I can’t believe I’m writing ANOTHER post on sleep training. But, every time I hear someone talk about how *great* sleep training is, or Ferberizing, or cry it out, or whatever, I just can’t help it. One day, my dream is that people will sit around, scratching their heads, wondering why on earth anyone would ever leave a young baby in another room alone to cry.
Sleep training is the loud bossy salesman or a diet pill. It sounds so enticing, everyone’s doing it and the promises are so exciting (sleep?!)… But please, people, grow a backbone and politely say ‘no‘. Don’t sell you or your child short! There’s always a catch to a short term solution, we should know this!
There are countless studies against sleep training!
COUNTLESS! The list of detriments to a child who has been ‘trained to sleep‘ range from increased risk of later developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD), to decreased emotional, intellectual and social development. Lowered IQ is also on the board. I’m not saying that this will always happen, but it certainly could. A young infant seperated from his or her mother, has been shown to experience difficulty regulating temperature, heart rate and breathing. It is also well known that when infants are left alone to cry, they produce large amounts of cortisol (the stress hormone)… Since when did stress help anyone, especially to help a baby, to develop and thrive?
Children develop 95% of the brain neurons (or pathways) in the first three years of life. Life long skills like trust, love, understanding, and empathy are set as foundations for all future learning… A study of Romanian orphans actually measured the amount of ‘gray matter‘ in a child’s head and found that neglecting young children reduces the actual size of their brain?! Ok, I know that example is a bit extreme, but still… not responding to a baby’s cry is certainly a form of ignoring (remember babies can’t speak and tell you what’s wrong) and does not help a child’s brain to grow, end of story. Why take the chance that you could hinder the development of your child’s brain just to get a few extra hours of sleep?
But We All Turned Out Ok…
I know, I know lots of people like to get their undies in a bunch when they read this sort of stuff. “But, MYYYY kid cried it out and he/she is fine!” Or, “But, MYYYY parents let me cry it out and I’m turned out great!” Well, maybe we are all ‘ok‘… But, have we ever thought that maybe we could have turned out better? I’m a high school teacher and when I see some of the bizarre ways that some kids act at school, I often wonder if these were some of the kids who were left to cry it out… I’d love to do a survey one day.
(For the record, and correct me if I’m wrong. I have yet to read a single unbiased and 100% factual study that proves cry it out has any real benefit to a mother and her baby.)
But, forget the freaking studies! What about experience?
I ACCEPT MY KIDS CRYING. I’m a firm believer that all children benefit from a good cry, as a form of stress release. But, I would never ever let them cry alone. What would it teach them to be locked in a room alone? To sleep?! Or, would it teach them that I care about them *sometimes*, like when they’re awake. But, that I don’t care about them other times, when they ‘need‘ to sleep? What sort of mixed up message would that be sending them?!
Falling and staying asleep is not a skill. It doesn’t need to be learned. My girls have never cried it out, and I can assure you, they know how to sleep. Sure, they woke up at night a few times every night when they were little, but that is absolutely normal! My kids are still relatively little, but guess what, they sleep! All kids will eventually sleep at night! I feel so lucky that I never listened to anyone who told me that I should get them to sleep 12 hours at night by the time they were six months old. I CAN’T SLEEP 12 HOURS STRAIGHT… CAN YOU?!
Kids learn quite well how to sleep, without being locked in a dark scary room alone to cry. The ‘eight hour of sleep‘ thing only become standard in the past hundred years or so, when surprise surprise, the ‘eight hour workday‘ was introduced!
What if we ditched the idea that babies need to be ‘trained‘? What if we believed that babies are intelligent, responsive and able to learn from their environment. Every parent needs to re-think the ideas that have been spoonfed to us from well meaning friends, family and main stream media sources. Everyone wants to get more sleep, sure, we’re a sleep obsessed culture. But, sleep training doesn’t necessarily do anybody more good in the long run, the studies all prove that.
I would never let my babies cry it out, because I want my kids to be the best that they can be. Whatever they do, wherever they go, I want to know that I did everything that I could in the first few years of their lives to nourish and support their developing brains and little bodies. I want to sleep easy when I’m older, knowing that I did everything I could to support my children when they were tiny.
If you have a baby that frequently wakes at night and you’re wondering more about it, I wrote a post about it here. If you did sleep training with your baby and you want to find ways to reconnect, I highly recommend reading ‘Helping Young Children Flourish’ by Aletha Solter
A few resources I used:
(and if you’re still looking for more, just google something about ‘detriments of sleep training’, you’ll find it)