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Helping Your Baby to Sleep 3rd edition

  • Helping Your Baby to Sleep: Why gentle techniques work best (Anni Gethin and Beth Macgregor) is a completely revised, updated and expanded edition of this Australian baby sleep classic. It now contains extended advice, especially on common sleeping problems, a whole new chapter on toddler sleep and strengthened practical guides.

    Helping Your Baby to Sleep offers parents ways of creating better sleep conditions for their babies that won’t endanger their mental health and allows them to feel loved and safe. Babies thrive when parents are sensitive to their needs at all times, including during the night. Examining the science of baby sleep reveals that babies wake up and need help to settle for many reasons, as frustrating as this may be to

    The authors offer a strengthened rebuttal against two recent Australian studies promoting sleep training and controlled crying. They point out that the research was poorly designed and roundly criticised by academics across the world. There is no evidence of controlled crying’s safety and plenty of evidence
    about the risks associated with this technique, so it simply shouldn’t be advised to parents any more.

    Many parents find that their confidence is deeply undermined by all of the poor advice they receive about what they should expect; about how their baby is sleeping and how they should be parenting. This book helps restore their confidence and gives them peace of mind.

    In fact, Beth Macgregor recently received an email from a mum, whose baby was waking every two hours, who said: ‘[Your book] really has helped me rethink my issues with sleep and my relationship with my baby. I now feel much more in tune with my baby’s needs and so much more in love.’

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    Press Release:

    Controlled Crying Damages Your Child press release

    Controlled Crying Harms Your Baby: Study shows babies under six months cry more when left to self-settle

    ‘Babies subjected to extensive sleep training can exhibit the classic signs of infant trauma, including intense prolonged screaming, vomiting and eventual emotional collapse. We need to call this for what it is: emotional abuse,’ says Anni Gethin.

    Infant mental health experts, Anni Gethin and Beth Macgregor, are passionate advocates for responsive parenting and gentle sleep techniques. They are alarmed that controlled crying in all its various guises (‘self-settling’ and ‘sleep training’) is still commonly advocated by many parenting services and health care workers.


    ‘The research is in and the evidence is irrefutable: controlled crying is harmful to babies. It places a baby’s developing brain and emotional systems under enormous stress, and plainly contradicts neuroscience research as to what parenting a developing brain requires. Aside from the immediate distress and despair babies experience, consistently ignoring a baby’s cries also places them at risk of physical harm, losing trust in their parents, attachment problems, an impaired capacity for dealing with stress, and disrupted breast feeding.

    ‘Babies subjected to extensive sleep training can exhibit the classic signs of infant trauma, including intense prolonged screaming, vomiting and eventual emotional collapse. We need to call this for what it is: emotional abuse,’ says Anni.

    Furthermore, despite the popularity of controlled crying in the early months or even weeks (to get baby into a ‘good routine’), younger babies are at particular risk from the harsh techniques. A review of interventions used on babies under six months, showed that behavioural interventions did not improve outcomes for babies or mothers.[1] In fact, the babies cried more and were at greater risk of SIDS if they also slept alone. The mothers were also more anxious, and more likely to give up breastfeeding prematurely.


    Beth says mothers still arrive at her seminars in distress, confused and feeling guilty about responding to their baby, and wondering if they should ignore their instincts and let their baby cry themselves to sleep.

    ‘They’re still being fed the same old rubbish. They’re told things like “babies must get settled into a routine”, “they need to learn good sleep habits as early as possible”, “you can’t hurt your baby by letting them cry”, “babies can self settle’ “she will never learn to sleep independently if you keep helping her to go to sleep”.

    ‘These are all responses to the two most predominant myths about babies and sleep,’ says Beth.


    The first myth is that babies should be sleeping through the night at 6 months. Every review of actual babies sleep behaviour shows that it is common for babies to keep waking at night well into the second year. In fact, research by Australian advocates of controlled crying showed that it is common for pre-schoolers to wake in the night and need their parents [2]. Parents have been deceived into believing that babies or toddlers wake at night have a ‘sleep problem’ rather than that night waking is normal human behaviour.

    The second myth is that helping babies at sleep time makes them overly dependent on their parents. Decades of attachment research shows the opposite: responding consistently and warmly to babies and young children builds inner security and resilience. Ignoring distress or inconsistently responding to babies is what creates anxiety and insecurity, which can last a lifetime.


    Night waking is NORMAL for babies[3]
    Leaving babies to cry creates real distress and is consistent with long term negative impacts[4]
    Conflicting advice about how to care for babies means parents suffer higher levels of anxiety than ever before
    Secure attachment and trusting their parents is the most important developmental need of babies[5]
    Beth concludes, ‘We want to reassure tired parents that nearly all baby sleep issues can be resolved with gentleness, patience and persistence.’

    About the authors

    Beth Macgregor is a psychologist who provides training and mentoring to professionals who work with families and children in the health, education and welfare sectors. Her work focuses on strengthening the emotional connection between parent and child so parents can enjoy their children and children can enjoy the best possible start in life. She lives in Sydney with her husband and two beautiful children.

    Anni Gethin has a PhD in population health and runs a research company evaluating mental health and social programs. In 2011, she had a bonus child, Juno, a sister to her three sons. Anni lives in the Blue Mountains in NSW with her daughter and 15-year-old son; her other boys, when in Australia, drop by regularly to raid the fridge.


    [1] PS Douglas, PS Hill, ‘Behavioral sleep interventions in the first six months of life do not improve outcomes for mothers or infants: a systematic review’, Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 2013; 34: 497–507

    [2] P Lam, H Hiscock, M Wake, ‘Outcomes of Infant Sleep Problems: A Longitudinal Study of Sleep, Behavior, and Maternal Well-Being’, Pediatrics, 2003, 11(3) e203–e207

    [3] ’ B Goodlin-Jones, M Burnham, E Gaylor and Thomas Anders, ‘Night waking, sleep-wake organization, and self-soothing in the first year of life’, Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 22, no. 4, 2001, pp. 226–33

    [4] W Middlemiss, DA Granger, et al., ‘Asynchrony of mother–infant hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activity following extinction of infant crying responses induced during the transition to sleep’, Early Human Development 88, 2012, 227–232, p. 230. ; Allan N. Schore, Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self; The neurobiology of emotional development. Hillsdale, New Jersey, Laurence Erlbaum Associates, 1994

    [5] G Spangler, KE Grossmann, ‘Biobehavioral organization in securely and insecurely attached infants’, Child Dev., 1993, Oct;64(5):1439–50.


    Media Queries

    To set up an interview or request a review copy or extract, contact:

    Laura Boon, Finch Publishing

    Ph: 02 9418 6247 / 0431 205 177


    Helping Your Baby to Sleep, third edition, by Anni Gethin and Beth Macgregor (Finch Publishing) is available nationwide in paperback ($24.99) and ebook ($9.99)