Sleeping baby

3 Sleep Training Books You Can’t Live Without

Unlike many teachers you’ve had before, I will admit my faults. The first one you should know is that I am a total control freak. Nothing can make your world spiral out of control more than sleep deprivation.

So here are some bibles–I mean books–on sleep training that were invaluable to me along with my key takeaways from each one.

1. Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child


Get it on Amazon

Key lesson: Look for the sleepy signs and follow a routine.

We had to learn Emma’s sleep patterns by watching carefully for signs that she was getting tired (rubbing her eyes, yawning, etc.). The moment we noticed a sleepy sign, we began her sleep routine: carrying her up to her room and rocking her for 5 minutes while singing “My Favorite Things” (oh, yes, I can sing it with various accents and even like a rap song). The trick is to repeat the same steps, in the same order, every single time without fail.

After doing this for a few days we noticed a pattern develop. Emma’s sleepy signs would show up around the same times each day, so we were able to get on a schedule, which made planning our days much easier. She was sleeping through the night by 6 weeks!

Thanks Dr. Weissbluth!

(Footnote: one of the absolute best things about this book is that it’s broken down by age, so you can read chunks at a time. We found ourselves referring back to HSHHC multiple times as Emma grew and changed.)

2. The Baby Whisperer


Get it on Amazon

Key Lesson: Independence is not neglect.

Anything that takes away a bit of the mom-guilt is great advice to me! But this one really resonated. Meet your baby’s needs and give her comfort, but once her needs are met, allow her to fall asleep on her own. Yes, it was very hard not to get up at every whimper and cry, but I firmly believe, much like you and I, babies go through cycles of sleep throughout the night. They stir, they wake (and may cry) but need to learn to fall back to sleep without constant comfort. This one is definitely in the category of thinking with your head (because my heart most certainly would have picked her up every time :-)).

3. Happiest Baby on the Block


Get it on Amazon

Key lesson: Use the 5 S’s.

The three I remember–because they worked–are to rhythmically repeat “shhhh” (it mimics the sound they hear in the womb) and sway (easy to do with the perfect glider) and swaddle (think baby burrito).

The other two S’s are suck and side-stomach, which we didn’t personally use, but might work for you.


Keep a daily activity sheet to log sleep. We wrote down every nap and of course bed time and waking. This was so critical in helping us understand what was working and if Emma’s sleep patterns were changing.

Here’s to sleep!

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Little Miss Chatterbox


In school you’re always being measured: report cards, mid-terms, finals. You always know where you stand. The feedback system is clear, concise, and sometimes cruel.

I remember the day vividly. I was 5 years old, leaving George Washington school, my mom’s hand in mine walking toward our ’75 blue Volvo. She said to me: “Mrs. Falace loves having you in Kindergarten. She says you are smart and nice and social. Maybe too social sometimes. She says you just love to talk to the other kids.”

It seemed like a compliment. But was it a compliment? Wait…maybe it was criticism? I’m 5. I’m fun. I’m perfect….no? I took that feedback very much to heart. So much, in fact, that I went from super-friendly to somewhat shy to totally unsure. And now, at 36, I’m here to tell you that chit chat is not cheap.

From the time my daughter Emma was born, I talked to her, sang to her, and read to her. This little peanut who could only respond with a coo here an there was a captive audience. Not critical of my talk, she was entertained by it. I went on and on, about the weather (“So sunny today!”), about what I was doing (“Mama’s washing the dishes. Mama wishes daddy would do them!”), about everything around us because, let’s face it, Emma needed me to tell her what everything was. Finally my gift of gab became the lesson plan for Emma’s life.

By the time Emma was one-and-a-half she was narrating our lives. She could tell us what color things are, what books she wanted, commented on the weather, and of course knew mama does not like doing the dishes.

So for all you chatterboxes who were told in class to keep it down, today’s lesson is to keep on talking. You will inspire milestones upon milestones of cuteness. Just last night after I hugged Emma she looked me in the eye and said ‘I’m so happy’. Now that’s a passing grade.

Little boy potty training

Potty Training Bootcamp

In school, we all had subjects that caused us undue stress. In the school of parenting, mine was potty training. My anxiety around starting was so unreasonable you’d think I was the one who might wet my pants in public! I couldn’t decide when to ‘enroll’ — two? Two and a half? What should we use — a small plain potty, a small potty adorned with cute characters, a potty seat atop of big potty?

I read so much on the dangers of getting this potty training wrong and how horrible setbacks could be that I was virtually frozen for a period of time. But there was so much peer pressure to start. I had friends tell me we ‘missed the window’, my parents were saying “she is too big for diapers!”.

But I knew a few things for certain 1) my daughter is a worrier (sorry kid, I did this to you!) and if she wasn’t ready the frustration could get the best of her. 2) I wanted to be the one to train her (not so easy for a working mom). 3) Because of #2, I needed something that would work quickly.

Enter Dr. Suzanne Riffel’s “The Potty Boot Camp”. There are so many great things about this book. Most important to me:

  • It is a very short book (call me a lazy student, but I just couldn’t read a lengthy book on this subject).
  • It’s a simple straightforward concept.
  • It worked!!!

We started at 26 months and Emma was accident free by the end of her first week. I used a seat on top of the big potty (the Baby Bjorn Toilet Trainer works great because it’s a secure, easy fit) rather than buying her a little potty of her own. I’m a fan in all circumstances of limiting the number of transitions, so if we could get her trained on the big potty from the beginning, we’d only have to conquer potty training once. Plus Emma loved the idea of using the big potty just like mommy.

If the Boot Camp is too extreme for you, I looked into some other books before picking this one. The most recommended by my trusted circle of friends was “Oh Crap” by Jamie Glowacki. I bought it, but Emma finished the Boot Camp before I could crack it open!

OK, so before you think I’ve aced this entire subject, let me tell you the place I continue to struggle–getting her to go in public (by the way I totally need to call this something else as I do realize peeing in public is not desired behavior at any age, but you know what I mean).

I think it’s my fault. She asked me to go while we were out to dinner and I did not foresee the blood curdling scream and terror that would ensue when the automatic flusher flushed whilst Emma was mid-pee. Thinking on my feet, I cheered wildly exclaiming this was a magic potty! The most awesome thing I’ve ever seen, and Emma must be magical like Abby Cadabby, but it was too late and this fear has continued for the past month.

I just read this great post on ParentHacks that made me realize I’m not alone. If you have any other tips, would love to hear about them in the comments!

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