Up until now my Baby Sleep Book of Choice has been Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, by Dr Marc Weisbluth. Those of you who know me and my path-to-achieve-sleeping-children may be surprised to hear that The No-Cry Nap Solution is now running neck and neck with HSHHC.
My basic judgment of a parenting/child raising book is based on the amount of information it brings to me. Good sound information that I can examine, ruminate over (I love that word, it sounds like a contented cow...) and then make my own decisions regarding implementation of a plan. I don't mind at all disagreeing with an author's basic premise or conclusions if s/he provides me with information that is sound and unbiased.
I believe that Elizabeth Pantley has done just that. Her book presents a wealth of information about the science of sleep. I would even go so far as to say that her book is even more in-depth in this area than HSHHC, although without being too technical for a sleep-deprived mother to understand (Dr Weisbluth tends to be a bit wordy and vague, IMO). This is by far the strongest point of the book.
I also appreciate the manner in which her advice is given. The book is a little like having about 700 girlfriends all sharing "what worked for me" in an easy-to-read format (and without having to pay for lunch or lattes). There's no specific agenda being forced on the reader, the suggestions are as varied as the children being written about. She addresses issues from "Cat-Nappers" to "Completely Refuses To Nap At All" and even has a section at the end dealing with true medical problems. Many of her suggestions are things I've tried and found successful with my own children.
However. I do part ways with Ms Pantley in both her premise and her conclusion First, the basic premise (to the best of my judgment from reading her website and this book) of her organization is that crying is something to be prevented in your child's life. I disagree. I don't like to hear my kids cry-- quite the contrary. But I do believe that sometimes it is simply an expression of a thwarted will. At other times and in other situations, I believe it does far more good for my child to leave him to deal with the cause of his distress and problem-solve on his own than to intervene and solve it for him. At still other times I believe that one child's particular wants ought to take second place to the general well-being of the household at large.
Since this premise rules out the possibility of allowing the child to Cry It Out (I'm betting most of you know what I mean by this), Ms Pantley has concluded that a parent's role therefore is to provide a child with the environment and aids that that particular child "needs" in order that the child get an adequate amount of sleep. I, on the other hand, think there is a third option (kind of a mixture of the two mentioned above) that will be better for the child in the end run. That is, to teach him to sleep in a fairly average environment, with a minimum of aids and special circumstances. I've done this in various ways that I won't get into atm. (But I'll post about it later if anyone's interested.)
That being said, I do think that there are times when the basic need for sleep in the short-term tends to cloud one's vision of the long-term goal of an independent and solid sleeper. That's where this book could be quite helpful and aside from those two disagreements I found the book to be informative, easy to read and full of useful tips and stories. I would recommend it to any new mom or mother of problem-sleepers with the caveat stated above.
And I'd slip them Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child a few months later when they've had a little more sleep ;)