Review by ELAINE HO
HELPING YOUR TODDLER TO SLEEP
(An easy to follow guide)
By Siobhan Mulholland
One frequent question a new parent will get is: “Is the baby sleeping through the night yet?”
If you’re one of the lucky parents who can answer in the affirmative, you’ll be the envy of many and you won’t need this book. However, if you’re the one doing the envying (like me), you’ll be desperately learning any “special techniques” that may help you ... er, I mean ... your baby sleep through the night.
Infant and toddler sleep is such a complicated subject that you would expect any book on the matter to be a heavy tome. Thankfully, this only weighs in at 59 pages! Pretty handy when you’ve got a new baby in the house and haven’t got the time to sleep, much less read about it.
This book touches lightly on all the key sleep topics, starting with an understanding of the science behind a child’s sleep, such as the impact of circadian rhythms on their sleep schedule and the sleep cycles (e.g. REM sleep, light sleep) they experience, in order for us to better understand how to work around Mother Nature and employ the sleep techniques that author Mulholland later highlights.
She lists the environmental factors you can control to ease your little darling into sleep, such as the sleeping arrangements (co-sleeping vs own bed), darkened room, temperature, a bedtime routine, attachment to a comforter, what you can do during the day to help your child sleep better at night, and so forth.
That’s followed by suggestions on how to keep your child asleep, what factors may be affecting his/her sleep (e.g. night terrors, big changes in your lives) and, of course, dealing with special circumstances like twins.
My issue is that the author spends a lot of time on prepping your child for sleep, but when it comes to actual sleep techniques, there are only a few, and they focus mainly on “sleep training.” The idea of sleep training is to teach your child to go to sleep by herself, so she is not dependent on you. While it is a lovely thought to be able to leave your toddler in her room and just walk out to enjoy some “me-time” while she seeks slumber on her own, that just doesn’t work with all toddlers. Mulholland does not cover the softer options like “baby-wearing,” coined by internationally-acclaimed paediatrician Dr William Sears, for parents with kids who don’t respond to sleep training.
The author also goes through the topics very briefly, so much so that this book is just an overview of the vast information available on toddler sleep. She does provide specifics on some areas, like how to develop a predictable bedtime routine, but parents hoping for a detailed account on the Ferber (a.k.a. cry-it-out) method will be disappointed.
Lastly, although the title refers to toddlers, many of the techniques state that they are best started from birth.
The chart on average hours of sleep was of particular use for me. It maps the child’s age to the hours of night sleep and daytime sleep needed in a 24-hour period. As they transition to toddlerhood, a baby starts to drop some afternoon naps, but it’s a guessing game as to when this happens, how many hours the remaining naps now take up and how it affects night sleep. Since my 16-month-old boy is playing this game with me now, this chart is going up on my fridge.
All in all, this is a useful read for first-time parents, or for expecting parents who are just embarking on their quest for baby knowledge, as it is as easy to follow and digest as promised. If you have a textbook baby, or a toddler with a mild temperament, you will enjoy blissful nights with eight consecutive hours of sleep in no time.
However, for sleep-deprived veterans of high-strung toddlers, you’ve likely tried most of these methods already. But for only 59 pages, it doesn’t hurt to take a peek. You might learn something new, like I did.