Takeaways from Dr. Weissbluth’s Talk

Tuesday, 05/25/2010, we had the opportunity to participate in a talk by Dr. Marc Weissbluth, MD. at 92Y on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.  He’s the acclaimed author of ‘Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child’ (and ”Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Twins’).

There were many great takeaways from that session that are completely aligned with our philosophy that we would love to share with you. Some of them have already been mentioned in previous posts in our blog, so click on the links for further information.

We encourage you to follow these principles when implementing your baby’s sleep training plan.

Dr. Weissbluth is a big defensor of cry it out (CIO) or extinction on method for sleep training, that basically involves putting your baby down to sleep (drowsy but awake), and let him soothe himself to sleep. Parents do not go back to check on the baby even if he is crying. He does mention other sleep training methods, such as ‘check & console’ or ‘graduated extinction’; but he certainly believes that CIO is the only effective method of all.

We, Smooth Parenting, do not believe CIO is the way to go in most circumstances; so that’s where we part ways with Dr. Weissbluth. We do, though, value extremelly his insights and research on child development and his wonderful research on sleep, memory, child development, circadian rhythms and brain development; and for that, we will continue to consider him a reference.

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Risk of Too-Early Formal Sleep Training

Although parents can start teaching babies healthy sleep habits from the begining, it is not advisable to follow any kind of formal sleep training method when the baby is too young. What’s too young? It depends on the baby! Most babies are ready to start formal sleep training at 4 months, and others aren’t until they’re 6 months old. That’s the perfect window 4-6 months.

That doesn’t mean that up until they’re ready, parents can’t do anything. As we mentioned in our previous post, parents can start instilling good sleep habits and associations from day one.

What are the risk to start a formal sleep training plan too early?

  • You will be fighting against nature:
    • During the early months of your baby’s life, he sleeps when he is tired, it’s really that simple. You can do very little to force a new baby to sleep when he doesn’t want to sleep, and conversely, you can do little to wake him up when he is sleeping soundly.
    • Newborns need to be fed every two to four hours — and sometimes more, since their tummies are very small and can’t hold food that last for longer.
    • Babies under 4 months don’t have the ability to sleep very long streches of time. Somewhere between 5 and 8 hours would be the maximum at that age.
  • Sleep training done before their cardiopulmonary control mechanisms are mature enough to handle prolonged deep sleep could be risky.
  • Sleep training done too soon might increase the risk of SIDS (While there is no scientific evidence that cry-it-out causes, many famous pediatricians -ie. Dr. Sears- believe there’s a correlation).

Even though our sleep training methods are very gentle and don’t involve cry it out, we would not advice you to follow them before your baby is ready (4-6 months). Parents can learn how to make sleep training not necessary or easier by following a very simple plan for those first four months. Please contact us if you are interested in learning more about that plan.