Baby sleep books tested

New mums try out sleep routines suggested by some of the best-known baby experts

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Getting your baby to sleep through the night can be the holy grail for sleep-deprived new mums. Read on to find out how four mums fared when they tried out the routines in some of the best-known baby books.

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The New Contented Little Baby Book by Gina Ford (Vermilion, £9.99)

Tested by:

Paula, 31, mum to Tom, 4 months

The plan:

That babies need a strict routine right from birth, as it helps them become happy and content, and able to sleep through the night from a young age.

“I first heard about Gina Ford through a work colleague, who raved about how Gina’s routine helped her baby sleep through the night from a very early age. She explained that it was all down to a strict routine, which appealed to me, as I like routine in my life. But when Tom was born I was too busy getting used to being a new mum to think about any kind of routine. It wasn’t until my husband, Chris, went back to work two weeks later that I decided to give it a try. The book’s routine specifies getting up at 7am, then waking your baby, topping and tailing them and putting them down for naps at certain times. Everything is very structured and has a specific time.

“But the first day was a disaster because Tom was sleeping when he was meant to be awake. The second day was even worse, and by the third day I had to give up. But a few days later a friend told me she’d also failed with the routine on the first attempt, but advised me to try it again when Tom was about 6 weeks old. So I did, and this time things went brilliantly. Tom had his naps at the right time and when he was 8 weeks old, he was sleeping through the night. Some people say the strict routines are restrictive, but I’ve found them liberating. I know when Tom’s going to be asleep, and when he’s going to need a feed.”

Any downsides

Because the night-time routine takes a good two hours to get through – including bath time, massage and feeding – evenings are pretty tight.

Perfect for parents…

Who like routine and can stick to it.

Perfect for babies…

From birth, though for us it worked when Tom was 6 weeks.

Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg (Vermilion, £10.99)

Tested by:

Gillian, 38, mum to Jess, 3

The plan:

This is based around the acronym EASY (Eat, Activity, Sleep, You). There is a routine, but timings should suit you all.

“When I had Jess, I had no idea how to look after a baby, and really needed someone to hold my hand through the whole thing. I didn’t want something too restrictive, but with this method I knew exactly what I would be doing next. Jess would eat, then go under her baby gym, then have a sleep – then we’d start all over again. Unlike some routines, it didn’t matter what time these things happened, as long as they happened in that order.

“Another plus was that I saw success very quickly, in just a few days in fact. The book also taught me to recognise what Jess’s different cries meant. Importantly, you learn that not every cry means hunger, so when Jess woke up in the night I’d go in and pat her until she calmed down. I didn’t feed her – and by 8 weeks old she was going from 7pm until 7am. I believe that the book has helped turn Jess into a good sleeper. It also helped to teach her how to get herself back to sleep, because she knew I wouldn’t come running every time she cried.”

Any downsides?

Sorry, but there are none. I have a little girl who sleeps through the night every single night!

Perfect for parents…

Who can’t face a routine that’s too strict

Perfect for babies…

From birth

The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley (Mcgraw-Hill, £9.99)

Tested by:

Emma, 30, mum to Sam, 3 months

The plan:

This concentrates on getting a baby to sleep without any tears.

“When Sam was around 10 weeks old, we thought it might be a good idea to get him into some sort of routine. The book advised us to keep a diary of Sam’s pre-bedtime routine for one night, as well as recording how many times he woke up throughout the night, including how he woke up (whimpering, crying, etc) and how we got him back to sleep. When we compared Sam’s routine with the book we discovered what was hampering his sleep – the lights were too bright and there was too much stimulation from the TV while he was having his last feed. So, we turned the lights down during his bath, then fed him in his bedroom with the lights dimmed before putting him down to sleep.

“We also learnt to put him down when he’s sleepy, not asleep, and that when he wakes up in the night it’s not necessarily because he’s hungry. The final thing was spotting when Sam was tired. We realised he wasn’t getting enough sleep during the day, which was why he was grouchy by bedtime. We remedied this and it became easier to put him down at night. After three nights, Sam only woke up twice for a feed – at 1am and 5am – and by night five, he’d dropped the 1am feed by himself and was going through from 7pm until about 4am – a miracle!”

Any downsides?

Elizabeth Pantley’s idea of ‘going through the night’ is a five-hour stretch – I wanted to aim for longer!

Perfect for parents…

Who want a method with some kind of routine but not to the minute.

Perfect for babies…

More than 4 months old as the author believes it’s easier to establish a routine then.

Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems by Richard Ferber (DK, £9.99)

Tested by:

Selina, mum to Tristan, 10 months, Philippa, 3 and Jessica, 5

The plan:

By learning the principles of sleep and self-settling, you can establish a sleep pattern.

“Both my girls were sleeping through by 9 months, and by 4 months Tristan was much the same. But then he got a cold, stomach bug, chest and ear infections – and his sleeping routine went out of the window! At 10 months, when he was still waking up twice a night for big feeds, I decided it was time to get some structure into our lives. Enter Richard Ferber. The first night, Tristan was put to bed at 7.30pm as usual. He woke up at 11.30 and, as recommended, my husband Nick cuddled him, calmed him and put him back down. When he woke at 3am, I talked to him quietly, and he dropped off again until around 6am, when we fed him.

“The second night he woke up howling at 2am, so I cuddled him then put him down again and he fell asleep after 10 minutes of whimpering. He woke again at 4am, then was up for the day at 6.30am. The third night he woke once at 2am, went straight back to sleep until 6am, and the fourth night he slept straight through from 7.30pm till 5.50am! Basically, you have a wind-down routine for your baby in the evening, then put him to sleep. You stay in the room briefly, then leave. If he hasn’t settled after three minutes, you go back, talk to him and reassure him, then leave again. If he is still crying, you leave it five minutes, go and do the same again, increasing the time intervals until he settles himself.”

Any downsides?

There’s a lot to take in at first, but you do get good results.

Perfect for parents…

Who have no idea why their child won’t sleep.

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Perfect for babies…

Who are a few months old so you can recognise their routines and patterns.

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