Last year, I reviewed Sarah Ockwell Smith’s Toddlercalm. It’s an amazing book which I would recommend to all parents with toddlers. When I heard she’d written a book about sleep for babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers, I was really excited.

When you mention that your child has any sort of issue with going to sleep immediately their head hits the pillow, the general response from anyone and everyone is that you should put them to bed, turn the light off, close the door and leave them to it. I have never understood that, and never felt the need to do it with S; the idea always seemed unnecessarily cruel to me.

When S was almost a year old, I remember someone telling me in detail about how she’d practised controlled crying with her daughter, and how “you just have to do it” – she told me I should leave her alone in the room and wait outside while she cried, and after a few nights she would “get the message” and go to sleep. I resisted the urge to ask her exactly what message she thought my daughter would get from me abandoning her alone in a dark room.

Aside from this I was told at various points that I should not acknowledge her if I changed her nappy at night, that I should put her into her own bed, in her own room from 4 months, 6 months, a year, two years. She definitely shouldn’t be in my bed; “you want to get her out of that habit right away!” All of the advice I was given, by people and books, seemed to go against everything I was doing and feeling.

I loved Toddlercalm; everything in it really resonated with me and it provides a lot of great coping techniques for those times when the general advice is something I can’t bear to do. The Gentle Sleep Book is no different. Finally, a parenting book I can read all the way through, without throwing it across the room in exasperation!

What I love about this book

  • Unlike a lot of parenting books, this one is not just “you need to do this, this and this because I’ve tried it with some children and it worked great for me” – there are entire chapters devoted to research into the science and history of sleep. Everything is backed up with sound explanations and evidence. This book is based on fact, not opinion.
  • The book doesn’t just talk about how to solve the problem of your child not sleeping perfectly from 6pm to 8am; it goes into all the things that might be stopping them from sleeping in the first place – something a lot of us probably don’t think about.
  • My absolute favourite thing about this book is the tone of certain parts of it, where it’s absolutely clear what Ockwell-Smith thinks of sleep training. The advice to feed babies up before bed in the hope they’ll sleep through is shown as absolutely ridiculous: “what is this obsession with feeding babies to make them sleep?”
  • There are no suggestions that your child may be manipulating you, playing games, or deliberately not sleeping to drive you up the wall.
  • The entire first half of this book is about sleep. Not problem solving or handy hints or any of that nonsense; half of this book is just about sleep. Studies about sleep, the history of sleep, things that might be keeping your child from sleep.
  • The actual advice about sleep is split into chapters, by age. So much advice about sleep assumes all children are the same, no matter what their age.
  • The advice in each section is followed by case studies and updates to them. Ockwell-Smith takes real families with a sleep issue, and gives them tailored advice – so you can see the tips in practise.
  • What really stuck in my mind about this book was the idea that sleep is not a battle to be won, and that if you treat it as such, and you “win” and “break them” into a sleep routine, you’ve basically by definition turned your child into a “loser.”

The Gentle Sleep Book is released today and I would definitely recommend it wholeheartedly to any parent. Actually, a lot of the research information at the beginning of the book is really and could just as easily apply to adults as children. I’ve a friend struggling with sleep at the moment, and I’ve relayed all the information I found in this book… without telling her it’s from a book about children’s sleep!


Note: I was provided with a copy of this book for the purposes of review. All words and opinions are my own.

Thanks for reading.

You can read my other book reviews here!


Vicky Charles

Vicky is a single mother, writer and card reader.


Lissette · 22/07/2015 at 14:39

I’ll have to check out this book. I’ve read a couple others that have helped me figure out the sleep issue with my son and they’ve worked nicely for me. I like to get any and all information out there so when he does regress, I’m prepared.

    Vicky Charles · 23/07/2015 at 09:32

    Me too – I like to be prepared, rather than sitting there at 2 in the morning thinking “what was the name of that book I was going to read…”

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