The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep Review

Several weeks ago I was asked to join the review team for Dr. Harvey Karp’s new book “The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep“. With an 18 month old and one to be arriving here in just a few short weeks I jumped on the opportunity to read another sleep book. I am happy to report that it was an enjoyable read and one that I will be recommending in reference to this topic.

Some of you may know that we were greatly helped by and advocates of the controversial Baby Wise book by Gary Ezzo and Dr. Robert Bucknam. It really is a shame that so many people have gotten so worked up over that book because, taken with a grain of salt and applying it with discretion, it has helped many families including ours. It is easy though to get pulled into the CIO vs tear free method debate and so from this point on it will be my recommendation that people read both the Baby Wise book and The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep as a pair.

Specific Points

In this book I was pleased to see that Dr. Karp takes a broad view of “make it work for your child” and offers plenty of options to new parents of things to try. I found his suggestions for flexible scheduling to be particularly in line with how we feel, although I thought a little more detail in this area would be nice for a first time mom who isn’t sure what is a good starting place.

I am still undecided on whether or not I agree with his recommendation against the “eat, play, sleep” sequence. We have used this sequence with Noah since he was born and it resulted in quite a bit of impatience upon waking for his feeding to get underway as well as difficulty with keeping him awake after feedings for “playtime”.

He instead recommends feeding before naptime/bedtime and waking the baby just before laying them down in bed so they learn to put themselves to sleep. I remember being quite shocked at a friends house when her 3 month old woke up and was fine just being held and played with instead of being absolutely ravished. It was quite a refreshing change from my experience so we may try this technique with Phinneas.

I absolutely agree with him about 3 out of his 5 S’s (AKA ways to turn on the Calming Reflex)…..swaddling, side/stomach, and sucking. We used all of these with great success with Noah. He loved being swaddled all the way up to 6 1/2 months old (he probably would have gone longer but he was rolling over in his swaddle)!

However his other 2….shushing (white noise) and swinging I have a real concern about for long term sleep training.

Personally for me I felt that creating a dependence on white noise and swinging/rocking were not things that were a good fit for our family. I didn’t want to have to carry a certain CD with me or always have a baby swing in order for my baby to go to sleep. I didn’t however have a problem remembering to bring his swaddle and paci as part of his normal bedding set.

Granted….I have one child right now. I recognize that in the very near future I may be singing a totally different tune with a different baby’s personality and having to try to coordinate two little people’s sleep schedules. I can definitely see the benefit of white noise for noisy households and helping nap times go smoother in busy places. The big beef I have with it is the emphasis that every child should use white noise, all the time.

I would much rather see it suggested as an option if the basics are not working versus the solution for everyone.

I think his views towards swinging are a bit more balanced….much more of a “if it is what works…use it” kind of approach instead of defaulting to suggesting it for every child. We certainly found times where the swing was all the would comfort Noah but we were slow to use it, and quick to drop it which I think should be the standard for serious sleep aids such as swings.

That being said if it works for your baby, there is no shame in doing what works for your little one. Ideals are just that. Ideals. As our pediatrician likes to say…..”eventually you’ve gotta sleep.”

I appreciated Dr. Karp’s stance on sleep aids like lovey’s (favorite stuffed animals/blankets) and paci’s being easy acceptable items to not stress over taking away at a young age for naps/nighttime. We have certainly found them to be comforting to Noah and have no plans to wean him off them until he is ready.

Thoughts on the CIO Method

I thought Dr. Karp’s take on the complete CIO method was a bit harsh. It is difficult to have to sleep train a child but I don’t think his statement of “it’s fundamentally disrespectful to ignore the cries of someone we love” is an accurate assessment of what is happening when a parent chooses that route.

I did appreciate the Longer-and-Longer option that was presented, this is the method that I normally use with Noah at bedtime and naptime now that he is for the most part well trained. After 10 minutes of not settling in for a nap or sleep I will go in and check on him, give him a drink if he asks and lay him back down. We never pick him up. 90% of the time the fight is over and he goes down to sleep easily.

However using this technique does NOT work with him in the middle of the night. He has always erred on the side of waking based on habit and the only way we have been able to break that is to simply let him CIO cold turkey when it is time for sleep. This has always quickly (1-4 nights) resulted in him self soothing through the night and getting his internal clock reset to the correct schedule.


In conclusion I feel that this book is chock full of ideas and suggestions that will greatly help parents choose good choices for creating a loving, consistent sleep routine. I highly recommend it to new and old parents alike! I encourage you to check out The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep on Amazon and for further information to explore The Happiest Baby’s website.


I am participating in a book review campaign with One2One Network. I received this book from Harper Collins for the purposes of reviewing it. I have not received compensation. My participation in the campaign enters me into a drawing for a gift card. All opinions stated are my own.


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  1. says

    I appreciate your thoughtful review and I can tell you are doing your very best for your children. As a young parent we practiced attachment parenting and the family bed and I can honestly say we took a lot of heat from friends and family alike 30+ years ago for being so strange. It saddens me to hear people being so judgmental still. By the way all three of my sons turned out great and are super great parents themselves who have decided to go the attachment parenting route. They feel it’s hurtful to CIO since you would never find that happening in nature – a lion would come and eat your baby! The one thing I have learned is that it all works out so relax and be happy with your little ones as much as you can. Blessings

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