mardi 19 juillet 2011

Why I Don't Want to Let my Child "Cry it Out"

I want to write out my thoughts on another controversial subject after discussing "sleep training" with a colleague this morning. This colleague (mother of an 18-month-old) mentioned an article that was published in the Globe and Mail last year which said that the "Cry it Out" method of baby sleep training could actually be harmful to the baby. Oh, it does "work"... but at what cost?

I know some people feel like it was their only option -- and maybe it was, after they exhausted all the possibilities -- I'm not judging, I'm just writing what I would like to do. Of course, this may change...

From the article:
Penn State researcher Douglas Teti examined the role of emotional availability on infant sleep and found that regardless of a family's night-time routine, infants with parents who were responsive and warm had fewer night wakings and an easier time drifting off. In his study, which involved infrared cameras placed in families' bedrooms and nurseries, a lapse of more than a minute resulted in a lower emotional availability score.
While more research is under way to further test those findings, Dr. Teti, a professor of human development and psychology, says his work adds to a growing skepticism toward sleep training - not only that it may not work, but that it may, in turn, affect the parent-child relationship itself.

I've always thought that I would never be able to let my child cry himself to sleep-it goes completely against my natural instincts. (And my babysitting experience confirmed that I couldn't do it, even with babies that were not my own.)

MB and I have already had heated discussions on the topic, even if we don't have kids yet, because he believes something along the lines that after six months a child who cries at night is "manipulating" his parents and you shouldn't give in to his every whim. The child has to learn that he can't get everything he wants.

I agree to a certain extent that children can't expect to get everything they want.

But on the other hand, I also think that parents are there to respond to their child's needs. And if one of those needs is comfort at night, that's quite normal. Of COURSE, I want my child to sleep on his own, in his bed, through the night, as soon as possible. But I think the KEY to getting that to work is a consistent bedtime routine: calm play in the last few hours before bedtime, a bedtime story in a quiet voice, lights out, and sleep. It seems to me that if babies know what to expect at bedtime, AND they feel safe and secure knowing that if anything happens during the night their parents will come see them, they will sleep more soundly.

From the article:
"Bedtime heralds the longest separation of the day between parents and their children," he says. "I've always been curious about how well or poorly parents PREPARE their children for that separation, because I think that could be a pretty important index of parenting competence."

In the book How Children Learn, by John Holt, he explains that children who know that their parents "have their back" (i.e. they are always available, nearby, looking out for them) are less afraid to try new things, to explore the world, and thus they learn more quickly and easily. I worry that NOT responding to a child's need for comfort at night can hinder their development.

From the article:
In British parenting guru Penelope Leach's new book, The Essential First Year, she strongly advises against the Dr. Ferber/Cry-it-Out method, citing research on the role of the stress hormone cortisol as toxic to a baby's developing brain - and with possible permanent negative effects, especially at the age of six months or younger.
"If you leave a baby crying long enough, it will go to sleep and after crying enough nights in a row it will eventually not bother," she says. "Leaving aside the toxicity of stress hormones, it's hard to believe that people really want to teach babies not to bother to communicate."

I definitely DON'T want to teach my children that their parents won't always be there for them.
However, I DO want them to understand that their parents are not their slaves and won't respond to their every beck and call.
I DO want them to learn that the world is a hard place and they won't be able to get everything they want.
I DO want them to learn how to sleep on their own.
But properly preparing them for bedtime? Comforting them? That's my job as a parent. I will always be there for them.

1 commentaire:

  1. Yeah, I'm not a fan of the letting children 'cry it out' either. I get what the people that support the tactic are getting at but I believe that it can be much more damaging and create a lot of deeply seeded emotional insecurity.