There is a misnomer out there that parents think the ‘cry-it-method’ is part and parcel of a sleep training routine for their baby or toddler.
I go to great lengths to tell my clients that my approach is NOT cry-it-out.
I am a parent and I would NEVER have attempted sleep training – nor enjoyed the rewards thereof – if it involved something as scary-sounding as ‘cry-it-out’.
Cry-it-out is more along the lines of leaving babies until they figure it out on their own.
My approach involves the ‘check-in’. This method, however, does account for some amount of protest when you are making changes.
This ‘some amount of protest’ can translate into a bit of fussiness and a small amout of crying at times. I know that even this can put a parent on edge. It is for this reason why today’s blog is about breaking down this subject and getting into the psychology.
I wish to put your mind at ease:
This is a common conversation between a client and myself:
Q: What exactly it is about your baby crying – even for a short time – makes you feel it might be cruel?
A: I feel baby will experience a trauma when he is left to cry for a period of time before I respond.
Q: What do you think will happen to baby during that short period of time when he cries before you comfort him?
A: I feel he might feel abandoned; his brain development will be affected; he might think I don’t love him; he will experience psychological damage; he will experience psychological trauma.
Q: How would you feel if I told you there was an ocean of research out there that proves that short periods of crying – as long as he is not sick and all his basic needs are taken care of – will do nothing to damage your baby in the short term OR in the long term?
A: I don’t know… I think I would still hate it. It still feels wrong. I will still feel like I’m being a bad mother.
*I would love to hear from you if your answers are different to the above questions. Please message me if they are. It is very interesting for me to know what is going on in your mind on this subject.*
Please go right ahead and do some research. I promise you that as far as your baby is concerned, sleep training will not harm your toddler. With a reputable consultant it is perfectly safe. A baby will never be neglected in any way when I am working through my specialised sleep programme with any of my clients.
On the contrary – your baby will be the opposite of neglected. Every single need your baby has will be met and more.
He will be so happy, relaxed and satisfied with life and his relationship with his parents you’ll wonder why it took you so long to get on board. He will feel extremely secure and confident.
That’s what being a good parent is.
Let’s move on. There is much more to this subject that meets the eye:
If you knew for a fact that leaving baby to cry for short periods of time on his own will do nothing to damage your baby in the short term OR in the long term, why then do you feel you’d still battle with it?
I hear a lot of my parents say: “The sound of my baby’s cries makes me feel anxious and terribly panicky. I feel guilty, useless and sad. It drives me a little crazy.” If that wasn’t bad enough, these emotions are often accompanied by bouts of negative self-talk.
If one had to research the scientific affects that crying has on parents, it is a minefield of studies and findings. I’m going to point out the facts I feel will are the most helpful to us.
Reasons why we don’t like the sound of crying:
- Crying triggers our biological need to protect
There is no surprise for us here. We are programmed to protect our babies. When they cry our biology gives us no choice but to act. Our baby has been attached to us for 9 months – they have become part of us. We can feel a form of pain when we are not together all the time. Both baby and mother can feel a sense of separation anxiety at this point.
The hormones in play at this stage are insane. Just think how a mother is able to produce milk so soon after the baby is born.
This is an extremely useful response as while our baby is young and vulnerable she needs us to protect her and take care of her while she grows into an independent human being.
- Crying has a unique ability to trigger parts of the brain
Loud, piercing noises – like crying babies, car and house alarms, police sirens and that horrible piercing noise a sound system sometimes makes – have a modulation rate of about 100 times per second. A regular speaking voice is somewhere between 4 or 5.
There was an interesting experiment done by a Dr. David Poeppel, Professor of Psychology and Neural Science at NYU: A MRI was used to monitor the brains of people while they listened to a variety of sounds. It was proven that baby screams have a unique ability to trigger activity in the amygdala (part of our brain that controls several of our immediate emotional reactions).
*Something to think about: Our strong reaction to baby crying might not necessarily be because of the actual level of urgency.*
Right, so now you know a bit of the neuroscience behind our human reaction to the sound of a baby’s cry.
It basically makes us crazy!
No wonder you feel that leaving your baby to cry – even for a short while – is cruel.
But now you know it isn’t.
Keeping Baby Happy At All Times
So, we all know how it happens: We don’t react well to crying, therefore if baby cries we try to figure out the problem immediately then do our best to stop it.
This involves a lot of nappy checking, sticking the boob or bottle into a mouth, handing out snacks, burping, cuddling, rocking, distracting, etc. Not only that, but we’re prepared to do this any time, night or day, 24/7.
Our deep desire to comfort and keep baby from crying becomes our oxygen during the first months of baby’s life. In fact, we are so obsessed about making baby happy that any reasonable and responsible action towards helping baby learn to sleep properly disappears straight out the window.
There’s a great big BUT coming along here…
BUT, while we think we are doing our best by keeping baby from crying…
… baby is not learning to sleep.
If baby is not learning to sleep…
…then WE are not sleeping.
If we are constantly not sleeping then we are dealing with…
… Chronic Sleep Deprivation
Honestly, it’s a wonder how any of us raise children at all.
Sleep deprivation results in an imbalance in our brain therefore we overreact to normal things and we can experience negative self-talk.
According to studies, a lack of sleep causes the human emotional brain to respond in an imbalanced way to negative stimuli. This is why we are more likely to overreact when baby starts crying and it is also when negative self-talk so easily slides into our narrative. This amplifies our feeling that we are a bad parent.
Whereas if we were well rested and thinking more calmly and clearly we’re more likely to have a more rational reaction to those cries.
I’ll bet we can all attest to this neuro-imbalance if we take a look back to our days before we gave birth. Try and remember how terrible you felt after just ONE night of sleep deprivation. Now think about what chronic lack of sleep for weeks and months on end can do.
Then couple this hell with:
– hormones that are playing havoc in your system
– the affect crying has on our biology and our brains
Do feelings of helplessness, inadequacy and major anxiety come to mind?
Talk about a vicious cycle.
In this state how rational and sane can you honestly feel right now?
My goodness, I want to wrap my arms around you beautiful parents.
Now you know what you’ve really been going through.
We weren’t designed to have our babies and raise them all on our own. We’re meant to have people around us to help us.
This is where I want to step in to help you. I want to educate and support you on the subject of sleep training through the tried and tested and safe tips I can give you for FREE on a regular basis.
I would love nothing more than to hold your hand during this very difficult time, and bring you into a light that will change your world – and your baby’s.
If you have not started sleep training because you feel that sleep training will harm your baby or toddler please give me a call. If you feel that sleep training is bad – I won’t charge you a thing for a chat.
Here’s the reality…
Without knowing it, whatever you are doing now is already a form of a sleep training programme.
BUT you may be teaching your baby to fall asleep by using unsustainable crutches that are in an inappropriate environment. Your programme is a sleep training method without crying, or is one that doesn’t instil long-lasting skills that might require a little protest at times.
Reality check: The chances of him learning the skill of getting to sleep and staying asleep regularly are pretty much zero.
If this is you, you may need to accept that this anxiety and exhaustion could be part of your life for a long time.
But it doesn’t need to be like that.
There is a better way to teach your child to sleep and I can help you along that journey, no matter how old they are.
Learning to fall asleep is learning a new skill.
No one likes change, and babies are no exception.
When a human being learns a new skill it’s likely to be a little uncomfortable in the beginning while our brain adapts to a new way of doing things. Initially, each time we do this new thing it will take a little bit of effort. However with consistency, compassion and the right environment it will become easier and easier.
Your baby and toddler can learn to sleep safely. Trust me!