Respect for parents not bad interpretations of neuro-science
Cry it out is controversial I get that.
But when it comes to cry it out, lets have a little respect for the parents researching these topics. They deserve facts, not over exaggeration.
I love helping parents with their little one’s sleep. In an average weeks work I probably help two thirds of parents with gentle no cry sleep training and one third with more cry based sleep training. It doesn’t seem to matter what sort of parenting style they have and what sleep coaching method they chose, they often have apprehensions about their baby crying and whether this will damage their baby.
A good understanding of the scientific literature on stress, human stress responses, neuro-science and sleep is needed to wade through the blogs that are out there claiming that one moment of crying will irreversibly damage your child.
Whether you chose gentle sleep training or a cry based method, you should understand that lots of blogs out there are interpreting a few studies poorly and then using emotive words such as abandonment, brain damage and child abuse in association with a baby crying to make you believe that you are irreversibly damaging your child the moment you let them cry.
As this Huffington post article beautifully points out, many people are using studies on extreme and toxic long term stress such as abuse and neglect to justify their claims that any behaviour modification sleep methods are flooding your babies brain with damaging cortisol and causing brain damage and emotional long term problems.
We know all parents have different parenting styles and there is no one way or right way help your baby or toddler learn to sleep. There are also limitations such as being age appropriate and a temperament match, and cry based is simply not suitable for a new-born or a sensitive child. But at the end of the day my wish is to educate parents with a better understanding of the real risks and benefits of each method and explain the misunderstanding of the way cortisol affects us and the way humans (including babies and toddlers) respond to stress.
Some studies (another here) show that even once early life trauma has occurred (death of a parent, divorce or abuse for example, not sleep training) if the children then receives good, loving and responsive care from relatives, their cortisol levels are not much higher to a child who has never experienced trauma.
Laura Shaw goes on to explain that context is important, as genes, social, ecological, psychological and developmental factors all play important and fundamental roles in shaping a child’s brain and their behavior.
It’s about the big picture and if you are a loving and responsive mother and decide at 6, 12 or even 18 months you are ready for some gentle or cry based sleep training, the few nights this takes will not damage your child at all.
I love this quote from the Huffington post article
“Frankly, duping parents into thinking that children’s brains are so fragile is just downright disrespectful because it’s not factually accurate. Yes, our brains are wired for attachment and social interaction and contain an emotional system that develops through relationships. In fact, our entire species evolved because of our emotions and our social ability. But why do parenting experts feel the need to make us think that system is so fragile? Does it even make sense that a system that’s evolved over millions of years and is at the root of our very existence should be so delicate? No. “
Parents should understand that rises and drops in cortisol levels are normal and to be expected, both day to day (over a 24 hour cycle), in stressful situations and even happy situations!
Researchers found a spike in children’s cortisol levels two days before Christmas while it was highest in the children who expected lots of gifts and fun activities. You can read about it here.
We certainly are not going to cancel Christmas to protect children’s brains.
At the end of the day, I agree with Laura Shaw. I also respect the parenting style of all parents. You guys are pretty switched on and deserve the truth and a big picture understanding of the misconceptions out there when it comes to sleep training and cry it out.
We respect you 100% and your right as parents to have different parenting styles. There is no right or wrong way to parent or to teach a child to sleep.
It is my privilege to run Baby Sleep Consultant knowing we help thousands of parents each year with gentle/no cry and also sometimes cry based techniques to achieve the healthy sleep their family needs.
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