A few words on Sleep Training

I recently posted an article on the FB page about sleep training and how science is beginning to back up the reality of this parenting style’s dangers on the brain.  They are proving that these methods of training in young children are causing developmental and social problems and many doctors who once recommended sleep training are now changing their minds and openly recommending against this practice.
To view this article; click here- http://spoiledmum.com/to-sleep-train-or-not-to-sleep-train/
The news comes as comfort to some, but is a bitter pill to others.  For many of us, it feels like finally, science is backing up what we knew instinctively all along. For some however, it’s too late- their children are years past these stages of development and whatever choices they made are long since in the past.  To them, this news can feel like an attack.  It can make them feel judged for their choices and feel like they did something wrong.  
Others still are currently in the process of implementing a sleep training method and suffering through it, believing it’s the right thing to do and they, in order to protect their egos and not feel like horrible people, defend their choices even though they know it’s miserable and will deny any claim that sleep training is a bad idea.  As a result, we end up with multiple camps of people defending the CIO and other sleep training methods simply because they won’t allow themselves to admit they were wrong.  They blindly stick to the old adage; “well my parents did it and I’m fine” or, “this is just the way it’s done, everyone does this”.  But  here’s where it gets tricky; Not everyone does it.  In fact, more people don’t do it than you think.  Most people who don’t do it, won’t tell you because they don’t want people to think they are weak parents. (Because only strong parents are brave enough to listen to their babies cry, right?) It seems like every 5 years or so, all the rules change. That’s why you’re not supposed to use hand-me-down nursery items, high chairs, car seats or strollers because as new information presents itself, we find that what we considered “standard” was often a bad idea. We learn from our mistakes and move forward into better parenting practices.  We cannot do anything about what has already been done- but we CAN move into our futures better educated with accurate information to arm ourselves with and provide our children the best we can with the information we have in order to give them the childhoods they deserve.  In the end, it’s not about who is right and who is wrong, who is a better mother and who isn’t.  It’s about doing what is best for the baby. Period.
Up till now, it’s been widely accepted to initiate sleep training methods, however anti-maternal they may seem, under a notion that it was better for the child to “break them in” so to speak, and get them ready for reality while also allowing mom and dad some alone time.  I am pleased to see a new trend of encouraging methods that inspire and acknowledge the need for compassion above personal preference and following our instincts above convenience.

As we move away from what is simply convenient for parents and closer to an environment that fosters mutual respect (whatever the cost), I believe we will create a stronger, more connected, conscientious and respectful society.
Even at infancy, it is not too early to start teaching the value of empathy and we do this by acknowledging our baby’s fears, their pain and comforting them any and every tie they cry, being with them and calming their anxiety through touch, communication, nursing and presenting a consistently loving environment.  I believe there is a direct correlation to the way in which we treat our infants and society’s apathy for one another.  We deny our children love and comfort in the name of personal time and wonder why they grow to have no empathy for others.
By forcing them into a state of acceptance (as CIO does), we teach them that they are alone. Our love and care has limits. Their trust and faith that we will always return is diminished and their brains are wired differently after that. They approach life with a sense of distrust, anxiety and apathy. The results are in – the actual neurological differences are present and the damage is real.  There is plenty of evidence that loving touch can inspire brain development and that embracing others is good for the body on a biological level, so why is it so difficult to consider that the opposite will have negative effects on the brain and body, as well?  All one needs to do to see that clear as day, is look up a little information about Russian orphanages to know how very true that is.
It’s not just a made up thing that we, the weird, “hippy parents” use to defend our actions as we baby-wear, co-sleep and nurse into toddler-hood.
I have been openly criticized by family, strangers and loved ones alike for not allowing my children to “sooth themselves”. When I question this and ask; “why should I teach my baby that he has to cope with being alone?” The replies I get are usually something along the lines of, “oh well, you will spoil them.”
Spoil them how?  By showing them that I’ll always be there to comfort them?  By teaching them that compassion makes people feel better? By showing through my own actions that helping someone when they are sad is worth more than a few extra hours of sleep?  Not sure how that’s a bad thing…
Well, I’ve been told it IS a bad thing because they should be able to function on their own.  They shouldn’t expect me to always come to their aid every time they cry.  I’ve also been told it creates an unhealthy attachment and that my child won’t be able to function or feel secure without me.
Anyone who has seen my 2 year old knows this is absolutely, 100% and completely ridiculous.  He is as independent as the day is long.  He is confident, strong and sure of himself.  He jumps at the opportunity to run away from me, play with others, run down the street, play in the park, climb, slide, tumble and he has no issues whatsoever with feeling insecure.
Alongside that, he also wakes knowing I, or someone he loves, will be there to hold him.  He often wakes up crying… he has since he was born.  I suspected night-terrors and that issue hasn’t entirely resolved itself yet. It’s better, but he wakes nearly every night between 3-5am and climbs into bed with us, cuddles up and nurses himself back to sleep.  Does this mean he’s dependent upon me for his comfort?  Maybe… is that a problem? Not really… I’m his mother, isn’t that my job?
Oh wait… I forgot, it’s not my job, is it?  Our modern society wants me to make it his job as soon as he’s capable of it.  He needs to learn that the world does not revolve around him and even as early as 4 months old, he should man up and learn to be alone and able to calm himself down.  I should be able to put him to bed at 8pm and expect him to stay there until 7 the next morning.  I should be returning to work to be a valued member of society, so that I can take pride in my life by showing my friends and family how smart I am and how industrious I am.  I’m supposed to pay someone to watch my children and spend 10 hours a day somewhere else so I feel like a “big girl” with all my strong, women’s rights glaring like a neon sign that screams “LOOK AT ME BEING INDEPENDENT!! CAN YOU SEE HOW STRONG I AM? NOTHING GETS I MY WAY, NOT EVEN KIDS!  SEE HOW AWESOME AND HARD CORE THAT MAKES ME?!?!”   I should be able to enjoy “adult time” and be free to “get my life back”.  Riiiiight.  Well, here’s the problem with that- I am one of those strange people who believe that my children are my life.  Their needs needs dictate how I live my life- not the other way around.  I guess I’m just weird like that.  All my neon sign says, is “ALWAYS OPEN” and apparently that’s a bad thing.
I know, I know… I’m a weirdo hippy that offends every modern woman.
I’m also the mother of a beautiful, confident and happy two year old and a brilliant, chubby nine month old and my goal in life right now is that they both know, down to their cores, that they are safe and loved.
I suppose we will find out in future years if this parenting style really works on them or not… if they remain self confident, secure in themselves and their surroundings, strong and ambitious as they are now- then yes, it worked.  I’ve got about 10 years to find out.

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