The book “Every child can learn to sleep” by Hartmut Morgenroth and Annette Kast-Zahn was literally a life changer for us with our first child. But, when it comes to recommending it, I have to say it’s not for everybody.
This book describes different sleeping problems with children of various ages (waking all throughout the night, wanting to sleep with you, wanting to be snuggled …) and how to solve them. We had a problem where our son was waking up all through out the night, 5 to 6 times, sometimes sleeping for only an hour or so and could only fall asleep while breastfeeding. I think I do not have to explain how difficult and exhausting this was (even the most resilient terrorists and spies can be cracked with sleep deprivation :)).
I actually read the book when our son was 6 months old, but did not have the willpower to implement the techniques it suggested. I used to always find a reason to explain why he was sleeping so poorly: maybe his tummy hurts, maybe he’s teething. The torture ended one night (which resembled almost all of our nights) when our son was 8 months old, it was 2 AM and my son had waken for the god knows what time and I thought “enough, no more”. Luckily, my husband was still awake and we said let’s go for it.
Before going into any detail about our experience with the book Every Child Can Learn To Sleep (which is very hard to acquire) we recommend you also take a look at these top rated and highly recommended books for children’s sleeping problems; some of which promote the similar approach and technique described in Every Child Can Learn To Sleep.
Different sleep phases
One of the basic principles the book speaks of and teaches is that a healthy baby over the age of 6 months is capable of falling asleep by itself and sleep through the entire night (without feeding, carrying, pacifiers, bottles and other gizmos). Every night we all go through a sleep cycle which consists of a short REM phase, deep sleep, short REM phase,…, and the latter is accompanied by wakings which we do not recall in the morning. The purpose of this, according to the authors, comes from ancient age when our ancestors did not have the luxury of safe sleep and needed the ability to check every once in a while if everything was normal in their surroundings, just the way it was when they fell asleep. They believe that here lies the root of most children’s sleeping problems that wake multiple times a night. Every time a child wakes it sees and feels that its surroundings are not the same as they were when it fell asleep: it is not on its mother breasts, its father is not carrying it around, the baby is not sleeping in the same place for example and is then alarmed by this and wakes up.
The method to achieve sleeping through the entire night (for some parents and unimaginable goal) is this: You put the child in its bed awake and leave the room. If the baby is crying (which is most probably a given) you should enter the room after 3 minutes and console the baby for one minute, keeping in mind that you must not pick the baby up! If your presence makes the baby even more nervous just caress and soothe the child and try to let it know you’re there for it and then leave the room. Afterwards you should enter the room after 5 minutes, then again after 7 and so on until the baby falls asleep. During the next few days the method is repeated, with slight time variations (please look at the table below). Crying periods of up to 10 minutes do not leave psychological marks on your child according to the authors.
|Second Time||Third Time||
|First Day||3 minutes||5 minutes||7 minutes||7 minutes|
|Second Day||5 minutes||7 minutes||9 minutes||9 minutes|
|Third Day||7 minutes||9 minutes||10 minutes||10 minutes|
|Fourth Day||10 minutes||10 minutes||10 minutes||10 minutes|
In order for your baby to fall asleep more easily the book recommends that the child must be awake for at least 4 hours before going to bed at night. It helps if you have a bedtime ritual and if the method is conducted by fathers because in their first year babies are more emotionally connected to their mothers.
Our experience with the book’s method
I can still remember quite vividly the heartbreaking screaming of my son that first night. I could not have lasted it for just a few minutes so my husband took over and I closed myself in the furthest room and put headphones on. Honestly, it was one of the hardest things we’ve had to live through; the mother instinct is raging inside you and every bit of you screams for you to stop but your intellect stays in control and says it’s the right call. We lasted through it somehow and after two hours of crying my son fell asleep and slept for several hours until the morning. It was a miracle! The second night he was screaming for half an hour before falling asleep and the third night the crying lasted for only 5 minutes and our baby boy was sleeping like a baby :). From that moment on he would sleep through the entire night like. He would sleep for 8 – 9 hours straight, like it was the most normal thing in the world. A few months after that however, he got sick and had ran a fever for a few days and that messed up his sleeping rhythm. But as soon as he felt better we repeated the method; it took him only 10 minutes to soothe himself and we were back to sleeping through the entire night.
Consistency, consistency, consistency…
As you can see, the basic method is pretty simple in design, but very hard to execute; even brutally hard. The hardest part is being consistent and not letting the crying unsettle you. If this happens all the hard effort goes down the drain because you are sending a wrong message to the baby. What you’re doing then is telling it that the point isn’t to fall a sleep but that it just has to cry long enough until you come; you’re telling it that crying “gets the job done”. The book worked for us and I can say without any hesitation that it allowed me to be a better mother and a wife.
After we applied it, we were all reborn and started functioning much better as a family. Our son was far less nervous during the day and we could finally do what to us is the point of parenthood – enjoy our own child.
Information and table source: Annette Kast-Zahn, Hartmut Morgenroth: Every child can learn to sleep.
Btw, the book is sometimes pretty expensive online so we suggest you either find a copy in your library or find an online version.