It breaks my heart when I hear people advocating this method of dealing with sleep issues. I think that it is cruel, unnecessary, and potentially damaging to the child/parent relationship. And let’s face it- no one likes to hear their children wailing, all alone, in the dark, for mom or dad. It is not natural to hear a baby cry and not do anything about it because babies cry for a reason. So why do parents still do it? Ignorance is mainly the culprit, teamed up with societal pressures and bad advice. Sure, in the end your baby will indeed learn to sleep on their own… but it comes at a greater cost than most people may be aware of.
Did you know that this method of sleep “training” is linked to ADHD, social disorders, and damages nerves in the brain? Not only are you teaching your baby that if she cries, you may not be there, but you are actually doing physical damage. This is not something I knew, but is horrifying now that I do. When Gabby was a baby, being our first and that we didn’t know any better, we let her cry it out one night because she kept popping up and was refusing to go to sleep. We would let her cry for about 5 minutes, go in to check on her, and then leave, being careful not to make eye contact or else she would see how much we hated hearing her cry. This went on for about an hour… a very very long hour. When I went to check in on her that final time she was whimpering in her sleep and I felt like the worst parent in the world.
One reason that our culture has a big following for this method of dealing with little one’s sleep is the fact that as a whole, most parents still put their babies in a separate room to sleep rather than co sleeping or bed sharing. So when your baby wakes up, it is an inconvenience to have to get up, walk to another room, and soothe them to sleep. We pride ourselves on our children’s independence, on their ability to be away from us for long periods of time such as at preschool, with little fuss. But, many parents are hurt and shocked when those independent children turn into teenagers who want nothing to do with their parents. Does anyone else see the connection? Being a parent is not a job that ends when the children are in their bed. It is one of those jobs where you are always on duty, whether you like it or not. And yes, sometimes it sucks to have to get up in the middle of the night… but that’s just how it is.
In cultures where babies sleep with their parents or at least in the same room their needs are met faster and they are actually more confident as they grow. They do not have attachment issues because they always know someone is there for them. Personally, I prefer my girls wanting to be with me and knowing that I will always be here for her than have kids who is indifferent to me and insecure. For Miss Moira, she is more than welcome to stay sleeping with me for as long as she wants. I will put a small bed in her sister’s room (they can’t wait to have her there too!) but more as an option, not an ultimatum. Her transition to a separate bed will be gentle and caring. I truly believe that she will not still be sharing a bed with me forever and that she will benefit from being with me at night.
There are many other gentler ways to help your baby fall asleep on their own, all you have to do is make the choice to not have crying it out be an option. Baby massages, reading, singing them to sleep, letting them tell you when they are getting sleepy… these are more beneficial and you won’t close your child’s door feeling bad about the whole thing!