The Happy Sleeper

June 21, 2023 [books] #parenting

Book: The Happy Sleeper
Author: Heather Turgeon, Julie Wright


The good: to the point and after some experimenting, the technique appears to be working so far. The bad: I wish they had citations for each of the claims they make about trauma, protest crying and such. While there are footnotes and links to studies or peer reviewed research, these are not easily accessible and sparser than I thought it should be. Still this is a 4-star book because it’s arrival was really opportune, right around the time the terror was ready for sleep-training and for all its faults, the authors stick to a process and don’t hedge.

The Routine

Here's a routine that worked for us. First, get a lovey. It is a transitional toy that comforts the baby. While the baby can play with it, its role is to act as cue to the baby that it’s time to sleep. This could be a tiny blanket or some stuffed toy. Another thing you would need is a speaker to play some white noise. Babies around the 5 month age are highly amenable to routines and this is the perfect time to train them. The goal is to help the baby to soothe herself and not depend on you, the parent, for it. While there are no long term consequences for the baby, there are immediate benefits for the working parents' mental health. The training process takes a few days, less than a week. The trick is to be consistent and use it for all naps, without exception. 5 months is perfect for training because the baby can roll around and move, and hence put herself in a position she likes. It's best to train after 4 months also because that's when the baby's circadian rhythm has settled and she's ready for longer night time sleep.

When the baby is ready for a nap, we do the following:

  1. Darken the room with black out curtains.
  2. Play white noise. If you have a HomePod, say "Hey Siri, play white noise."
  3. Put the baby in the crib and say some comforting words. For us, in the night it is “Good night kannu kutti. Naanga inga dhan irukom”. During the day, it’s “Thoongu kanna. Inga dhaan irukom.” Remember, babies are highly amenable to routines, so it's better for us to stick to the same script each time.
  4. Give her the lovey. Then move out of sight or leave the room.
  5. The baby plays for a bit and will sleep at the end of it, in 10 min or so. If the baby doesn’t sleep in 10 min, giving a pacifier will put her to sleep in a few seconds. We give the pacifier and pat her gently for a bit till she’s asleep.
  6. If baby hasn’t slept after her lovey play and is instead crying, wait for exactly a minute and give the pacifier. She should be crying loudly. Moaning or purring or making protest noises is not crying.
  7. We initially played Moon Child album by Bombay Jayashree at the end of play, but now the baby sleeps with just the white noise. Still useful to play the same music each time and that music should be used only for sleep. That’s a powerful cue.
  8. The crib, lovey, darkened rooms and white noise should be used only for sleeping. Once she gets up, open the blinds, turn off the white noise, and mover her from the crib. The lovey stays with the crib.
  9. We have noticed that tiring the baby during wake hours with tummy time would result in deeper naps and longer night time sleeping.
  10. Having a night diaper during the initial training also helps. Now she sleeps through most of the night without the night diaper.
    • I don't recall anything in the book about wet diapers waking up the child, but it was a constant issue for us. This was quite the game changer.
  11. If the baby gets up before the expected time, unless she’s wet her diapers, give her space to fall asleep by herself. If she cries, pat her gently and she should fall asleep. Else give the lovey and follow the routine. If the baby is inconsolable, she has probably wet her diapers or is hungry.
  12. In preparing for night time sleeping, following the same routine in the lead up to the crib helps a lot. We bathe her, read a book, and quieten the entire house. We gradually turn of the lights in the room we feed her. This is almost always around the same time each day, starting around 5 30 PM. She's in the crib between 7 and 7 30 PM.
  13. For day time naps, an assertion from the book that turned out to be true for our baby: she's sleepiest every 90 minutes from her last wake time. She's usually asleep in a few minutes when provided the right cues.
  14. Unless unavoidable, ensure that the baby goes to sleep only in the crib under the designed circumstances. Try not to get her to sleep by carrying and juggling her or at the feeding bottle.

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