby, increasing volume and commotion until we respond. We have tried rocking and putting her back in her bed, but it won’t work. As soon as she hits the pillow, the screaming returns, sometimes wakes her sister. Rather than having two cranky little ones in the morning (because we are certain we’ll get enough teenage drama in the years to come), we will bring her back to bed with us. You know what, according to the book: ”Parents are often surprised to learn that bed-sharing increases with age. At three years, 22 percent of kids are doing it; and at four years, 38 percent bed-share at least once a week. Even 10-15 percent of preschoolers still routinely bed-share.”

*Pacifier…yes, she’s two years old and still uses her mamon—mahhhm-own. She doesn’t have one at school, and will nap without one. But at night, part of her routine is for us to clip her paci onto her pajamas, and she will grip the paci with one hand, while drinking her milk night cap with the other. Once she finishes the milk, she will plug in her pacifier, twirl the top of her hair with her left hand, and fall asleep within moments. “The Blessed Binky: You Could Stop It Now, but Do You Really Want To?” Reading that section made me feel less guilty at the thought that my child would be potty trained before she gave up her pacifier.

Then at the end of the book, there were tips for me, on how to calm my own brain and prepare myself for a better nights sleep. Much of this seemed natural and intuitive, but I discovered that I wasn’t doing it each night. In fact, the nights I had my window of opportunity disrupted, I was able to get back on track by  preparing my room, body, and mind using the tips found in the “Insomnia-When You Can’t Sleep” section.

Helpful nuggets of information can be found throughout this book. Just listen to your child and realize that when you have more than one, each one is different. What works for one doesn’t always work for the other. Reading this opened my eyes to the myriad of situations that could present themselves, and I realized, we aren’t completely alone in our “not sleeping.”

All in all, I would recommend you give this book a whirl or any of the Happiest Baby books, for that matter. Don’t have time to read? They are also available on DVD and CD and there’s even an app! Find more about them at or

I participated in this book review for One2One Network. By posting, I am eligible for incentive. I received a free copy of this book to facilitate my post, but all opinions stated are my own.

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