Today, I want to share my thoughts not only as a Pediatric Sleep Coach, but as a fellow Mom.
In this day and age, the internet can be your best friend or your worst enemy. With a quick Google search, you access literally a million sources on parenting advice. And with that comes peer pressure, and unfortunately, Mom Shaming.
I see it all the time, particularly in parenting groups on social media – moms being judged for their parenting choices.
And oftentimes, the “judges” are responding by posting articles, opening a can of worms, leading to catfights. These articles often posted are typically written by mom bloggers that merely serve the purpose of making said judge feel good about their particular parenting choices. I often roll my eyes and keep scrolling, as so many of these are merely opinion-based blogs, not peer-reviewed, researched data to support their claims.
Just the other day, someone posted an article titled “Is Self-Soothing the Biggest Con of New Parenthood?” I couldn’t even read the whole thing. This article was loaded with misinformation that not only normalizes sleep deprivation for parents and children but also makes parents who have made the choice to teach their babies to sleep well with healthy sleep habits feel guilty.
This article was written so well, mind you, an opinion piece written by a mom blogger, that a past client who I had the pleasure of working with reached out to me after she read the article, questioning our time together, specifically, worried if she had traumatized her little one, even though her little one is now sleeping through the night and is much happier than ever and she and her partner are now well-rested, better parents after having worked with me.
Why you should only listen to an expert Sleep Consultant.
This “expert” does not hold a pediatric sleep certification, and her accreditations, per her website (yes, I looked her up!), are related to mindfulness; yet she continues to make claims about sleep.
Here are some quotes from said article:
“The skill of self-soothing is referring to the ability to regulate one’s own emotions.”
It absolutely is not. The ability to self-soothe refers to a child’s ability to get back to sleep on their own when they wake up in the night. It has nothing to do with regulating emotions.
“Self-soothing is a physical impossibility for babies and young children”
Why are so many babies capable of getting back to sleep on their own then? If it was genuinely impossible, as the author claims, wouldn’t all babies need to be soothed back to sleep by their caregivers whenever they woke?
“When babies are silent, it doesn’t necessarily mean (sic) they’re calm and peaceful.”
True, but when they’re asleep it usually does. If baby’s lying awake and paralyzed in their crib then I would agree that they may be experiencing some type of “learned helplessness,” but I’ve never seen that behavior in any child I’ve worked with.
“Because it has a material effect on brain development.”
The study she refers to has nothing to do with sleep or the approach I offer to help develop independent sleep skills. I encourage caregivers to stay next to their babies while they’re learning to sleep independently and offer comfort and support, so at no time would there be an experience that could lead to them feeling abandoned, and therefore no effect on the hippocampal volume development. You might want to look at a much more relevant 2008 study titled “Sleep and Brain Development: The Critical Role of Sleep in Fetal and Early Neonatal Brain Development” to see how a lack of sleep could dramatically affect a newborn’s neural development.
“Now is the time to trust our babies.”
Sorry, no. Now is the time to be an adult, not assume our babies know what’s best for themselves and to give in to their every request just because they protest. Where do you draw the line? Ice cream for dinner every night? Let them play with the electrical outlet? You’re the one with the knowledge and experience. Your baby needs to trust you, not the other way around.
Opinion pieces like this one prey on our emotional vulnerability as parents but do nothing to solve the problem of sleep deprivation in either the baby or their parents.
This article is one of the many articles that demonize sleep training. And while just an opinion of a non-expert mom blogger, it is also dangerous. Sleep is a biological human necessity, as much as a healthy diet.
Sleep boosts brain development, promotes learning, encourages growth and development, it supports heart health, decreases your risk of obesity and diabetes, maintains and boosts the immune system, and improves mood, including decreasing postpartum depression in mothers. And the list doesn’t end here either!
Being a good parent involves more than simply acting on instinct. It takes research, critical thinking, and often acting against our “gut feelings” to make the correct, often difficult, decisions in the best interests of our children.
The practice of writing articles like these is dangerous and puts parents’ and children’s well-being at risk. Plain and simple.
Why Sleep Training is Safe
When done age-appropriately in a responsive home, it does not teach abandonment, and is safe and effective. Today, I will provide you with real facts, supported by evidence from reliable sources on sleep training.
Here are some of the highest-level pieces of research on sleep training:
“Conclusion: …behavioral interventions for bedtime problems…have received strong empirical support across the highest level of studies…resulting not only in better sleep but also improvements in child and family well-being.” 1
“Both graduated extinction and bedtime fading provide significant sleep benefits above control, yet convey no adverse stress responses or long-term effects on parent-child attachment or child emotions and behavior.” 2
“The intervention achieved all of its original aims (better infant sleep and of sleep, behavior, and maternal well-being. The 6-year-old findings indicate that there were no marked long-term harms” 3
“There is a strong association between parent-infant interaction around sleep and the emergence of infant sleep behaviors. Parents who actively rock or hold their infant until asleep (i.e., more involved in settling their infant to sleep), in contrast to parents who allow their infants to fall asleep on their own, have infants who present more night waking problems…Many studies have reported that sleep disturbances in young children are fairly persistent and may be related to earlier sleep patterns.” 4
“Sleep deprivation has the greatest impact on one’s moods, but also impairs cognitive processes, including learning, attention, problem-solving, concentration, as well as motor performance. Partial sleep deprivation has a more profound effect on functioning than either long-term or short-term sleep deprivation.” 5
Parenting Isn’t Easy
As a parent, we bear an enormous responsibility. We want to ensure make sure our little ones are warm, fed, and happy, all the while raising them to become exceptional adults. We’re responsible for the quality of our children’s lives long after they’ve left home. And many of the decisions we make today are going to determine who they are years from now.
And a big part of this includes providing them with the appropriate amount of sleep that they need for their happiness, health, development, and overall well-being. It’s why I have dedicated my career as a Pediatric Sleep Consultant, educating parents in not only Lafayette, Louisiana, but also worldwide, on all things sleep.
If you’re looking for even more reliable sleep resources you can trust in addition to the ones I’ve provided you with today, check out my Helpful Reads. These articles are for your peace of mind; they have helped me as a parent as well as many of the families I’ve worked with make the decision to sleep train, guilt-free, knowing they have given their child the gift of sleep, a gift that keeps on giving throughout a lifetime.
- Effects of sleep deprivation on performance: A meta-analysis. – PsycNET (apa.org)