Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Sleep Files: A Review of The Sleep Sense Program by Dana Obleman

So sleep is crucial to our health & well being. To our performance at work. To our performance in general. To our happiness. Yadda yadda yadda.

Tell my baby that.

If you have me as a friend on Facebook, or if you've read the blog for a while, you understand that my husband and I are operating as sleep-deprived zombies attempting to run a business, a marriage, and a family. If you also fit into this category, it's very likely that you have attempted to provide us with advice and support of some kind. To that, I thank you. But none of it really works.

In a nutshell, here's our sleep problem:

The Caterpillar (darling, sweet Caterpillar whom I adore), will NOT be laid down to sleep by myself, my mom, my Grandmother, my dad, John's mom, any babysitter, anybody... but John. Sure, she'll nurse to sleep in my lap, she'll rock to sleep in my arms, she'll settle in the car seat, but once it comes time to lay her in her crib she jolts awake and screams. All of this is true for everyone but John: if The Caterpillar is swaddled tightly, bounced consistently (for about 30 minutes), sang to (she prefers the tune of Frere Jacques) and laid CAREFULLY in her crib (and no sound is made in the house), she will sleep.

Obviously this is not condusive to getting work done and the moment John leaves the home and it's time for The Caterpillar to nap (often), I (or my mom or whoever is caring for her) need to be prepared to hold her in our arms for 2-3 hours while she slumbers.  It's just not working. Especially at night.

So in desperation and lack of sleep (especially for John as he needs to wake up 3 or 4 times a night to re-swaddle and re-rock her to sleep) I googled "how will my baby ever sleep?" and I found this:

Sleep Sense. The cost? $53 USD. Paid. (Like I said, 'desperation').

Basically, The Sleep Sense Program provides parents with the permission to let their child cry it out. Yes, it claims not to be a cry-it-out system, but let's be honest, it is. A gentle one, but it is.

As a parent who has committed to the Attachment style, I feel very uncomfortable with this in my heart - but my head, which needs a freaking 7 hours of straight sleep, says that it's probably worth a shot. We are currently on night 4 of the program and here is my review so far:

It's working.

Dana Obleman is right: The Caterpillar's problem is that she doesn't know how to fall asleep. That's why after soothing her successfully, we can lie her down and she is frightened and confused because she doesn't know what to do next. She relies on us to sleep. The Sleep Sense program allows you to still be her 'crutch' and she still relies on us to be soothed, but ultimately she slips from soothed to sleeping on her own - and I like this. I mean, it takes some crying and screaming in the meantime, but it works. The most she has cried has been 25 minutes which is far shorter than the 45 minutes that Obleman suggests may be what we experience in the first few weeks.

The Caterpillar's other problem is that she doesn't know what to expect. Everyone did share with us that "routine" is key to putting your child to sleep, but I think that there is a difference between a casual routine (which is what John and I were pursuing) and a regime. We're leaning towards regime: naptime now means nursing, closing the blinds together, reading the same book every time, lying her down, stroking her face, saying our key word (night night) and spinning the mobile. Obleman also has a few other tricks (which obviously I don't want to totally share because then I'm just revealing her "system") which we're finding successful.

So overall, 4 nights in, I am finding that Obleman's sleep sense program is a success. The 197 page book is informative and will grow with us as The Caterpillar grows, the video library is promising and will be helpful in moments of frustration, the sleep tracking app is great for watching her progress, and the hotline seems like it'll be a great way to understand more and chat one on one with the author. I'd say $47 well spent for desperate and exhusted parents.

However, if you have a system that's working for you, I'd say that the sleep sense program is not for you. It's a good program for us parents who have no clue what they're doing and a child who is reluctant to sleep.

After a night of 7 hours consecutive sleep (this is unheard of - we've only had this once and it was during her first few weeks of life) I feel rested and happy and The Caterpillar seems like she's enjoying life a lot more too.

Updated Note:

I found that the Sleep Sense program worked without a hitch from the age of 3 months old until the age 9 or 10 months, but eventually The Caterpillar's sleeping patterns changed and this program as we were originally doing it didn't work any longer. So, we re-reviewed the book and the chart involved and adjusted the program according to her age and activity - once from 9 / 10 months until 14 months, and then she was walking so have done a new system from age 14 months to 18 months.

I have to say, I'm a satisfied customer, if only to hear these powerful words: ROUTINE IS EVERYTHING. Expectation is everything. Regardless of where she is (our home, babysitter's home, nana's home, grandma's home), if she has her routine roughly in place, she sleeps without a hitch. Everyone has asked me to share my secret, and the secret is routine.

I have also taken advantage of the phone-in hotline and found that speaking with Obleman directly was a major help and she gave great, specific advice for our family situation.

Even 15 months later, I would say that this program was a $53 well spent.


  1. Glad to hear someone give a honest I've tried and adjusted opinion! Thank you

  2. Glad to hear someone give a honest I've tried and adjusted opinion! Thank you

  3. Well I can second the author on this one. Our baby is 10 months old and for the last 5 months he has been going to bed at 7 PM everyday. He almost sleeps through the night and wakes up at about 7 AM the next day. Occasionally, he wakes up and cries but this is very manageable. It seems to be WORKING!! I hope you all can try this program if you have many sleepless nights.

  4. Would you recommend starting this any earlier than 3 months? I currently have a 4 week old, but I'm having a hard time getting him to sleep anywhere but in my arms after nursing.

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. recomend stay in or leave and check? Jusy finished reading the book.


Let's hear what you think!