I doubt that any of my readers question my negative feelings towards sleep training and Crying It Out (CIO) for babies and toddlers. As a new year dawns and new parenting books hit the shelves, the question of whether or not to CIO is on the minds of every new parent. The question goes far beyond whether or not you have the heart to let your baby cry. It must also be pointed out that CIO can cause serious developmental and social problems not only during babyhood, but also during adult life.
As Heather Turgeon said on her webpage,
Ignoring baby cries during sleep training is linked to all kinds of problems later in life — ADHD, antisocial behavior, lower IQ. At the root of these claims is the idea that the stress of crying and the absence of a responsive parent release intense levels of chemicals that alter a child’s brain development. But is there scientific evidence to back this up?
She also went on to say,
…stress hormones like cortisol, released during intense crying, damage nerve cells in the brain, leading to unhealthy attachments and psychological disorders. …a repeated pattern of unmet needs disrupts a child’s stress-regulating systems and can alter the way her limbic structures process emotion.
There is more than enough evidence in recent studies to show that, yes, extensive crying is bad for babies. And while the Cry It Out method may suggest that mothers pop into the baby’s room regularly to let the infant know that their provider is still nearby, this presence is not constant enough to reduce stress and provide the relaxation that is necessary for inducing a gentle sleep. Heather Turgeon went on to say,
infants who cry excessively have a higher incidence of ADHD, antisocial behavior, and poor school performance.
The full article can be read here.
Many of the cases cited in anti-CIO articles are extreme and do not fit the norm of most parenting methods. It is important to note that most parents who choose to practice a Cry It Out method of sleep training are responsive to their baby’s needs, within limits, and do not allow the child to cry to the point of physical harm. However, there are some books which encourage allowing an infant or toddler to vomit and continue to cry, as a way to ‘show the child who’s boss’.
It is my opinion- and it is only that, opinion! -that sleep training is dangerous for babies and toddlers. As a mother of two, I have faced many a sleepless night. But as I began to understand that my expectations for a full night’s sleep were unreal, I began to find what works for Baby, not just what works for me. Like many mothers in this country and even more international mothers, I cosleep. We are a bedsharing family who provide warmth, love, and nurturing to our children at all hours of the day and night. As a result, we have been sleeping better than ever! I strongly believe that practicing CIO can lead to lifelong physical, psychological, and psychosocial problems for your child, and that a more natural, attached method to ‘sleep training’ is preferred.
Parents, instead of trying to conform Baby to your schedule, why not see what ways you can adjust YOUR schedule to Baby’s? The rule of thumb is compromise. We as parents must meet our children in the middle to encourage happy, healthy development and a peaceful home for all.